South Asian Fish Tacos with Chimichurri

tacos

Every night this week, I have dreamt I was on the beach. White sand, blue water, umbrella drink in my left hand and a tasty treat in my right.  Instead, I’m stuck in humid DC and my day was the complete opposite of a vacation. I did laundry, went to the gym, dog park and grocery store. While I may not be hanging 10 or getting tan, who says I can’t eat like I’m on vacation? I had a piece of tilapia leftover from last night’s dinner so I decided to cook it tonight rather than freeze. I’m very glad with this decision because I whipped up some epic fish tacos. Who can resist a good fish taco? Light, crispy white fish, your favorite fresh veggies, warm torillas and a slather of yummy sauce.

The great thing about fish tacos is that you can truly customize them and channel your inner creativity. You don’t have to stick with tilapia, either. I like tilapia for tacos because it’s cheap, easy and very light– perfect for a PLRC like me. Feel free to try other fish such as halibut, mahi or grouper, though. Just make sure that it’s a firm enough to handle toppings and tortillas. For this recipe, I pretty much just used what I had on hand. I wanted to spice up the fish, so I dressed up the flour dredge with turmeric (hence the South Asian title), cayenne and paprika. Now for the sauce, which is more South American than South Asian, I made a delicious chimichurri sauce. This will stay fresh for up to a week in your fridge. I’m thinking it would be perfect on skirt steak. Or I might just need to make these tacos again later in the week. They are just that good.

Ingredients

Serves 2

For the sauce:

  • 1 C Parsley leaves ($.75)
  • 1/2 C cilantro (with stems) ($.50)
  • 3/4 C olive oil ($.50)
  • 6 garlic cloves ($.30)
  • Juice of 1 lime ($.75)
  • 1.5 tbs apple cider vinegar ($.20)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs paprika ($.50)

For the fish:

  • 2 tilapia filets ($3.00)
  • 3/4 C flour ($.30)
  • 1 tbs paprika ($.50)
  • 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper ($.25)
  • 2 tsp turmeric ($.25)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

For serving:

  • 6 soft corn tortillas ($.75)
  • 6 tsp sour cream ($.30)
  • sliced avocado (optional) ($1.00)
  • lime juice

Total: $9.85

Instructions:

First, prepare the chimichurri. Blend all sauce ingredients in food processor until smooth. Place in container and refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce will stay fresh for up to a week if you keep it refrigerated. You can also freeze it!

Mix flour, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Rinse the tilapia filets and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper then dredge in flour mixture. Heat skillet with 2 tbs olive oil. Fry the fish for 1.5 minutes on each side, then drain on paper towels. Try not to overcrowd the skillet, you can work in batches. As soon as fish comes off the skillet, season with salt and a little squeeze of lime.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave then dress them. I put sour cream down first (1 tsp per tortilla), then chimichurri, then fish. Add a few slices of avocado and a sprinkle of cilantro. Enjoy!

Blackened Grouper with Mango Salsa

DSC_0244

I just discovered an amazing little gem in my neighborhood– a seafood market. I’ve been searching for one since I moved to DC two years ago and I finally found it. I’m very particular about purchasing things from the sea… I rarely stray from Whole Foods and the only frozen seafood I will buy is shrimp. It was my friend’s birthday and I was set on making him Mahi. Believe it or not, Mahi is impossible to find up North and when you do it’s usually overpriced and not very fresh. Old Mahi is not ok, especially for someone like me who grew up in Florida. I talked to the owner of the market and explained to him what I wanted to prepare that night. This man looked like and knew as much about seafood as Captain Gordon himself. He said the best thing in his case that day was Grouper. Sold. I coated the filets in blackening seasoning and pan-seared in a bit of olive oil on high heat. I made a fresh, simple mango salsa for the topping and served with a side of asparagus and honey- ginger spaghetti squash (recipe below). The result was perfection and I was very proud of myself. Then, out of nowhere, the meal was ruined by an embarrassing mishap. Mid-sentence, mid-meal I heard wood start to crackle. My chair teetered from left to right then literally snapped under me, sending me straight to the ground. I think I said something like “Wh—Wh—Whoooaa” before I plunged. Luckily I didn’t get hurt…the only thing I lost was my dignity. Let’s just say it was an unforgettable meal. Oh, and don’t buy furniture on Craigslist.

Ingredients

Servings :2
• 1 lb Grouper, filleted and cut into 2 servings ($14.00)
• 2 tbs blackening seasoning ($.20)
• 1 tbs olive oil ($.20)
• ½ mango, diced finely ($.50)
• 1 tbs red onion, diced finely ($.15)
• 1 tbs cilantro, chopped ($.05)
• 1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped ($.30)
• 1 tbs lime juice ($.10)

Total: $15.50

Instructions

Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Put seasoning on plate and dredge both sides of fish (lightly) in seasoning, shake off excess. Bring skillet to medium-high heat and once hot, add fish. Let it cook 4 minutes, and shake the pan back and forth a few times so the fish doesn’t stick. Flip the fish, cover and cook another 5 minutes on medium-high heat. While fish is cooking, make the salsa. Chop mango, red onion, cilantro, tomato and lime juice and combine. I microwave mine for about 30 seconds. Serve on top of cooked fish.

