PAN-GRILLED TILAPIA WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA AND AVOCADO CREAM

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I never thought of grilling tilapia filets because they are too delicate, but pan-grilling worked so well that I can see it as my method of choice from now on.  Normally I would either pan fry them after coating with flour, or follow a lighter route, baking in the oven.  However, when the weather outside is the way I like it (mid to high 90’s yeaaaaaah!)  I rather not  turn our oven on.  The inspiration for this meal came from Cooking Light magazine, but I definitely took off in my own direction.

PAN-GRILLED TILAPIA FILETS WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA AND AVOCADO CREAM
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the fish
4 tilapia filets
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper

for the avocado cream
2 small avocados
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fat-free yogurt (or full fat)
1 to 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
salt and pepper
lime juice to taste

Mix the olive oil with the smoked paprika in a small bowl.  Lay the filets on parchment paper, season lightly with salt and pepper.  Brush both sides with the smoked paprika oil.   Heat a grill pan, when hot spray it lightly with oil.  Add the filets and cook 2 minutes per side or until done (they should flake easily and have nice grill marks).

For the avocado cream,  blend all ingredients except the lime juice in a small food processor or blender, until very smooth. Taste and add lime juice for a nice balance of flavor, as the orange juice tends to make it a little sweet.   If you want a more runny consistency, add a little water (or any of the juices according to your taste).  Serve cold or even chilled.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:
  This was a delicious dinner, very quick to prepare, light and absolutely perfect for the weather we are having!   I served the fish with blistered grape tomatoes. Simply heat a very small amount of olive oil in a non-stick pan, when screaming hot, add the tomatoes (whole), season with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  Shake the pan around a few times, once they start to get blisters all over, they are done.   This side dish will be ready in 5 minutes, and the tomatoes can sit and wait, no need to serve them too hot. (Did you notice I just gave you three recipes in a single blog post?  Am I generous or what? ;-))

The avocado cream soothes the heat of the smoked paprika, and serving it cold was a nice move.  If you like your fish more heavily seasoned, add more smoked paprika,  some extra black pepper, or even some garlic.  We prefer to have the flavor of the fish to come through first.  The small amount of paprika was enough to give the oil a beautiful, intense red color…

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Before I leave you…  Since I’m on the subject of fish dinners, Kelly from Inspired Edibles recently blogged on a great recipe for sole filets. After seasoning the filets in a lime-chili marinade, she coated them with quinoa flakes and baked in the oven.  Click here  to read her post about it.  I pinned her version to try once the weather cools down a little.  Sounds absolutely delicious!

ONE YEAR AGO: Golden Saffron and Fennel Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2011

THREE YEARS AGO: Heavenly Homemade Fromage Blanc

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Perfect Sunday Dinner

CLASSIC SHRIMP GOBERNADOR TACOS

Another great recipe coming straight from the adorable  Marcela Valladolid, these tacos can be prepared very quickly. Plus, if you make the shrimp filling the day before, the meal will be ready in less than 15 minutes. I tried hard to find the specific origin for Gobernador Tacos, no luck. Then, a dear friend sent me a link with the whole story behind it. (Thank you, Dr. G!). These tacos are very popular in Baja California.  I can guarantee they will be equally popular in your home!  ;-)

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CLASSIC SHRIMP GOBERNADOR TACOS
(adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 tomatoes, seeded. chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped
1 cup canned tomato puree
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup shredded Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese
Lime wedges and hot sauce for serving
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In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced shallot and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree, oregano, bay leaf, and smoked paprika. Cook for another couple of minutes, remove the pan from the heat and reserve.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
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Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Lay 2 tortillas, flat on the bottom of the pan, side by side. Put a small mound of cheese on 1 side of each tortilla. Wait until the cheese melts slightly,  and then add about 2 tablespoons of the shrimp mixture to each tortilla. Fold the tortillas over into half-moon shapes and cook to melt the cheese completely, another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.Repeat with the remaining tortillas, cheese, and shrimp mixture. Arrange the tacos on a serving platter and serve with lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.
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ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here
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sauce
The shrimp sauce, so tasty as the taco filling, is equally wonderful as a main dish.  Just add a little white rice and some guacamole to complete the meal…

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Deliciously messy to eat, this is a great recipe for a warm summer night!  One extra tip: do not cut the shrimp too small, keep the pieces in large chunks. If you want to splurge, chunks of  lobster tails in these tacos will be absolutely awesome!  Expensive, yes, but awesome!  ;-)

If you like Mexican food, tune into Mexican Made Easy, it’s always fun to watch Marcela preparing classic dishes,  often with a healthier approach.  Not much else appeals to me in the FoodTV these days, and that’s a little sad.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH PASTA AND MUSSELS IN SAFFRON BROTH

