Citrus and fish, unbeatable combo!  Until now, I accepted the idea that one of my favorite preparations for delicate fish filets came with a small tax to pay for the fat used to fry it. But, when I saw this recipe on How Sweet It Is, I hoped it would be my ticket to a lighter version of the classic.  To be completely honest, I had my doubts, because not too long ago I tried a similar method for pork schnitzel  (from Everyday Food) and it was a huge disappointment.   I am glad to report NO disappointment here, quite the contrary, this recipe is a keeper!

(adapted from How Sweet It Is)

4 fresh (or thawed) tilapia filets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
zest of 2 oranges, 1 lime and 1 lemon
2 egg whites, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the wire rack with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, add bread crumbs, flour, citrus zest and a pinch of salt. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg whites, add a teaspoon of water to make it looser.

Season each piece of tilapia with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of fish in the beaten egg whites, allow the excess to drip, then coat with your mixture of breadcrumbs, pressing well to adhere. Place on the wire rack and spray lightly with olive oil spray.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden. Depending on how thick your filets are, it could take slightly longer.  Test with a knife to see if the fish flakes easily, then it’s done.


to print the recipe, click here

Jessica  served her fish filets with a beautiful blood orange salsa,  perfect complement to the dish, but this time I took a more austere route, went with white rice and stove top blasted broccoli (a favorite side dish of ours).

This recipe was a breeze to put together, the fish turned out moist, perfectly cooked, with the crust delivering a burst of citric flavor.  The secret for success is spraying the olive oil over the coating before baking the filets.  That ensures just the right amount of fat to moisten the crumb layer and give it a hint of color.   Much lighter than the usual method with a frying pan, but without skimping on flavor.  I am not at all interested in reducing calories if it will hurt my food.   This is  a perfect example of a make-over that is worth adding to your repertoire of meals.

I highly recommend you stop by How Sweet It Is to get her full recipe, including the blood orange salsa.  It will be on our table next time, all I need is to find that elusive orange for sale.  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Bran Muffins: not just for hippies!

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Flourless Cake

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Would you like to bake bread with wild yeast, but the thought of   keeping a starter is too intimidating?  If that’s the case, I urge you to read this great post by Joanna, from Zeb Bakes. She will make you feel absolutely at ease with keeping the starter going, minimizing your work and the use of flour. She will also show you a simple schedule to bake bread on a weekly basis.  Awesome read! Sourdough baking made simple and easy, as it should be.

Now, time for some fun with it.  Remember the proofing bread box I gave myself for Christmas?   Well, I put it to the test, by making a batch of sourdough bread and dividing the dough in two.  Half went into the cozy environment of the box (78 F), half stayed outside in my kitchen kept (at this time of the year) at around 70F.  The recipe I chose for such a ground-breaking experiment comes from a great baker, who blogs at Breadcetera.  You can learn a ton of stuff from him, make sure to bookmark his site and visit often.   He developed this technique called “double flour addition,”  with the goal of maximizing the amount of air bubbles trapped in the dough from the very beginning of mixing.  These tiny air bubbles, created by whisking the very loose mixture of flour and water, later generates the pockets of air that every baker searches for in this type of rustic loaf.

(from Breadcetera)

680 g bread flour
90 g whole wheat flour
455 g water
15 g salt
300 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)

Combine the flours in a large bowl and lightly mix them with a whisk.

Add the water and the sourdough starter to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, and use the whisk attachment to work them together at the lowest speed for a minute or so.  At this point, you only need to combine them and have the starter dispersed through the water.    Add just 75g of the flour mixture, and increase the speed of the mixer to level 3. Whisk until the mixture seems quite aerated (about 3 to 4 minutes).

Remove the whisk attachment and place the dough hook in place. Add the rest of the flour, and knead for a couple of minutes, until the flour forms a shaggy mass.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, and mix on speed 3 for 6 minutes.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let it ferment for 2 hours, without any folding or kneading.  Divide the dough in two equal pieces, and lightly give it a round shape.   Let it rest for 15 minutes for the gluten to relax,  and do a final shaping, creating surface tension by pulling the sides of the dough up as you gather it all in the “boule” shape.   Place the balls of dough, seam side up, in a floured round container (such as a brotform), cover with plastic, and let it ferment for 3 hours at 78 F.

