Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sparkling City by the Sea and Fish Tacos!

I am actually on an excursion to my beautiful home town of Corpus Christi, Texas! This fantastic city, known as "The Sparkling City by the Sea," has a lot to offer! Besides stellar sailing, fishing, and bird watching, it is minutes from the stunning Padre Island National Seashore, which is the largest stretch of undeveloped barrier island beach in the world! If that isn't enough, it is home to the Texas State Aquarium, the USS Lexington, replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the Corpus Christi Marina, the Corpus Christi Hooks (minor league team for the Houston Astros), and the Corpus Christi IceRays, just to name a few! 

But, did I mention the delicious, super fresh seafood? And, with it's close proximity to Mexico, the fantastic Mexican food? Well, I'll fill you in on my trip when I get back! Until then, why don't you try this authentic and excellent recipe for "Fish Tacos!"

Fish Tacos

Makes 8 tacos, serving 4

For the batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon ground arbol chile or cayenne pepper
1 cup (not the whole bottle) beer, preferably dark, at room temperature

For the creamy salsa
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup plain yogurt

For the fish
3/4 pound red snapper, sea bass fillets, or even cod, skinned and deboned, cut into 8 strips, each 3-4" long and 3/4" wide
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground arbol chile or cayenne pepper
Canola oil for frying

For the tacos
8 white corn tortillas, about 6" diameter (or flour tortillas, if you must...)
1/2 head of cabbage, finely shredded
8 lime quarters
Your favorite bottled hot sauce

For the batter
In bowl, stir together the flour, garlic salt, and ground chile. Pour in the beer, whisking to make a smooth batter. Cover and let stand for up to 1 hour.

For the creamy salsa
In another bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, ketchup, and yogurt until blended. Set aside.

For the fish
In a non-aluminum bowl, add the fish strips, lime juice, garlic salt, and ground chile, toss to mix. Let marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Pour the oil to a depth of 1" into a deep, non-stick, frying pan and heat to 350 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer, approximately 5 minutes.

For the tortillas
While the fish marinates and the oil comes up to temperature, heat a comal, griddle, or heavy frying pan over medium heat. When hot, stack 2 or 3 tortillas on the pan and leave for a few seconds. Flip the tortillas, rotating them every second or so until they are hot. Wrap in a dry kitchen towel and repeat with the remaining tortillas. They should keep warm for 10 minutes. If they are to be held longer, wrap a damp towel around the dry towel and place in a 200 degree oven.

Back to the fish
Pat the fish strips dry with paper towels. One at a time, dip a strip into the batter, allowing any excess to drip off, and carefully slip into the hot oil. Do not allow the pieces to touch. Fry until the strips are crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to paper towels to drain. When all are fried, transfer to a warmed serving plate.

Serving the tacos
Put the Salsa Mexicana, cabbage, limes, and creamy salsa in separate small bowls and set alongside the fish, tortillas, and hot sauce. To build the perfect taco, place a tortilla on your plate, top with a piece of fish, drizzle with the creamy salsa, top with some cabbage, Salsa Mexicana, hot sauce, and a squeeze of lime! Don't forget some icy cold cerveza to wash it all down!!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blueberry Bliss

Concluding my "Inside Bbq Menu," consisting of Spicy Chicken with Avocado Sauce and Tri-Color Salad with Lime-Honey Vinaigrette, I made Tyler Florence's "Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars." I love cheesecake! I love blueberries! This simple recipe doesn't disappoint, with it's creamy, lemony, cinnamony, blueberryness, it's total blueberry bliss! Just remember that it needs to be refrigerated at least 3 hours before serving, so plan ahead!

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes 10 bars

For the Base
Butter, for greasing
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 graham crackers, (the whole cracker, not individual pieces)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar, for dusting

For the Base
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease the bottom of a 9"x9" baking pan with butter. Then place 2 pieces of parchment paper, folded to fit, in each direction of the pan, like an X shape, pressing down at the corners. (This makes it easy to lift out the cheesecake after it's cooked and cooled.) In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon, and graham crackers until you have the texture of bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate. Pour into the lined baking pan and gently pat down with the base of a glass. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. When done, set aside to cool slightly.

For the Filling
Add the cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to the food processor and mix until well combined. It should have a smooth consistency. Pour onto the cooled base and then cover with the blueberries. They will sink slightly but should still be half exposed (as the cake bakes they will sink a little more and break down). 

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the center only slightly jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours. Once set, remove from the pan using the parchment lining and slice into 10 rectangular bars. Dust with powdered sugar and serve! 

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aztec Legend and Tri-Color Salad

Continuing my "Inside Bbq Menu," I made "Tri-Color Salad with Lime-Honey Vinaigrette." I love this salad, with it's fresh green lettuce, juicy slices of tomato, slices of creamy avocado, crumbles of queso fresco cheese, all topped off with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette, all the colors of the flag of Mexico!

The flag of Mexico consists of three equal vertical stripes of green, white, and red, pretty typical of other flags. However, in the center of the flag is the Mexican coat of arms. According to Aztec legend, the Aztec people, who were a nomadic tribe, were wandering throughout Mexico, looking for a sign of the precise spot to build their empire. Their war god, Huitzilopochtli, had commanded them to find an eagle perched atop a prickly pear cactus (aka., nopal), growing on a rock that rises from a lake. After 200 years of wandering, they finally saw an eagle, with a snake, on a nopal, on a small island in the swampy Lake Texcoco. Here they built their capital, Tenochtitlan, modern day Mexico City! Well, you don't have to wait 200 years to enjoy this fabulous salad, which pairs well with Mexican food, or any other spicy cuisine, even barbecue!