For some reason I had “issues” about cooking mussels at home. Maybe that whole de-bearding thing sounded too wild for my delicate self.  ;-)  But we love mussels and it’s  sad to only have them in restaurants, or even worse, only when we go to Paris and visit one of those widespread “Leon de Bruxelles” places.  Anyway, our grocery store in the Little Apple carries farmed mussels. They have no beard to worry about. Therefore, most of the cleaning process is done. They cook quickly, and certainly make a humble plate of pasta (and a rainy Wednesday evening) shine…

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PASTA WITH MUSSELS IN SAFFRON SAUCE
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

2 cups dry white wine
4 bay leaves
4 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
Pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
linguine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
minced parsley, to taste

In a large pot, combine the wine with the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan a few times, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Drain the mussels in a colander set over a medium bowl. Pour the mussel broth into a glass measure. Crumble the saffron into the hot mussel broth. Reserve.

Discard any unopened mussels. Remove the mussels from their shells and place in a separate bowl. Pour the melted butter over the mussels and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook over low heat just it gets some color. If you prefer, remove the garlic, if not, leave it in, and add the crushed red pepper, cooking together for one minute.   Slowly pour in the reserved mussel broth, stopping when you reach the grit at the bottom of the glass measure. Add the lemon juice and simmer over moderately high heat until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 8 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta just until al dente. Drain the pasta well. Add the buttered mussels and the hot spaghetti to the mussel sauce and toss over low heat until the pasta is uniformly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  Glad to inform my fear of mussels is a thing of the past.  I probably discarded more mussels than needed,  as I rather be safe than sorry, and was a bit insecure preparing them for the first time.  This is a delicious pasta! Of course, having great quality saffron adds a lot to it…  ;-)   Now that I am not afraid of cooking mussels, we will have them at our dinner table on a regular basis,  brightening up our Wednesdays, as we slowly move towards the weekend.

ONE YEAR AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

TWO YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

THREE YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure

PUMPKIN SHRIMP CURRY

With this installment, I used up the last bit of our precious home-made pumpkin purée stored in the freezer.  The series closed with a golden key, by the way.  This curry is a winner!   Pumpkin & shrimp is actually a very traditional combination in the Brazilian dish called “camarão na moranga”.  You can see a photo of the completed dish here.  Think about a shrimp stew served inside a small pumpkin, carved to hold the stew in all its tasty glory.  I intend to make the Brazilian version sometime, but for now I’ll share this variation that I adapted from Bon Appetit magazine.
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PUMPKIN SHRIMP CURRY
(adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2011)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 can of diced tomatoes (15 ounces)
Pumpkin purée (15 ounces can, or homemade)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (light is ok)
1 + 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup green peas (frozen is fine, no need to defrost)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
cilantro leaves to taste, minced
lime zest to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and ginger; lower the heat and sauté until soft, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and pumpkin puree, and  cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and cayenne pepper; simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add peas, shrimp, and lime juice. Simmer until shrimp are cooked and peas are warm. Serve with steamed rice. Top with cilantro, and lime zest.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I made a few modifications on the original recipe.  It called for only one tomato, diced.  I don’t think that’s enough, I love a more tomato-ey curry, so I added the full 15-ounce can, draining most of the liquid.  As I reduced the sauce, it seemed a bit too chunky, so I worked my immersion blender to smooth things out lightly. My final modification was to use green peas, whereas the original recipe added pieces of cooked butternut squash.  I thought it would be too monochromatic and boring. Plus, not much contrast between the taste of pumpkin and butternut squash.  The green peas brightened up the colors and added great flavor.  So, I patted myself on the back, and told Phil I am a great cook. And also very modest.  He said he knew both things already…  He’s a keeper, my friends. A keeper…   ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2012

TWO YEARS AGO: A Dutch Tiger

THREE YEARS AGO: Banana Bread
(bragging mode on: this recipe tied for first place in The Quest for the Best Banana Bread, at Eat, Play Love! ;-))

CELEBRATE WEDNESDAY WITH A SEAFOOD EXTRAVAGANZA

served2Phil came up with this recipe about a year ago, and it quickly became a favorite of ours.  The idea is to go to the store and get three kinds of seafood, whatever looks best. Add to that one vegetable: we usually alternate between broccoli, broccolini (love the stuff!) and asparagus.  Lately we’ve been adding fresh shiitake mushrooms too.  This is a very healthy yet substantial meal, in which the pasta is a minor component to give us just the carbs we need.