Invert the dough on a peel, score, and bake at 425 F for 40 minutes, with steam during the first 15 minutes.  Let it completely cool before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

For my experiment, I divided the dough in two right before the first fermentation, and placed one half in the proofing box.   That dough stayed in the box until baking time, the other one stayed over the kitchen table, protected from drafts.  The difference in the dough itself was pretty dramatic, but I could not get a picture that was good enough to show it. However, once the bread was baked, the one from the proofing box had much better oven spring, the other one was a bit on the flattish side.   Both were delicious, and the crumb had a nice structure, but one bread looked a lot “healthier.”   Here they are…

You can see that the taller bread, with a more round shape, had better oven spring, bursting through the slashing with greater power. Sorry, no photos of the crumb, we froze that baby for later and by the time we got to enjoying it, I forgot to grab the camera.

The bread proofing box not only optimizes the temperature, but also provides the correct amount of humidity, thanks to the small dish that sits at the bottom of the box, with some water in it.  No need to worry about a skin forming on the loaf in the final proofing, no need to use plastic to cover it.  A very well designed machine, that is getting constant use in our home.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Shrimp and Fennel Casserole

TWO YEARS AGO:  Tuscan Bread

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September 21st, 2011. That’s when Lynda, from Taste Food, published her ‘Ode to Fall”, a pork ragu served over pappardelle.  I bookmarked the recipe right away, but only made it last week.  Better late than never, this ragu jumped straight into our list of favorites!  The pork falls apart after 2 hours simmering, and turns into a sauce that is intense and mild at the same time (if that’s at all possible! 😉 )  Make it one day in advance for added deliciousness.

(adapted from Taste Food)

2 pounds pork butt, excess fat trimmed, cut in 2 inch chunks
Black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, finely diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
2 (28 ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound noodles or pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
Grated Parmiggiano cheese

Season the pieces of pork with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large pot until it’s shimmering. Add pork in one layer in batches, without overcrowding, so that it will brown without steaming.  After all sides are seared, remove pieces to a plate, and reserve until all the meat is browned.   Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan.

Add onion, carrots, and red pepper flakes. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the wine, and deglaze the pan with it. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Return pork to the pot and submerge in the sauce.  If necessary, add water to bring the level of the liquid to the top of the meat.  Simmer, covered, over low heat until pork is very tender, about 2 hours. Remove lid and continue to simmer, skimming fat occasionally with a spoon, until sauce is thickened, 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

ENJOY!  (I know you will…)

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You will need 2 pounds of cubed meat for this recipe, but there’s a lot of trimming to do on a piece of pork butt, so buy a large piece, and if you have more than you need, freeze the extra amount.

My main modification to this recipe was reducing the amount of onion and omitting the garlic. If you want, add a few cloves. Phil and garlic don’t match very well, so we use it very sparingly.

Maybe if you are used to eating a lot of garlic, you’ll feel that there’s something missing in my version of this ragu, but I suggest you give it a try without, and concentrate on the pure taste of the meat as you savor your plate of pasta.  And, by the way, this ragu would be amazing served with any type of root veggie puree. Soft-cooked polenta wouldn’t be that bad either!

ONE YEAR AGO: Friendly Kuri Squash

TWO YEARS AGO: Green Light for this Salad

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This is not part of New Year Resolutions, this list is not intended to put pressure on me, it’s simply a summary of  projects  I’d  like to tackle this year, but if I don’t get to some of them, 2013 will still be there, with open arms!

As you can see from the photo, this is something I’ve made in the past, but after cooking, the color completely faded away!   I intend to try that pasta again, adding a higher proportion of pureed beets to the dough.  Should be a fun project!

I’ve made croissants in the past, and even blogged about them, but my attempts have been a disaster. I would like to get better and make a batch that would come a little closer to the great croissants we enjoyed in Paris.   My hope is to follow the footsteps of the  amazing TxFarmer, a regular contributor at The Fresh Loaf Forum.  Check out her write up on croissants by clicking here.

I feel pretty comfortable making sourdough boules, but shaping a baguette is a skill that requires a lot of practice and patience, that virtue I lack.  This year I would like to master the baguette, following the authentic shaping instead of the improvised methods I’ve used in the past.    I have my favorite recipe to practice with, and will use this nice video to get the shaping right.

About a year ago, I got to know a food blogger through a comment she left on the Bewitching. Even though she blogs in Romanian, I haven’t missed a single of her new posts ever since (thank you, Google translate!).  She is an outstanding  baker and a while ago posted a recipe for a flatbread full of childhood memories. Imagine a bread re-created after 30 years of first tasting it!  I simply must make it!   Check out her article about it here (she has the translator tool right on the site, so pick your language and enjoy it).

