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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Perfect Game Day Food – Honey Sauced Chicken Wings

January 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve been thinking of posting this recipe since I started this blog and I can’t think of a better time than the days leading up to the super bowl. I have to admit I’m not a football fan – like, at all. Plus, I’m really not a fan of traditional gameday cuisine – chili, hamburgers, and wings don’t call my attention. So the fact I’ve actually found a wing recipe that even I crave, means it has to be really good. I really wish the pictures did these wings more justice – you’ll just have to take my word that they are really good!

We recently bought our first home, and I made these delicious wings for our housewarming party. I have one of those moms that is an extreme “over-cooker”. Whether it be dinner or even worse, a party, my mom goes all out and there’s sure to be leftovers for days on end. So, when I told her what I was preparing for this particular party, she was a bit skeptical about the amount of food I was going to be serving. In the hours leading up to the party and I was prepping these wings, I started to share her concerns, worried if they didn’t turn out I’d be in trouble. Oh well, plenty of pizza shops close by I reassured myself.

But in the end there was no need for reassurance – as everyone dove in they couldn’t stop raving about the wings. The men were literally standing at the crock pot and couldn’t stop eating them – I took this to mean it was a success. The party ended the way I like it too – virtually no leftovers – to me that’s the way to end a party.

These wings have a nice sweet but not too sweet flavor that is complimented by a little spice. I’ve made these multiple times and every time I like to cook them a bit longer so the meat is nice and tender, falling off the bone. So, I’ve never actually stopped at the designated cooking time but sure it produces an equally delicious but maybe more “sturdy” wing.

Now, a word on the actual wings – all I’ve been able to find at grocery stores is either the wing that is attached to the drumette or separate drumettes. I don’t know if I’m missing something but I cannot find wings themselves. This particular recipe calls for the wings that are attached to the drumette and for you to cut them at the joint. I did this for my housewarming party and let me tell you it was pretty brutal – I would definitely not recommend this. What I’ve done since is just cook the wings without cutting them and they are fine. They might not look perfect like at a wing joint, but they taste just the same! If you’d rather not do this, you could buy the drumettes but actually drumsticks cost the same and give you a lot more meat and taste equally as good with this recipe so I’d recommend that over the little drumettes.

I promise you, you won’t have any of these wings for leftovers! Definitely give them a try for your superbowl party!

To make the wings, line them in an oven safe dish and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 10 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic. I sometimes just use the whole onion even though this calls for ¼ cup. In a bowl, mix together the honey, soy sauce, ketchup, red chili pepper, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.

Once the wings are done – put them in a slow cooker and pour the sauce over them. Mix to ensure they are well coated. The directions call to cook them up to 2½ hours but I always cook them about 3 or up to 3½ hours. You can sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve but I’ve never even added it – they are delicious on their own.

Honey-Sauced Chicken Wings
Adapted from “Rival Crock-Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes”

Ingredients:

3 lbs. Chicken wings
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chopped onion (I use the whole onion)
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
sesame seeds to serve, optional (I never need to add this!)

Directions:

1. Preheat broiler. Assemble wings on broiler pan and season with salt and pepper. Broil 10 minutes per side or until chicken wings are browned. Remove and transfer to slow cooker.
2. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix, and pour over wings. Ensure wings are well coated.
3. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-2½ hours.

Update: For great game day spread, serve this with fiesta corn salad with cumin lime vinaigrette and either a frozen key lime pie or lemon meringue pie for dessert. 

 

Easy “Pea”sy Weeknight Dinner – Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Parmesan

January 8, 2011 § 5 Comments

Happy one week 2011! As I sit here writing this I’m watching the clock count down and feeling as excited for the year as I did a week ago on New Years Day. I don’t know what it is but it seems that everyone is truly happy about this year – there’s definitely something in the air (and lots of commotion on Facebook). It’s been a wonderful week for me, a perfect week in fact, very productive, quality time with my husband, family, and friends, and I’m full of anticipation for all the year has to bring. It’s funny how something as “little” as finally sitting down to start a blog can really inspire you. My mind is whirling with recipes I want to test – causing my mouth to water for delicious new flavors and creations. But the truth is, I have a very full-time job, which doesn’t always leave me the time I’m looking for at night to put a meal on the table worthy of my mother’s teachings.

That’s where this pasta comes in – my easy “pea”sy all-time absolute favorite go-to meal. Its simplicity of several bold flavors is what makes it so easy and a sure win each and every time. We eat this meal regularly as it’s a quick supper and I always, always, have the ingredients on hand. Crispy, smokey bacon, al dente pasta, a soft bite of bright green sweet peas, salty parmesan, and spicy fresh cracked pepper all wrapped in the deliciousness of good old olive oil. Mmmm… if only I had some leftovers right now…

I’ve been making variations of this dish for over 10 years now. It was inspired by a pasta at a local restaurant my family used to go to for special occasions. I would look forward to that meal for days – enjoying an amazing Italian feast with a glass of sparkling San Pelligrino was all I needed – it was heaven. The dinner always began with a famous buccatini. Buccatini is like a very thick, hollow, spaghetti. Their version was served al dente with prosciutto, peas, mushrooms and parmesan. The result was this amazing, smokey, salty, pasta. I haven’t had that dish in probably 8 years but I can still taste it.