Tri-Color Salad with Lime-Honey Vinaigrette

Serves 6-8

For the Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey or brown sugar (or more, to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons canola oil
5 tablespoons olive oil

For the Salad
2 Boston lettuce heads, leaves rinsed and drained
1 pound round tomatoes, about 2, quartered, seeded, and sliced
1 large avocado, halved, pitted, meat scooped out and sliced
8 ounces queso fresco cheese, may substitute farmers cheese
Optional ingredients: scallions, jicama, thinly sliced radishes (as I did here), etc.

For the Vinaigrette
Mix the lime juice, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and thoroughly mix with a whisk or fork. (Or use a food processor, blender, or lidded jar.) Slowly pour in the canola oil and olive oil, mixing continuously until emulsified. Use right away or store, covered, in the refrigerator. If refrigerated, mix thoroughly before using to re-emulsify.

For the Salad
Place the lettuce leaves and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Add some of the vinaigrette and gently toss, so that the salad is moist, but not soaked. Place the avocados and crumbled cheese on top. Drizzle some more vinaigrette on top and serve!

Recipe adapted from patismexicantable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Singing in the Rain

I invited some friends over for an impromptu barbecue, you know: grill some chicken, drink some cerveza, and enjoy some fresh air with friends; but, with the heat of summer really rising, a pop-up thunderstorm threatened to ruin my plans. So, with company coming, I came up with a quick "Inside Bbq Menu":

With some pantry staples, like paprika, coriander, cumin, and chili pepper flakes, I was able to make Laura Calder's "Spicy Chicken with Avocado Sauce." This recipe is so simple and absolutely delicious! I truly make it all the time! The chicken has just the right amount of heat, and turns out beautifully browned and juicy! The cooling avocado sauce is the perfect counterpart, and can be made ahead without discoloring! So, rain or shine, this recipe is fantastic, perfect any day!

Spicy Chicken with Avocado Sauce

Serves 4-6

For the Chicken
1 chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
About 1 tablespoon butter

For the Sauce
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lime juice
Salt, to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, place in a shallow roasting pan, and rub all over with the olive oil. Mix the dried spices and rub onto the chicken. Dot with the butter. Roast the chicken until the juices run clear and the skin is crisp, 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, whiz up the sauce ingredients and refrigerate until serving. Serve the chicken with the cooling sauce alongside.

Recipe adapted from Dinner Chez Moi: The Fine Art of Feeding Friends, by Laura Calder.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Men Love Cookies.

Surprisingly, I have found that men (in general) tend to be picky about their food, especially dessert! For instance, my husband doesn't like cake! What's up with that? How can you not like cake? However, I've never known a man who doesn't love cookies! So, concluding my Father's Day Menu, of succulent Plank-Grilled Salmon with Dill Sauce and boiled red potatoes, I must end the meal with my "Perfect Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!" These cookies are crunchy on the edges, but soft and chewy on the inside! Mmm! The oatmeal gives them heft, and the addition of chocolate chips, cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg, really makes them stand out! Yum! So, to avoid any hissy-fits and make him truly happy, just give him cookies!

Perfect Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen


1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups plain oats
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Beat the butter and sugars in a stand mixer, at medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and egg, mix on low speed until incorporated. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a separate bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until incorporated. By hand, stir in the oats, and fold-in the chocolate chips. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving a couple inches between each. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the edges are browned, but the middle looks a tad under-cooked, like this:

Let cool on baking sheet a minute or two, before transferring to a wire rack to completely cool. Store cookies in an airtight container, at room temperature.

These cookies are so fantastic, you might have trouble keeping you're kid's from eating them all!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

God Save The Queen! and Chocolate Bread Pudding!

Well, unless you've been living under a rock, you know the Brits are going mad for "The Central Weekend" (June 2-5) celebrating The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking 60 years of The Queen's reign! The celebration includes the shift of the late May Bank Holiday, thereby making a 4-day weekend, The Queen attending the Epsom Derby, "The Big Jubilee Lunch," in which people are encouraged to share lunch with neighbors and friends, essentially making a large street party, "The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageants," consisting of up to 1,000 boats assembled from across the UK, the Commonwealth, and around the world, a BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace, "The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Beacons," where a network of 2,012 beacons will be lit by communities throughout the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Commonwealth, and concluding with the "Service of Thanksgiving and Carriage Procession" at St. Paul's Cathedral on the 5th. That's quite a party!

So, if you're feeling the urge to have your own celebration, why not make Steak, Guinness, and Cheese Pie, and finish with a proper bread pudding, a true English classic! This recipe for "Chocolate Bread Pudding," is smashing! It makes good use of leftover bread, and can simply be dusted with powdered sugar and topped off with whipped cream, and/or whiskey, rum, or caramel sauce. In addition, you can add a tablespoon or two of booze to the custard mix, just to make it extra festive! So Cheers and Happy Jubilee!

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Serves 6-8


6 cups, crust-less French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
Powdered sugar and whipped cream, for serving


Butter an 8"x8"x2" glass baking dish. Place bread cubes in a large bowl and drizzle with the butter, toss to coat. Transfer bread to the prepared dish. Bring the milk and cream just to a simmer in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl to blend. Whisk the sugar mixture into the chocolate mixture. Pour custard over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. (Some of the custard will not be absorbed.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the pudding until just set, when the center moves slightly when the dish is shaken, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a dollop of whipped cream and Bob's your uncle!