Friday, June 22, 2012

Cod with potato, onion and salsa

Great one dish cassarole with any kind of mild fish!

Since we are still working on the kitchen remodel I am cooking simple things that don't take too much prep time or pans. This fish dish is a great one pan meal which is satisfying after a long day of work yet light and not overly filling. It is pescatarian-friendly (for those who eat veggies and fish) and lactose free so it is good for all of my family members.
I wanted fish with salsa but I did not want it on rice, as we usually enjoy it. We have had our fair share of rice while the kitchen has been torn up since we have a rice cooker that we could use even after we were stove-less and oven-less. But not that our oven is installed, I thought I might combine two ways I like to serve fish together. So I prepared a potato,tomato and onion layer and placed some cod fillets on it, topping it all off with a generous amount of salsa. I made a large portion, as usual so we could have leftovers. Then last night we had surprise visitors who came to stay with us a few days. They were in town for a test at the university and found all of the hotels were full with evacuees from the fires so they happily came to visit with us. Anyway, I feel funny serving leftovers to guests but they wanted to try this fish dish and they said they really enjoyed it.

First, a note on the fish choice. I used Alaskan Cod but this would work great with any firm white fish.Inexpensive fish with a mild flavor is a great choice.Of course, it would be great with mahi mahi or halibut but honestly if I pay for better fish like that I want the fish to stand out a little more than it does in this dish. So best bet is to buy frozen cod when it is on sale and have it on hand for that night you want a quick easy fish dinner.

For the potatoes in this dish, I had russets on hand so I used those. Russets are nice and flaky so the comliment the fish well. But if you want more pronouced slices of potato choose one that will hold its shape better like the waxier white or red. If you go with white or red, don't pre bake. Instead, boil whole for a few minutes( 5-10 depending on the size).

By the way, you could also add a can of green chilies or a diced sweet bell pepper to the potato layer.

This photo does not look that great but it is very tasty!

Fish with potato, onion and salsa

3 large russet or white potatoes*

1 large onion, sliced into slivers

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1-2 Tablespoon olive oil or canola oil

14oz ish can of diced tomato, I like fire roasted, along with juice

2 lb.  cod or other firm, mild, white fish

½ tsp. each lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Herb de province or other herb blend

½ cup white wine, optional

Drizzle of olive oil

Sprinkle of paprika, hot is best here

Salt and pepper to taste ( I use about ¾ tsp of salt and generous grinding of pepper)

8 oz. favorite salsa

Splash of lime juice

*I like to pre- cook potatoes using the microwave. Scrub potatoes and cut an X in the ends. Microwave on high for 7 minutes. Let cool and then peel and slice thin. If you prefer not to use microwave you could bake them until almost done or slice and fry them until almost tender. You could boil potatoes whole for a few minutes but dry them well. The key is to get them a bit tender but not mushy or completely cooked.

Preheat oven to 400

Heat large shallow sauté pan and add a bit olive oil and onion. Cook on low for about 7 minutes until soft. Add garlic, stir and heat for 30 seconds.

In a large rectangular dish (I like to line with aluminum foil) layer precooked potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. Place cod fillets on top and drizzle with wine and olive oil. Sprinkle paprika, salt and pepper.

 Cover with salsa and tightly seal with foil.

Place in oven for 20-28 minutes or so until fish flakes easily with fork. The time really depends on the thickness of the fillets so the only way to know is to check after 18-20 minutes and see if it flakes. Continue checking every few minutes.  Serve hot with bread and salad.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Pears Poached in Sweet Wine

A Simple Summer Meal

My kitchen is now functioning! I have the cabinets, counters, sink and all the appliances in and running. However, we are still doing the tiles and the cabinet trim so it is still a construction zone. While I am cooking, I am keeping it simple as I must share space with my husband who is measuring and fitting the trim to the cabinets.

So I am keeping things simple! Still I thought there may be someone out there who would like some simple recipes for summer. It has been so hot that we have not wanted heavy meals and I am just so happy to be preparing our dinners at home because we are getting more fresh vegetables! We made a simple supper this week on a ridiculously hot day. I decided on a salad and a nice little dessert of wine and vanilla poached pears.

For our salad, I wanted to use some of the beautiful strawberries I had along with baby spinach.

Spinach, Strawberry and Toasted Almond Salad

I really don’t measure the salad ingredients. It is a couple handfuls of spinach per person and a generous sprinkle of strawberries with a smattering of almonds. But it was approximately:

8 oz of spinach

6 oz of strawberries

1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds

Sweet balsamic vinaigrette to taste

Wash spinach, even if it is bagged and “washed”

Clean and slice strawberries

Toast almonds in 350 oven for about 5-7 minutes until just starting to brown.

Place spinach in large bowl and  mix in a little vinaigrette. Taste and add a little more as needed. You can put the extra in a bottle on the table.  Gently mix in strawberries. Plate salad and sprinkle with almonds. Serve.

Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

2  parts balsamic vinegar- like raspberry balsamic ( I usually use 4 TBSPN)

1 part sugar, agave or honey ( I usually use 2 TBSPN)

Pinch of salt

1 part light olive oil ( I usually use 2 TBSPN)

And for dessert…

I love desserts made with fruit. This one is simple yet so flavorful. You can choose to top this with a nice scoop of ice cream. Or, for a lower calorie treat, use less sugar and serve the pears on their own without ice cream.

Since this batch is for a family week night meal, I made it kind of rustic with a bit of skin left on. I also opted to keep it easy but halving pears rather than keeping them whole. Whole pears look nicer but these were fine for tonight.

Pears poached in sweet wine with vanilla

About 4 pears ( either one pear per person or half per person)

About  4 cups sweet white wine such as Moscato or Riesling

About ½  cup water

About ¾ cup brown or white sugar*

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cinnamon stick

*I like the flavor of brown sugar but white looks nice

For whole pears, peel and core most of middle from the bottom of the pear.  For halves, peel, cut and core.

Place the wine, water, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon stick in late pot and bring to boil. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring a couple times.

Lower heat and add pears, simmering. Spoon sauce over pears every few minutes. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until pears are tender but not overly mushy or falling apart.

Remove pears to serving bowls and increase heat, bringing sauce to a boil. Keep on a low boil for 20 minutes. Cool for a couple minutes and then spoon over pears and top with a scoop of ice cream.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Being without a kitchen does make one rethink how to cook dinner! It is the season for fresh corn and we did not want to miss it! I usually cook corn on the cob in a large pot of boiling water. Never again. I have had grilled corn before but don't usually make it this way.
I know you can grill corn by soaking it, pulling out the silks and grilling right in the husks. But I thought grilling in foil sounded easier and safer- I didn't want any fires!
Anyway, such an easy way to make corn but the realy draw is the flavor. So incredibly sweet and flavorful!

Grilled Corn

Husk and clean corn cob.

Place on large square of foil. Rub with butter and season with salt, pepper and perhaps a sprinkling of some smoky BBQ rub or simply some smoked paprika.

Wrap well with foil so butter will not all melt out.
Place on Med hot grill and cook, turning every 4-5 minutes, for about 20-26 minutes. The time depends on the size of the kernals and the freshness of the corn. Turning often ensures less browning. Open one foil after 20 minutes. If the  corn is brighter in color and it smells done it is ready to come off the grill.It should not be overly soft as grilled corn tends to firmer on the outside when it is done.  

This corn can be kept warm in foil while you grilled the rest of dinner. Do be careful, it is very hot! Let it cool once it is open


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Retaurant 415- A Review

Tonight we enjoyed a delightful dinner at one of the newer restaurants in town which I have been hearing about. It is called Restaurant 415 and it is located on the edge of Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. The building is just down from the coffee house where we attend church on Sunday and we watched the building being remodeled from a Laundromat to something that looked intriguing. Once we realized it was the new restaurant our friends had raved about we had to give it a try. The building reminds me of something from the 50’s or 60’s.

Tonight seemed like a good night to try restaurant 415 since our good friends were visiting from Denver and another friend was having his last dinner with us before going off to learn Farsi and Tajik languages this summer. I am really glad we did! The large windowed room was not very full when we arrived, we came early to get a spot. We had hoped to sit on the back patio with the beautiful water fall but it was full. However, as the night wore on the restaurant filled, and the patio emptied as there was a bit of rain. This place can get noisy in the center of the room when it is full, but I like the energy and the retro feel of it. I think the side tables are quieter.

I have heard about the exciting menu here, some call it adventurous and Denver Post labeled it as hipster-homey. They use local sources whenever possible and there were great vegetarian and organic choices. I also noticed there were lots of options so one could order a tasty, unique meal that was reasonably priced —great value to quality ratio here!!! My daughter got to try this place last night during the First Friday Gallery Walk. She really loved the various small plates she and her friend shared. Reading through the offerings made my mouth water and it was hard to choose just what to try. Since they have an assortment of inexpensive small plates that can be shared, we could try a bit of many different menu items. Of course, these small plates could be combined with a salad or soup and used a one’s main dish, too. So many possibilities!

We ordered Brussels sprouts with a hint of orange, garlic and parmesan shavings from the $3.60 small plates. This had a nicely blended medley of flavors and the Brussels sprouts were neither over-powered nor over powering. I liked the way they were cooked.

From the $5.45 menu we chose Mac and Cheese with sharp white cheddar and gruyere topped with bacon and breadcrumbs. This creamy, cheesy, richly decadent dish had a wonderful flavor and was the favorite of some people at the table. I make Mac and cheese with these ingredients so it was not as unusual to me but still delicious. My mom wanted to lick the dish, she liked it so well! My husband thought it needed a bit more pasta in it.

One of my favorites was called WHEN PIGS FLY - house-made fried chicken, orange-scented waffles with bacon-thyme maple syrup. This dish made meal for me, it was so delicious. I loved the crisp, tender waffles infused with a subtle orange flavor alongside the nicely flavored chicken strips that were cooked tender and crispy without an overabundance of batter. I really loved the flavor of the syrup, a delightful maple bacon blend. One popular reviewer said the syrup was too thin, but I think that the flavor was big and a little went a long way.  I would love to have this again sometime.