Honey-Ginger Spaghetti Squash:

Ingredients
• 1 large spaghetti squash ($3.00)
• 3 tbs butter ($.10)
• 1 tbs freshly grated ginger ($.25)
• 1 tsp chicken boullion cube/ paste ($.05)
• ½ cup honey ($1.00)
• ¼ cup brown sugar, packed ($.25)
• 1 cup water
• 1 tbs cornstarch ($.05)

Total: $4.70

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke holes in spaghetti squash with a knife. Cook in microwave-safe dish in microwave for 10 minutes. Remove squash (be careful- it’s hot!) and cut in half. Bake in oven on roasting pan with tin foil, cut side down, for 10 minutes. Remove squash from oven and carefully remove all seeds. Using a fork, remove all the “pulp” from the squash and place in bowl. It will look like angel hair pasta. Mix in 2 tbs of butter and set aside.
For the sauce:
Do this while the squash is cooking. Saute 1 tbs butter and fresh ginger for 1 minute. Add chicken boullion cube and saute another minute. Add honey and brown sugar and cook on medium for 2 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water until dissolved and add to honey/ ginger mixture. Let it cook 5 minutes, while gently stirring and on medium heat.Once the sauce is done, pour desired amount over cooked spaghetti squash.

Scallops Provençal for One

SCALLOPS

Last night I channeled Julia Child. I wanted to make something French, but I also didn’t want to spend hours slaving in the kitchen. When I think of French food certain words come to mind: fancy, expensive, difficult, pretentious. Totally doesn’t go with the theme of my blog, right? French food can actually be the opposite of this though– light, simple , easy and affordable.  I certainly wasn’t in the mood to make Escargots à la Bourguignonne for myself and I also didn’t want to experiment with duck or Pâté. Seafood sounded good so off I went to Whole Foods.

Side note: I’m sort of a fresh seafood snob. Other than frozen shrimp, I refuse to buy anything but fresh, natural, local(ish) items from the ocean. I rarely buy the stuff on sale (not a big deal because I usually cook for one) and I always stick to what’s behind the fish counter– the “manager’s special” of seafood is horrifying. This phobia of mine usually leads me to organic supermakets or exclusive seafood retailers. 

Phew, glad I got that off my chest. So of all the things we take from the sea, the scallop is one my favorites. I love food that starts off as a blank canvas and scallops definitely check that box. They take on the flavor of just about anything you add to them, but I think it’s best to not over complicate these delicate little morsels. I would definitely use sea scallops for this dish, or any scallop dish for that matter. I think the texture and flavor is better, and bay scallops have a tendency to taste a little fishy in my opinion. This recipe cooks fast so make sure you have all your prep work done ahead of time. I served mine over a bed of wilted spinach with olive oil and garlic. By the way, I’ve been buying fresh (non bagged) spinach lately and it’s changed my world, I can’t believe I just now discovered this. The texture is so much better and it’s more filling. I feel like popeye when I eat it.

Bon Appétit!

Ingredients

Servings: 1

  • 3 fresh sea scallops, cut in half horizontally ($4.00)
  • sea salt &  pepper
  • 2 tbs flour, for dredging ($.05)
  • 2 tbs butter, divided ($.20)
  • 2 tbs chopped white onion ($.10)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced ($.05)
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley ($.05)
  • 3 tbs white wine ($.20)
  • 1/4 lemon ($.10)

Total: $4.75

Instructions

Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper, dredge in flour then shake off the excess. In a pan, heat half the butter over high heat and add the scallops in 1 layer. Put heat on medium and cook the scallops 2 minutes, then flip to the other side. Cook the other side of the scallops for 3 minutes then add the rest of the butter, onion, garlic and parsley. Saute another minute or so. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Remove scallops from pan, drizzle with sauce and add a squeeze of lemon.
Here's me acting French
Here’s me acting French

Pistachio Crusted Salmon

pistachio salmon

Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts, Cashews. I’m nutty about nuts. The pistachio reigns supreme in my eyes though. It’s the sophisticated nut. It’s also my favorite shade of green. There’s also so many cooking applications for pistachios– eat them right out of the bag, throw them in a salad or even incorporate them in dessert. Unless you have a nut allergy you haven’t lived if you’ve never tried pistachio gelato–it’s heavenly.

Let’s talk about another one of my favorite foods, salmon. I honestly hated it growing up. Ask my mom and she will tell you one of the first things I would say when I arrived home from school was “what’s for dinner.” If her response was salmon, which was often, I would always cringe with disappointment. I don’t know why, but she was respectful of my salmon phobia and would always pick me up a piece of tilapia instead. Spoiled rotten! Years later I came to my senses (I blame my siblings for all my weird food aversions) and decided to expand my seafood horizons. Salmon rocks. And so do pistachios. I was so happy to learn that the combination of the two is perfect matrimony. I hope you agree.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 2 salmon fillets ($5.00)
  •  1 tbsp Dijon mustard ($.10)
  •  1tbsp butter, melted ($.05)
  •  2 tsp honey ($.20)
  • 1/8 cup panko breadcrumbs ($.25)
  • 1/8 cup pistachios (shelled) ($.50)
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped ($.10)

Total: $6.20

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place on a  foil-lined greased pan, skin-side down.  Whisk the dijon, butter and honey together and brush on salmon filets.  Combine the bread crumbs, pistachios and cilantro in a food processor until thoroughly blended.  Coat filets with bread crumb/ pistachio mixture.  Bake for 12 minutes until salmon begins to flake. Be careful not to over bake!