I’ve seen them in cooking shows, I’ve had them in restaurants a couple of times.  Never attempted to make them at home, but always wanted to.  Of course, I’ll need to find the best possible quality fish, and a tried-and-true recipe.  Anne Burrell comes to mind…

I never thought much about them, until a dear friend served us a chocolate mousse decorated with her homemade candied orange peel.  I loved them so much, she brought me a small jar with the leftovers from the dessert, and I had to use all my self-control not to wolf down the whole thing.   I must make them soon, very soon…

When I was in graduate school in Brazil, Silvia, a student from Argentina worked in the same lab.  Once a year she would travel to Buenos Aires, and it never failed: when she arrived back, she would bring a couple of boxes of alfajores to the lab.  We would go absolutely crazy for them!  I’ve seen recipes in the net, and always wanted to make them.   Maybe this will be My Year of the Alfajor!

And, the “best” for last:

There. I said the dreadful words. Many years ago I suffered a public humiliation serving a strawberry genoise cake at a party. I never ever attempted to make it again.  You may wonder what made me change my mind.  Believe it or not, it was Tony Horton, the fitness guru, developer of the P90X.   I recently started his new P90X2 program, and the first routine has an exercise that Tony struggles with.  He is obviously a strong, ultra-fit guy, but his balance is not the greatest.  This particular exercise requires considerable balance and strength in legs and core.   Before demonstrating it, he literally screams:  “MY NEMESIS!  I WILL CONQUER THEE!” And, he goes for  it, hopping around, struggling, but following his own motto of “do your best”.

So, I will follow his example and “CONQUER THEE!”  Not sure who will be my genoise teacher, maybe  Tish Boyle?  She better be ready for this herculean task… 😉

So, these are some of the cooking projects I have in mind for the near, and not so near future.  What about you?  Any fun cooking plans for 2012?

ONE YEAR AGO: No-Fuss Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Swedish Limpa

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Last week, on a very busy day in which I had zero inspiration for cooking dinner, the daily email from Martha Stweart’s Everyday Food was a life saver.  It arrived mid-morning as usual,  and featured a grilled pork tenderloin with a simple soy-citrus marinade.  I had a tenderloin in the fridge, and all ingredients needed for the marinade.   Side dish?   Orzo sounded great, so I searched for recipes on the same website, and one of the top choices was “Toasted Orzo with Olives and Lemon”.   The clouds left the horizon,  blue skies announced that my dinner blues were gone.  And you’ll get both recipes in a single post!  😉

(adapted from Everyday Food)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of excess fat and silver skin

In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice, oil, and ginger. Add pork to the marinade, turning to coat well on all sides. Marinate in the fridge for several hours to overnight.

Remove meat from marinade, and pat it dry.  Season it very lightly with salt, and grill for 7 minutes on a hot grill.  Turn the meat to grill the opposite side, and grill for 6 minutes more.  Without opening the grill, turn the heat off and let the meat stay inside for 5 minutes.   Remove the meat from the grill, tent it with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

to print the recipe, click here

(adapted from Everyday Food)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound orzo (1 + 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and ground pepper
1/4  cup slivered black olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add 2 cups of water and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover, and simmer until orzo is al dente and liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in olives, parsley, lemon juice, and remaining tablespoons of olive oil, if desired (I omitted this step).


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  What a great dinner this was! Ready in less than 30 minutes, all I had to do was make the marinade at lunch time (but you can do it in the morning, if you don’t go home for lunch), and by the time we came home from work, dinner was a cinch to make.

I used the 7-6-5 grilling method for the pork tenderloin, because it works well with pretty much any type of marinade or dry rub.  It is easy to take care of the rest of the meal when all you have to do is set a timer and move the meat around when it goes off.

Toasting the orzo is what makes this side dish so special.  I’ve used a similar method before in one of the simplest and greatest recipes I’ve made last year, the “Carrot Nib Orzo”.  If until now you’ve only treated orzo as a normal pasta, boiling in salted water, please try either of these recipes, you will be more than pleasantly surprised by the improvement in taste and texture.

ONE YEAR AGO: Weekend Pita Project

TWO YEARS AGO:  Mandioca Frita 101 – Fried Yucca Root (Brazilian Food at its best!)

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