Our last small plate was ORGANIC CRISPY POLENTA  with cream cheese, cheddar, jalapeños, corn, tomatillo salsa. It was full of great flavor and textures but I was getting full and could only manage a couple bites, saving room for the main dishes we were going to sample. The others all loved how spicy it was and the creamy cheese surrounded by light and crispy polenta but I will have to come back and try this one again so I can enjoy it more. It was good but maybe next time I will try it alone or before I make a pig of myself on When Pigs Fly J

We took a little breather, sipped lovely beers (they have a wonderful assortment of local beer on tap) and cocktails while we enjoyed a little people watching, which in Fort Collins always includes saying hello to people we know! I love our city, we will almost always run into someone we know- tonight there were four such greetings.
Yet it is small city of around 130,000. This mostly happens in Old town, my favorite part of the city. As I said, my daughter was out for the gallery walk which brings such a crowd to visit the galleries and listen to music in the square. Yet, people for all the crowds, people are still nice, friendly and talkative. Even tonight, we got to enjoy live music in the square for free, complete with dancing. So cool J

Okay, back to the food.  We decided to share three mains between us since we went crazy with the appetizers. My favorite was the SHRIMP & GRITS - grilled shrimp, roasted red pepper sauce, sautéed greens, and organic polenta. Honestly, every aspect of this dish was delightful. The shrimp, which I am very picky about, was perfectly done and well flavored. I loved the grits or polenta. You know, I have read about the difference between polenta and grits but I am neither southern nor Italian so I don’t have a refined palate on this. I really loved the grits in this dish, so creamy and seasoned nicely.  The greens, which I believe were chard, were so delicious we agreed we could have eaten a plate of them!

I wanted to try a pizza and the Papa sounded different. Their chewy and tender dough is made in-house with locally sourced organic flour topped with gruyere cheese, russets, yams, carmelized onions, olive oil and garlic. I enjoyed this pizza and really loved the crust!

Okay, as you can imagine, even with just a couple bites of each item, I was filling up! The last thing I tried was the Blackened cauliflower steaks with roasted red pepper sauce, sautéed greens, and organic polenta. This is a vegetarian dish, not a beef steak, but blackened it looked a lot like a steak with pops of color from red pepper and herbs. I did enjoy the flavor but I only got a bite as I was bit slow getting some on my plate. I will have to try this one again to give it a full review but I did notice it was not bitter, which is what I would think blackened cauliflower would be. Everyone at the table seemed to enjoy it. Of course, excellent greens and polenta here, too.

We were saving room for margaritas at the Rio so we skipped dessert. Interestingly, the co-founder and former co-owner of the near by Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, is one of the five owners here, along with his daughter Amelia, who is the chef and Seth Baker, Justin Bernhardt, and Sean Olander, who I believe are all young. Perhaps this is what gives this restaurant the vibe of being very hip and contemporary/retro yet with the seasoned feel of veteran restaurant ownership.

I am so glad we took the time to visit with our friends. I almost always cook at home when Litto comes up to visit so it was fun to try something new. I have been eating out often since the kitchen remodel started and much of it has been disappointing. The experience at four fifteen was so wonderful I have plans to come back for lunch next week! This night, however, was wonderful! After the lovely meal we enjoyed we stopped in for delicious refreshing margs at the Rio and since the college kids are gone for the summer, it was not that crowded! We then took a nice walk through old town and listened to some free music on the square.

For those of you who live in Fort Collins or Denver, come try Restaurant 415 on Mulberry at the edge of Old town. For the rest of you, come visit our friendly little city. I will be your tour guide.  


Friday, June 1, 2012

Recipes soon, kitchen completion not so soon

Hello! I am sorry there is not much new here for dinner but I am hoping to pop in and post something next week. We are in the midst of kitchen remodeling and I am totally wondering why I thought the month of May would be a good time to do this. Yes, the weather is pleasant for eating outdoors and for working inside, but what a busy month this was! Just the last two weeks were so full with a dozen graduation parties, one going away party and four birthday parties- three of which were in my immediate family! We have also had two sets of guests who braved the piles of boxes and furniture to stay the night here and another on her way this week. In addition, we are entering June, always a busy month and  the kitchen still has two to three more weeks of work before we begin the dining room/living room painting and carpeting. Then it is on to the backyard (or back garden)!

Whew! I am not complaining because I do know I am very lucky that when we are done working we will have a lovely kitchen to enjoy but, yes, I am giving an excuse for lack of blogging :-) However, since I am eating out so much, I think I will blog on one or more of the little places we have been frequenting. So keep an eye out for that!

Would you like a little peek at the new color of our wood floor? We did hire a flooring company to come and re-do our floors. I really like the way they turned out! This is one of the few things we did not do ourselves but my husband re did our floors once and I know it is totally worth it to have professionals sand, stain and varnish! They had a machine that sucked up most of the awful dust as they worked!
Now we are on to getting the last few cabinets installed, next week we will get our granite counters and the follwing week we will have appliances!! Did I tell you we found a great deal on appliances and will have an induction cooktop? It will be an adjustment; I may be burning everything!