SEAFOOD EXTRAVAGANZA PASTA
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Pick three of the following options:
Sea scallops
Large shrimp
Salmon filets
Lobster tails
Ahi tuna filets

Choose one of these veggies:
Broccoli
Broccolini
Asparagus

Fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps only
Pasta (corkscrew, farfalle, fusilli)
A couple of lemons, juice and zest
1/4  cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp vermouth
Thyme
salt and pepper

Add the 1/4 cup olive oil to a small bowl, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon, season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme.  Whisk well to form an emulsion. Use that to brush the seafood you intend to grill.

Slice the mushroom caps very thin, cut the broccoli in florets, if using asparagus or broccolini cut them in 1 inch pieces.   Saute’ the mushrooms in 1 Tbsp olive oil, when they are almost tender season with salt and pepper and add the vermouth and lemon zest.  Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Keep warm.  Cook the veggies either in a little salted water or by steaming.  If using broccoli, shock them in cold water to keep the bright green color. Reserve.

Start grilling the seafood (salmon, lobster tail, or ahi tuna). Sautee the shrimp and scallops on 1 Tbsp olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Make sure not to over-cook the scallops and saute’ them in extra-high heat to sear the surface.   Cook the pasta to have it ready once all the rest of the food is done.  Reserve some of the pasta water in case you need it.

Once the pasta is done, drain it, put it back in the pan, add the mushrooms and broccoli, mix well.  If needed, add a little of the pasta water.  Transfer to a serving bowl, and add all the seafood on top, cutting the salmon (and lobster tails, if using) in large chunks.  Keep the scallops and shrimp whole. A squeeze of lemon juice all over the serving bowl is a nice final touch.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I won’t sugar-coat the pill, this dish requires some effort so that all ingredients are ready at the same time for the final assembly. We always like to cook salmon and lobster tail on the grill, whereas the scallops and shrimp are sautéed on the stove.  Same for veggies and mushrooms.  You get the picture.  It is much easier if you and your partner (or friend, parent, sibling, room-mate, neighbor) cook this together.  However, usually Superman Phil is adamant about doing it all by himself. I am left watching him dash through the kitchen to the grill and back, spatula in hand, kitchen towel hanging from one shoulder, pasta water furiously boiling, and the dogs hoping that with all that activity some stuff might follow the Law of Gravity all the way to the kitchen floor.  Sometimes, it does happen… But, once all is said and done, we are rewarded with a great dinner! See my plate?  I go heavy on the scallops. I am not ashamed and will fight for the biggest, juiciest ones.   ;-)

platedThe pasta plays a completely secondary role. This is a dish centered on seafood and supported by a nice helping of broccoli.  Squeeze some more lemon juice right before indulging… And, if that was not enough seafood for a meal, I’ll tell  you what we love to have as appetizer before this dinner. All of a sudden, Wednesday evening feels like a party!   ;-)
appetizer

Heaven. Pure heaven.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Pearfect Drink

TWO YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

THREE YEARS AGO: Paris, Je t’aime

SALMON WELLINGTON

I have the great pleasure of introducing another guest post by my beloved husband!

Although I’d like to say that Beef Wellington is everyone’s festive delicacy, that’s surely a falsehood, because for many, many people filet of beef is a profanity, and its accoutrement, foie gras, is an atrocity. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but  Sally and I don’t share those sentiments. We love the Wellingon! We love it so much that we sought other variants.  The one that we found, or in this case it’s even fair to say “invented,” is Salmon Wellington. Concocting a salmon Wellington is a bit like making an exquisite ham sandwich: you can garnish it with cheese or mustard or lettuce, or all three and more.   So, we created our own variation of the dish, that includes Alaskan snow crab and a phyllo dough shell.  It’s a light, …(OK, lighter)  and a fresh experience that’s still rich with flavor.
plated111SALMON WELLINGTON
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 pieces of center-cut filet of salmon, skin removed
1/2 cup of Alaskan crab meat, cooked and shredded
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 celery stalk, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp fresh dill, minced
salt and pepper to taste
6 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
melted butter

Heat the oil in a small skillet and saute the shallots and celery in medium-low heat until translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Add the lemon zest and turn the heat off.  Transfer to a small bowl and allow it to cool to lukewarm or room temperature.   Mix the veggies with cooked crab meat, add the ginger and dill, mix well and season with salt and pepper.

To prepare the fish,  buy a thick piece of  fresh atlantic or wild salmon and cut it into 3″ by 4″ pieces, or a bit larger if you desire.   Remove the skin with a sharp knife (I prefer a ceramic knife for this) and carefully scrape away the central vein of dark, oily meat.  Rinse the filet under running water and dry it on paper towels.