I distinctly remember starting to create my version of this pasta in my last year of high school. In fact, I remember that I’d make it as many as several times a week. It was a very simple version that I still make to this day of just pasta, peas, olive oil, lots of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. That variation is actually the first meal I ever made my husband back when we were first dating in college – I guess it was good enough to stick around!

Over the years I’ve tried many variations adding garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, cream, tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc., and while they are all good, this one is absolutely my favorite. I encourage you to try it as is, and then experiment with new ingredients to see what your favorite combination is. This pasta doesn’t have hard-set directions. Use as much bacon and peas as you want – you can’t go wrong. Just ensure you flavor it well with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Most of the flavor comes from the salt and pepper so don’t be scared to add liberally. I like to add and taste several times until I get it right – you’ll feel like you’re adding a lot, but believe me, it needs it.

For the pasta – I usually cook with a whole wheat or whole grain pasta for extra protein but white pasta works beautifully here as well. You can use any shape of pasta you like. A new trick I’ve found is freezing my bacon. I love bacon but since it’s just me and my husband we never make it through the pack before it goes bad. I put it in my freezer and it lasts several months and is actually much easier to cut when frozen. If you’ve ever cut up fresh bacon you know this can be quite tricky. I like to cut the bacon perpendicular to the strips so all I need is several cuts and the bacon just breaks up in the pan perfectly.

Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Cut as much bacon as you want – I like to cut three pieces about ½ inch thick (this equates to about 2-3 strips of bacon). Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon leaving bacon grease in the pan – I know you health nuts will be eager to remove it but believe me its worth it!

Add the desired amount of frozen peas. We love peas so I add enough to coat my pan – about 2 cups. Mix peas in bacon grease and cook until heated through. Add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, about 1-2 tablespoons depending on amount of peas, just enough so that the peas are shiny and coated. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and mix. Reduce heat to medium-low.

When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the peas and mix for a few minutes to the pasta absorbs all the flavors.

Serve with reserved crispy bacon and freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. If you manage to have leftovers, this pasta is equally delicious the next day, but sadly (or fortunately) we never have leftovers when I make this.

Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Parmesan
Yields 2 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 package pasta of your choice
2-3 strips bacon cut into small pieces
2 cups frozen peas
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
parmesan cheese to serve

Directions:

1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and cook pasta al dente according to package instructions
2. Meanwhile heat a pan over medium heat. Cut 2-3 strips of bacon, or desired amount, into small bite-size pieces and add to heated pan. Cook until crisp and remove with slotted spoon, reserving bacon grease in pan.
3. Add 2 cups peas to pan and olive oil, salt, and pepper and cook until heated through. Reduce heat to medium low.
4. Drain pasta and add to pan with peas, mixing, and let it sit for a few minutes, absorbing flavors. Taste and season as needed with more salt and pepper.
5. To serve pasta, top with crispy bacon and fresh parmesan.

Instead of Chicken Wings I’ll Make You…Pumpkin Flan?

December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I have now made these incredible Honey Seared Chicken Wings several times in my slow cooker – they are relatively easy and very delicious so when my husband called me one day and asked if I’d make them for his work potluck party I said, “Sure, why not?” Fast forward to Sunday evening and we’re in Target after a full day of trying to find Christmas gifts in the overcrowded mall. It was late and I just wanted to go home. We were looking for the chicken wings and to my disappointment, they didn’t have the drumettes, only the attached wing and drumette. While I don’t mind feeding this to my family, I was leery of sending my husband into his relatively new job with these wings. As we went up and down the aisles thinking of what else I could make him, I thought of pumpkin flan – of course, a natural substitute for chicken wings!

I have never even tried pumpkin flan but I make flan regularly so I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. What was better, I knew I had the pumpkin, eggs, and milk in my fridge which meant this Target trip could be cut short and I could go home. Once home, I turned to my new favortie app of all, the Epicurious app, and looked for Pumpkin Flan. This recipe was short and sweet – it had to be a winner.

I followed the recipe for the most part. I don’t keep allspice so instead I added a pinch of each: cloves, nutmeg, ginger. I never buy whole milk unless its for a recipe and all I had was skim – I’ve made flan from skim milk before and know it doesn’t produce a very nice custard. However, I did have some heavy cream so I did 3/4 skim and 1/4 heavy cream.

As I pulled the flan out of the oven, I was so tempted to take a bite and see how it did. But since I wasn’t “flipping” it as you should and instead was sending my husband with my pyrex pie dish, there was no way to sneak a taste! I had to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Luckily my husband promptly texted me that the dessert was a success. Later that week it was my dad’s birthday and I decided to make this dessert for him – which I got to taste – and I can say it’s really delicious!

Click here for the Pumpkin Flan Recipe

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