The Best Eggplant Ever – Giada’s Pasta with Eggplant and Pesto

December 18, 2011 § 5 Comments


I’ve spent 28 years thinking I don’t like eggplant. My mom passed down this disdain for the purple veggie after years of growing up and eating eggplant parmagiana every Friday (it’s a Catholic thing). Just the sight of it is enough to make her lose her appetite. Thus, we never – not once – were served eggplant in my mom’s house.

I ventured out a few times and tried to give eggplant a chance in restaurants. Boy was I disappointed! That mushy flavorless veggie had nothing to offer me. That is until one day I was watching Giada on TV make this eggplant and pasta dish with pesto. She sauteed the eggplant in a generous amount of olive oil – dare I even say perhaps this should be called fried – and mixed with pesto. As I watched her prepare the eggplant and it turned to a caramelized color, I thought how could anything with that decadent golden color be bad? So, I figured I’d give eggplant one more go…

The result? OMG – who knew I LOVE eggplant! Like seriously love, love, love this delicious velvety creamy vegetable. Turns out, I’ve just never had it prepared properly. (Ok, being fare – what isn’t good fried up in olive oil? But still…)

And what’s even better – this recipe takes no time to prepare. This would even meet Rachel Ray’s 30 minute requirement, if that. It’s ridiculously easy and so full of flavor. Now for the real skeptic – I’ve got to make this for my mom and see if she will approve!

The trick is to add a LOT of olive oil. You’re looking for a really good coating and the eggplant just sucks the oil right up. A little salt and pepper and just let it sit and become all golden and yummy.

For the pesto, I omitted the cheese to make it vegan – this dish has so much flavor, you will not miss the parm – I promise! Just blend some garlic, toasted pine nuts, basil, and a touch more of oil together. I actually didn’t even have as much basil as the recipe called for, so I made less pesto but it was perfect. There’s not a big science here. Pesto is easy, you don’t have to get all bent out of shape measuring your ingredients. Just do what smells right :)

The original recipe called for trenette but I used casarecce which is a beautiful medium length pasta with an s shape – perfect for soaking up the pesto in the grooves. Once the pasta is done, mix it with the pesto and the eggplant. You might need a tad bit of pasta water to help the pesto coat all the pieces of pasta. Oh my goodness it is so rich and delicious. Enjoy!

For the original recipe, click here.

Update: I’ve made this pasta again and blended half the cooked eggplant with the pesto resulting in a creamy vegan pasta. A must try! 

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Pasta – Spaghetti Squash with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Spinach

October 30, 2011 § 8 Comments


See those silky golden strands of yumminess? They looks like delicate pasta noodles don’t they? But they aren’t. Dieters, have no fear – what you are looking at is spaghetti squash. I’ve heard of spaghetti squash for years but never actually tried it. I’ve seen lots of recipes for it but never noticed it in the market and never saw it out on a menu in a restaurant. Tonight while strolling through Whole Foods, there was a beautiful display of all kinds of squash and there it was – I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I grabbed the spaghetti squash, determined to figure out how to make this pasta lover’s alternate.

After a few quick google searches, I used this recipe as my starting point. Honestly the hardest part of this recipe is getting the darn squash cut in half and cleaned. With the effort it took I was a bit worried about the rest of the night – but alas, it was all easy as pie from there.

Before going in the oven, they were drizzled with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. This had me pause for a moment. I knew the nutmeg is a go-to for squash but I was making a garlic base sauce for this, would nutmeg work? We would soon find out…

I roasted them for 30 minutes. In my haste of reading how to cook these babies, I mis-read and only cooked them 30 minutes despite the referenced recipe saying to do just 30 minutes they had to go in the microwave first. Oops. Honestly though, the resulting dish had just the slightest crunch that I really enjoyed. Next time I may cook them longer but I actually really liked the way it came out.

I sauteed some sliced garlic in olive oil over low heat. To this, I added one sliced shallot to give a mild onion flavor. I don’t cook much with sun-dried tomatoes but just opening the can made me question this. The smell just transports you to a sweet, sunny, tuscan day. A few spoonfulls of chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a splash of the juice went into the pan. Lastly, two handfulls of spinach went in. A little salt and pepper to season, some red pepper flakes for some heat, and the pan was set to low while the spinach wilted.

Now to get the squash out of their shell. I looked at the squash and just started scraping – it seemed to work. Scrape, scrape, scrape and little strands appeared. Once completely scraped out, the “spaghetti” was added to the pan. The last touch was a tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan buttery spread to add some creaminess (also, my first time actually using this product) and the dish was topped with some fresh basil and the toasted pine nuts.

Not only does this dish come across as elegant and gourmet, it is delicious and complex. The squash while delicate, had a slight crunch to it. The brightness of the sun-dried tomatoes and basil contrast the warm pine nuts and rich garlic nicely. The spinach adds even more healthy goodness to the dish. Oh, and that nutmeg? Yeah, it rocked. That little kick of warmth made me want to curl up and start listening to Christmas music tonight. Yes, I realize it’s still October.

All in all, this was an awesome dish. I’ll definitely be picking up the spaghetti squash next time I see it in the market. I’m looking forward to trying all sorts of pasta recipes out on this carb alternative.

Tip: I saved the squash seeds and toasted them as a little experiment. I read they were edible and figured I might as well give it a try before tossing them. The finished seed is deliciously nutty and slightly chewy. I’ll be enjoying them on a salad this week.

If you like the idea of pasta made out of vegetables, check out this yummy recipe for garlicky zucchini noodles with tomatoes and chickpeas.

Spaghetti Squash with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Spinach
Serves 3-4 bowls

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half and cleaned of seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2-3 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, sliced (plus juice)
2 cups spinach
1 tablespoon Earth Balance vegan buttery spread
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
5-6 basil leaves, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half. Clean inside until all seeds and strands are removed. Rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bake for 30-40 minutes until done.
  2. Toast pine nuts in large pan over low-medium heat about 10 minutes until golden, set aside.
  3. Saute sliced garlic and shallot in two tablespoons olive oil over low-medium heat. Once fragrant and garlic is soft, add sun-dried tomatoes and juice and heat tomatoes through, about a minute or two.
  4. Reduce heat to low, add spinach, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook until wilted.
  5. Once squash is cooled, scrape down the center and around the sides to release the “spaghetti” strands. Mix in with spinach and tomato mixture. Fold in vegan buttery spread until melted. Top with pine nuts and basil.

Soaking Up the Last Few Days of Summer – Gazpacho

September 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

September is upon us! I see many pumpkin cookies and spice lattes in my future (vegan of course – I’ll be experimenting). But for now, I’ve been soaking up the last few days of summer. We went away for Labor Day in an attempt to unwind and finally get a tan! Nothing like waiting until the last minute :) We spent several days relaxing on the beautiful beaches of the Boca Raton Resort, where I got so relaxed I managed to stop checking email and in doing so lost my phone! Whether it got lost on the beach or was outright stolen while I lay dozed off in never never land is up for grabs. So, for the remainder of this post, I’ll just have to taunt you with sun drenched beaches instead of vivid veggies. I’m sure you’ll manage.

I had been such a good wife and stocked the kitchen full of delicious vegan lunches for my hubby’s second week of his vegan challenge, but sadly have nothing to show for it now. Before we left I also made gazpacho which is basically the epitome of summer. I’ve been ordering it wherever I can but had never made it myself. I remember my mom used to make it a lot when I was a kid and I didn’t like the cold soup she put in front of us – boy has that changed! I searched through recipes and settled on this one as my guiding light. However, as always, I can’t stick to a recipe. I always end up fussing with it and changing it up. While I really enjoyed the recipe I created, I want to go back and try this one fully one day as it looked so good.

So, I can’t show you this gazpacho, but I can tell you about it. I started by grilling the tomatoes – or more accurately trying to – which was a total waste of time. I often grill on a pan indoors (not always the best choice in the summer heat) so this was most ineffective with tomatoes. I was hoping for a smoky flavor, but it just didn’t work out. However, the onions and peppers grilled very nicely and lent enough of the grill flavor I was looking for.

As you blend the beautiful red tomatoes they turn a lush pink – it’s so pretty and decadent looking. Next blend the peppers and onions with the garlic, basil, olive oil, and some vinegar of your choice. Traditional gazpacho calls for sherry wine vinegar which I didn’t have so I used red wine vinegar like my mom does. The onion does add a strong flavor so if you’re not a fan of raw onion leave it out.

Season with salt, pepper, and paprika and that’s it! If you haven’t tried gazpacho at home yet you definitely should. It’s so easy and good for you, especially if you decide to make it all raw. I liked it with a little drizzle of very good olive oil and fresh cut basil or, which may be my favorite, served in a bowl over a handful of tortilla chips. Either way it’s delicious, cooling, refreshing, and will have you dreaming of gardening or sinking your toes in the sand.

Ahhh, goodbye summer, until next year…

Gazpacho

Inspired by Farm to Table Geek

Ingredients

  • 5 very good tomatoes
  • 3 red peppers
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno (or whole depending on your taste)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup very good olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp spanish paprika
  • 12 basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Grill vegetables if desired.
  2. Prep all vegetables by slicing into chunks that will process easily in the blender or food processor.
  3. Blend tomatoes and pour into large bowl. Blend remaining ingredients (may require two batches) and then mix in with tomatoes.

Learning to Love Tomatoes – Heirloom Tomato Summer Pasta

August 23, 2011 § 6 Comments

I have never been one for tomatoes – you’d never find me snacking on them or making them the star of any meal. In fact, those individuals that could eat a tomato like an apple always perplexed me – why on earth would they do that? Even cooked tomatoes are sometimes too acidic for my liking – but all this changed within the last two months and I’m a new tomato fanatic. Me, tomato lover, can’t get enough of them…If my mother is reading this right now, she’s shocked.

There are two parts to my new-found tomato fanaticism. One: being vegan has definitely changed my tastes. Usually I’d crave an oozing piece of cheese pizza or a bowl of creamy pasta but not anymore. Maybe its summer but I think its more likely due to my changing diet. Eating more fruits and veggies has in turn made me want – well, more fruits and veggies.

The second reason for my new tomato cravings: I’ve finally tasted what a tomato should taste like. I’m not talking about those lifeless mealy barely red things you find at the grocery store. I’m talking about firm, juicy, bursting with fruity goodness, barely needs any seasonings, freshly picked from the garden tomatoes. I was recently treated to some tomatoes of this very nature and have been dying to get my teeth into some tomatoes similar to what I experienced, causing me to order anything that looks remotely close when I’m out and about.

No pizza or pasta for me, I’ll take the fresh tomato salad please! :-)

Due to my recent tomato cravings I’ve ordered gazpacho at every restaurant I’ve been to that has it on the menu. My favorite was a charred green tomato gazpacho that I enjoyed at Park Grille in Chicago. As I sat and looked over the menu, the waiter greeted me and informed me this gazpacho was vegan if ordered without the crab – I didn’t even tell him I was vegan! Was quite a change from my Seattle trip. Ah, Chicago, how do I love thee. The soup was delicious – refreshing with a hint of smokiness due to grilling the tomatoes and let’s face it, the view didn’t hurt either.

I drug Luis to the farmers market this weekend with one thing in mind: yup, you guessed it, tomatoes. But not just any tomatoes, I really had my heart set on heirloom tomatoes, the more colors the better. While I didn’t find any at the farmers market, I found some standard tomatoes that the gentleman assured me would be sweeter and have more flavor than those in the supermarket. On the way home we stopped in Whole Foods for some necessities and I couldn’t resist the heirloom tomatoes sitting like royalty on stands. I can be a bit cheap at times, but let me tell you, I shelled out about $7 for these beauties. I got a large heirloom with a deep purplish green and red color combo and a small carton of tiny round and pear orange, yellow, and purplish tomatoes. They looked like a rainbow in a carton.

This pasta was a take on a pasta I saw here and have been thinking about for several weeks. I loved the idea of a fresh pasta that required little to no cooking in the summer’s heat.

Given how beautifully fresh these tomatoes were, I didn’t even see the need to marinate them but I began about 30 minutes before Luis got home so they did sit a bit.

All I did was slice, toss with some nice fruity Spanish olive oil I use for special dishes like this, and add a splash of balsamic for a little kick. A little salt and pepper for seasoning, and at the last minute I added one clove of minced garlic. Honestly though, I’m not sure the dish really needed it – you could easily do without it. Sliced basil tops it off and keeps the dish light and earthy.

At first I was worried the whole wheat pasta would be overwhelming for this dish but it was all I had on hand – and it turned out to be really good. I made sure to cook it al dente to provide texture against the soft tomatoes. Boil the pasta and allow to cool before mixing with the tomatoes. This dish is delicious cool and at room temperature – providing juicy freshness on a hot summer day.

Heirloom Tomato Summer Pasta
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 large heirloom tomato
1 carton small heirloom tomatoes
2 – 3 tablespoons fruity, good quality olive oil
a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sliced fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package of pasta of your choice

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil for pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Slice large tomato into several segments and smaller tomatoes in half.
  3. Toss in large bowl with several tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to generously coat tomatoes.
  4. Add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, sliced basil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss and set aside.
  5. Once pasta is finished drain well and set aside to cool. Once cooled, serve with tomato mixture over top.

Is A Creamy Vegan Soup Possible? – Vegan Corn Chowder

July 30, 2011 § 10 Comments

I love making soups. They are usually super easy to put together and you rarely need to follow a recipe. Soups are perfect too for using the last bits of leftover vegetables in the fridge. I’m not sure why, but I’ve really been on a corn kick latley. I’ve wanted to put it in everything: salads, tacos, everything, and I’ve been thinking of this chowder for a while. This chowder is inspired by a shrimp and corn chowder I make a lot and learned from my mom. I love how silky and rich it is – it’s perfectly comforting – but calls for all sorts of non-vegan ingredients like cream and seafood so I figured I wouldn’t get to have it anytime soon. But, I figured out a way!

Doesn’t that chowder look all creamy and silky? You’re thinking surely there is at least a touch of cream in there – nope, not a drop! What’s the secret to that rich creamy base? Roasted cauliflower! And what’s best about this soup – not only does it not have any cream – but it doesn’t leave you with that heavy feeling a traditional chowder does.

As I said the beauty of this soup and any soup really is that there are no rules. If you don’t have one of these ingredients handy or want to switch it up, go for it. Experiment and see what it gives you. Soups are very forgiving – it’s really hard to mess them up. The key is seasoning. That’s really the only way to mess up a soup.

As I said the secret to this creamy delicious soup is the roasted cauliflower. You could do this the day before to speed up this easy weeknight dinner. Roast with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper at 425 until tender and the cauliflower has a little color.

This chowder starts with the traditional onion, celery, carrot base. Saute the onions until translucent in some olive oil then add the celery and carrots. I happened to have shredded carrots in my fridge which worked great here. Since you end up blending everything together it doesn’t matter. I love adding peppers to all my soups – and really just about anything. Sometimes I’ll do a duo of red and yellow but for this soup I just used a red pepper. If you wanted a little heat you could definitely add some jalapeno but I’d wait until later in the cooking. Then add the diced potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and season with a little salt and pepper.

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Next add the stock. To keep it vegan, I used vegetable stock but if you’re not eating vegan you could use chicken stock which will give it great flavor. I actually only had one 32 oz. package of stock which I knew wasn’t enough to cover all the ingredients. I was a little nervous to add another 32 oz. of water but it still had fantastic flavor. I threw in a bay leaf and generous amount of salt and pepper to season.

While the soup simmers, prep the corn. Set the cut corn aside. You simmer the soup just long enough to ensure the potatoes are fully cooked through. Once the potatoes are cooked, the soup is ready for blending. I used an immersion blender which is so easy and takes just minutes to blend this into that beautiful creamy base. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can easily use a regular blender. Now, before blending you want to remove the bay leaf like the pros always caution. But don’t worry, if you don’t, I learned it blends nicely. I forgot to remove it and didn’t even notice.

Once the soup is blended smooth, add the cut corn and let it heat through for a few minutes. Taste test and season with more salt and pepper as needed. I promise you’ll be licking the bowl clean!

Update: See my posts on five tips for reducing dairy intake and 10 tips for a 30-day vegan challenge.

Vegan Corn Chowder
Serves about 8 bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 4 carrots (can use shredded as I did)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 6 small potatoes (red or new)
  • 2 32-oz. cartons vegetable stock
  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cut up head of cauliflower into small florets. Coat well with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 until tender.
  2. Dice onion, celery, carrots, and red pepper. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and saute onions until translucent. Add celery and carrots and saute a few minutes, then add the pepper. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Dice the potatoes and add to the mixture. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Add the bay leaf and season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. While the potatoes cook through, cut and prep the corn. Once the potatoes are cooked through, remove the bay leaf and then blend the soup until smooth. Add the corn to the blended soup. Taste for final seasonings.

End of Week Two and More New Ingredients – Kale and Purple Sweet Potatoes

July 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ingredient discovery continued this week as I ended the second week of my 30 day vegan challenge. (Update: See how I did with my challenge here.) I ordered from a local organic delivery service for the first time in an attempt to save time and get more organic produce. While I appreciated the ease of ordering and having fresh produce awaiting my arrival at my door, I realized I really am a grocery shopper. I enjoy perusing the lanes and looking for the freshest produce, smelling it, feeling it, and thinking about what I’ll be cooking that week based on what’s there. So, I’m not sure I’ll keep this as a weekly service, but it’s pretty nice during weeks I have to travel to have fresh produce waiting for me at home.

One thing I can tell you – I never would have picked up these two items which arrived at my door with this service: kale and purple sweet potatoes. Both of them appeared unattractive (in my opinion) and well, not so yummy. But boy was I wrong. Both turned out to be winners – not only very attractive, dare I say even beautiful, but delicious and satisfying.

If you’re like me and you’ve never eaten kale, it can be a bit intimidating. The leaves are really rough and almost have the texture of crazy thick curly parsley. Just looking at it you can tell its chock full of vitamins and nutrients but it doesn’t look like it will be delicious. Kale is sometimes compared to spinach but there was nothing tender about these leaves. While I had read that you can eat the stems, that was just being too adventurous for me. I was already going for the leaves, so I left the stems out of the party.

I decided to cook the kale with pasta. I figured that was the best way to ease into it as straight on kale might be a bit much for a first try. I had some grape tomatoes on hand as I usually do and I sauteed it with lots of garlic and some crushed red pepper and capers to give it a kick. Luis was skeptical as I cut the leaves free of their stems and I have to admit I was a bit scared to dump it into my beautiful sauce I had cooking, but boy was it good. The resulting pasta was really delicious and the greens absorbed all the strong flavors of the pan, making the bites of pasta with kale the best tasting ones! This pasta was so easy to make and extremely satisfying. We both went back for seconds and there was barely any left for leftovers…always a good sign.

To make the pasta, slice the garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Fully wash the kale and remove the stems, cutting the leaves into strips. While the water boils, saute the onions in olive oil until tender. Then add the tomatoes for a few minutes and then the capers, red pepper flakes, and garlic.

Once the tomatoes are almost fully soft, add the kale. I let it steam on top of the tomato mixture first before folding in the leaves. They’ll fill the full pan but like spinach they will wilt down quickly.

Keep turning them in the tomato mixture until they are fully wilted and a bright emerald green. Seriously is that not the prettiest color combo above?Gorgeous green and bright red.

Once done, toss in the pasta and enjoy!

Just as the kale was pretty intimidating at first glance, the purple sweet potatoes didn’t look so appealing either. Reminder: beauty isn’t on the outside. Goes for people and veggies as it turns out.

Once you peel away those somewhat scary looking skins – behold the most beautiful purple ever. Seriously, this may be the most beautiful vegetable I’ve ever seen, or eaten. Nature tricks us once again as we think it can’t get more beautiful than that – and you cook these babies and they turn lighter, brighter, almost the color of amethyst. I don’t know if I had more fun prepping and cooking these to discover their changing colors or eating them. The taste did not disappoint!

I knew I wanted to make them Friday night for dinner but wasn’t sure what to make. I also had eggplant arrive in my delivery. As you may recall, I’m not a fan of eggplant. In a desperate attempt to turn this around I started googling “delicious recipes for eggplant haters” -while the search returned a number of results, apparently there’s a lot of eggplant haters out there, they all included vegan no no’s like loads of cheese or other dairy products. I went out on a limb and decided to make a vegan vegetable tempura with the eggplant and purple sweet potatoes. Mind you, this was last night, after a long work day, so Luis arrived home to see me cutting the eggplant and scary looking potatoes and wasn’t so excited. I had faith though – after my successful adventures with kale, I thought it would be OK.

I found some vegan tempura batters and settled on one that just called for flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. The resulting tempura were really delicious – and the batter almost had a sweet pancake flavor wrapping the veggies. Success – I liked the eggplant! And those purple sweet potatoes were so yummy. I’ll definitely be experimenting more with this ingredient in the future. As far as the eggplant goes, I’m not convinced I’ll like it any way other than fried. Now I know fried food isn’t really what veganism is all about, but come on, I’ve had enough salads in the past two weeks so I got a little restless. Also, I can assure you the pictures don’t do it any justice.

Garlicky Kale and Tomato Pasta

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat penne pasta – you can use any pasta you like, I wanted to ensure protein in this meatless pasta
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves – the garlic cloves I had were huge so this was probably closer to 6 normal sized cloves which produces a strong garlic flavor, just use less if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor
  • One big bunch of kale – I used what was delivered and I think totaled about 10 large leaves.
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook pasta in boiled salted water.
  2. Slice onion, garlic and tomatoes. Clean kale and remove stems. Slice leaves thinly into strips.
  3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. This is the base of your sauce so you want enough to coat the pasta and vegetables. Add onions and saute several minutes until soft. Add tomatoes, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes stirring frequently so garlic doesn’t burn. Cook until tomatoes are almost soft.
  4. Layer kale leaves over tomato mixture and let steam for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. Begin to stir and fold the tomato mixture over the leaves. Cook until all leaves are wilted and cooked through.
  5. Add cooked pasta to the vegetable mix. Stir until the pasta is coated and add extra olive oil if needed.

Vegan Vegetable Tempura

If you try this recipe, I served it with soy sauce which was a bit too strong. It needs a light tempura sauce which I just didn’t have the ingredients on hand to make.

Ingredients

  • Desired vegetables – I used eggplant and purple sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chilled water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying

Directions

  1. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder together. Slowly add oil and water and mix until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut vegetables into uniform slices.
  3. Heat oil in large fry pan over medium – high heat. Dip vegetables into batter one by one and then add to oil, frying several at a time.

 

A New Way to Fish – Rosemary Potato Crusted Tilapia with Basil Oil

June 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

I really do love fish and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. I prefer salmon, grouper, and of course, sea bass, but sometimes you just need an economical alternative. Enter, tilapia. I’ve never really been a big fan of tilapia – I’ll eat it and I don’t mind it but I’ve never craved it. My husband has developed a strong liking for it so I’ve been looking for new ways to prepare it. So far, simply grilled with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon has been a good way to go. Another option is sauteed with a light flour coating and finished in a parsley butter sauce. I recently saw a recipe by Giada de Laurentis for a potato crusted tilapia that looked amazing. I’m in for any recipe that involves a potato! Giada’s version called for purple potatoes and a chive basil oil. I was making this for a nice little Sunday lunch at home so I had to deal with what I had on hand – no purple potatoes or chives, but I did have new potatoes and some fresh basil.

This dish is surprisingly easy and produces a really elegant meal that takes fish to a whole new level. Giada’s recipe calls for a mandolin for super thin potato slices – I don’t have a mandolin so I just sliced the potato as thinly as I could manage. This worked fine but I think a mandolin would have helped produce a bit crispier potato which would have been delicious. However, if you don’t have a mandolin, don’t fret – just slice thinly and you’ll still be enjoying deliciously sauteed potatoes.

Once the potato slices are done, assembly is very easy. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and then top with the potato slices. A little more salt, pepper, and some rosemary and the fish is ready to go. In an oven-proof skillet heat equal parts butter and olive oil over medium high heat. You want the skillet to be pretty hot so it gives a nice sizzle to the potatoes. I thought getting the fish potato side down into the skillet was going to be tricky but it actually turned out to be pretty easy. I found that placing my spatula over the fish and then flipping it potato side down and sliding out the spatula worked best. Once the fish is in, you pop it into a a 375 degree oven for about 15 to 17 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

While the fish cooks, make the basil oil. Simply mix chopped basil and olive oil together and a little salt and pepper and set aside. I added some more rosemary to the oil and happened to have some roasted garlic on hand which I mashed into the oil as well for a little extra flavor.

Once you remove the fish from the oven, flipping over to serve potato side up is quite tricky. After a few tries, a food scraper proved to be the best way to accomplish the task – carefully slide it under the potato while holding the top of the fish with a spatula and flip. The potato doesn’t actually stick to the fish so if it’s not held together it will fall apart. Top the fish with some basil oil and serve. I found a generous squeeze of lemon finished the fish nicely, but you could try it first without and see what you think.

As I’m coming to find – I like my own cooking a lot more than what I find in restaurants. I can assure you, you’ll like this dish and it will be very different than anything you’ll see in a restaurant – at least from what I’ve seen. Enjoy!

Rosemary Potato Crusted Tilapia with Basil Oil 
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 4 new potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary leaves or half dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • roasted garlic – optional
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Season fish with salt and pepper and top each of the fillets with potato slices until completely covered. Season with more salt and pepper and rosemary.

Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the butter and heat until hot. Add the fish, potato side down and place skillet in oven. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. If desired, add roasted garlic.

Place fish potato side up on a plate and top with the basil oil and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Click here for original recipe.

Update: Serve with lemon meringue pie for a truly decadent summer dinner. 

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