Open the sheets of phyllo dough, 2 at a time, and brush them lightly with melted butter (you can also use olive oil if you prefer). Lay 6 sheets on top of each other and place half of the crab mixture over the center, leaving a large border all around.  Try to spread the crab mixture to cover more or less the same area that the salmon will occupy.   Lay the salmon filet on top, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over it.  Wrap the phyllo dough around the filet.  Invert the package, so that the crab is on top, and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cut away any excess dough.  Brush a little melted butter on top of the phyllo, and bake at 375 F for 25 minutes, until golden brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  As Phil said, we LOVE the Wellington, it is probably our “signature dish”, the one we turn to when we want to make a special meal. In fact, it was the first recipe we cooked together when we started dating, we even made the puff pastry from scratch.  Fun times… ;-) This variation is quickly becoming my favorite, though. Salmon and phyllo dough make a winning combination, and the crab meat doesn’t hurt either.  Over the years,  we’ve made Salmon Wellington with many different toppings. Once, while living in Paris we made it for our Valentine’s dinner.  Phil came up with a topping using a citric fruit similar to clementines, that was in season at the time.  It was outstanding!  Come to think of it, Valentine’s Day is not far away, and this would be a great meal for the occasion!

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

TWO YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

THREE YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

INSPIRATIONS AND A BLOG AWARD!

Every once in a while events happen in beautiful harmony. Last week I got notification of a new blog post by Kelly over at Inspired Edibles.  She shared a recipe for cauliflower puree, and her post immediately made me crave some.  I even exchanged a couple of emails with her comparing notes, as I had a version in my blog, from a couple of years ago.   I made the puree on a Sunday to have it ready for our dinner next day.  To serve with it, I picked a simple recipe (Mondays are busy days for us):  Shrimp in Spicy Orange Sauce…    Right as my shrimp defrosted in the fridge next day, Kelly published a new post with a recipe for Spicy Orange Ginger Shrimp!   subliminal, virtual inspiration?   I like to think so…  ;-)

SHRIMP WITH SPICY ORANGE SAUCE
(from Cooking Light magazine, August 2007)

1 + 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp  soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chile paste
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup chopped green onions

Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch, toss well to
coat, and set aside.  Combine orange juice, soy, honey, vinegar, and chile paste in a small bowl.  Reserve.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet  over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger to the pan.  Stir fry for 15 seconds or until fragrant. Add shrimp mixture, stir fry for 3 minutes. Add the juice mixture and onions, cook for a couple of minutes or until the sauce thickens and the shrimp are done, stirring frequently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

So here is my delicious dinner, served!   Shrimp in a tasty and quick to prepare orange sauce,  over  cauliflower puree with a hint of apple.  A match I had never attempted, but is now classified as “made in heaven!”  Usually I would serve this type of dish with steamed rice, but I must say the cauli puree worked its magic here.  The meal was slightly more substantial, leaning into the comfort food zone,  great way to wrap up a Fall weeknight.

And, to go along in the inspired route,   Alaina from Flat Leaf Parsley   awarded me the  “Very Inspiring Blogger Award“.  Inspiring!  How wonderful is that?    The award requires that you say 7 things about yourself.  I’ve played this game before, and was tempted to just copy the same 7 facts here, but I thought that would be almost cheating.   So here you have seven “new” ones:

1. I’ve worn the same perfume for the past 30 years: a Brazilian cologne called Free.  Every year when I go to Brazil I stock up, and usually also get a couple of bottles from friends and family as gifts.  They know I would have a hard time without it!

2.  I have no sense of orientation whatsoever, and get in frequent trouble because of it.  I turn to the wrong side on the street and inside buildings. I get lost going from the bathroom to  my table in restaurants. It is pathetic and at times very embarrassing.

3. I am very good both at parallel and back -parking,  love the challenge of fitting our pick up truck in the tiniest spots.  And, I am obviously very modest!  ;-)

4. I used to drive a Porsche 944 Turbo.  Red. Gorgeous. Not a wise economical decision from a maintenance perspective  (it had over 100 thousand miles when I bought it), but I had a blast driving it!

5.  I studied Mandarin Chinese for a few years, wish one day I can find the energy and time to go back to it. Writing ideograms is an introspective and rewarding experience.

6.  Every day for the past 4 years, I send a picture of something beautiful (landscape, animals, flowers, sunsets) by email to a group of family members and friends. I call it “Beleza do Dia” (Beauty of the Day), and really enjoy doing it.

7. My motto: everything in moderation, except exercise…  ;-)    I have more than 30 fitness-related DVDs to provide enough “muscle confusion”, although P90X is my favorite.

Thank you so much, Alaina, for passing me this award!

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

TWO YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp