“Mess o’ Golden Fish” in Buttery Lemon Sauce

Mess o’ Golden Fish in Buttery Lemon Sauce

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday was one of those Sunday afternoons that Greg and I love.  I’d popped a roast in the oven before church and then Greg’s sons, a  daughter-in-law , one nephew and one grandson showed up to enjoy a meal on the back porch.  These are special days as we know summer is waning, the leaves are turning, but for now there are still flowers and green grass and perfect 70 degree weather.

Meals for our big gang of kids (even half our crew) means lots of food, mess, dishes. A virtual kitchen disaster, since I am a fast cook, but not a tidy one.   In addition to lunch, I decided to make a quick casserole for my stepson to take home to his family as well.  (Tortilla Flower Pie.) They adopted little six-year-old Anthony this year, and suddenly became foster parents to a toddler last week.  At minimum, I felt, they deserved a night off from cooking.  So more pots and pans were added to the sink creating a virtual mountain dirty dishes.

I took a deep breath and dove in to Dish Mountain, rinsing and washing with gusto, when I felt… not a few drops, not a trickle,  but a sudden wave of warm water flooding my feet.  A broken pipe. Several trips to the hardware store, lots of under-sink-laboring, not a few choice words, and many hours  later…the pipes still leaked like an artsy under-the-sink fountain.

I loaded the dirty dishes into a big ice chest on wheels and alerted my neighbor that I might be rolling up to her door,  the Bag Lady of Dirty Dishes, to borrow her sink. Thankfully a plumber showed up today and miraculously fixed the issue, to the tune of $200.00.

Welcome to reality. It is messy.  “Mama said there’d be days like this,” and all that.   I’ve found, however, that life’s “little aggravating interruptions” get a lot easier to deal with once you accept this truth: About 20 to 30 percent of life is handling hassles.

I’ve found I don’t lose my cool over life’s inconveniences when I…

1) Take care of it – or delegate….or hire someone to take care of it ASAP without wasting time stewing

2) Find something funny in the situation to write and laugh about

3) Remember that it is not a Greek tragedy, it is not cancer,  it is not permanent. (This post will appear on 9-11, a reminder of how petty almost all our so-called ‘problems’ really are.)

4) I am not being picked on by God, stuff happens to everybody.  Build “yucky interruptions” into weekly expectations

5) Try to think of myself as Molly Brown, and do my best to be that jolly, comforting, brave woman who makes the best of a sinking ship situation.

Or in my case, a sinking sink situation.

I had just a few minutes tonight to prepare dinner after the plumber left and the kitchen was put back in order. (Thank you to my husband and nephew for doing this for me. A gift!)  What I wanted to make for supper was four perfectly formed and nicely browned fish fillets.  What I got, instead, was a mess, as some of the fish stuck to the pan, and the meat was so fresh and flakey that it began falling apart.  Then I remembered something a pro photographer said at the Foodista Blogging convention, “Life is messy. Make some of your photos messy.” Well, then…O-KAY!

Though this “mess o’ fish” dish did not turn out perfectly formed fillets, it tasted amazing.  In fact, the broken pieces allowed the lemon-butter-wine sauce to better saturate the fresh white cod,  resulting in moistness and flavor in every bite.  The family served themselves whatever bits and pieces that looked most tempting to them.

The moral of today’s post is this: When life gives you lemons, slice them and use them to decorate your latest culinary mess.  You might find you’ve fouled up your way into a new recipe masterpiece.

“Mess o’  Golden Fish” in Buttery Lemon Sauce

Serves 4

2 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter for browning fish

2 smashed garlic cloves

1.5 lb. white flakey fish fillets (I used cod, but you could use halibut, tilapia, mahi-mahi, catfish or sea bass)

1 large lemon, cut in half

2/3 cup white wine

1 T. butter (for sauce)

1 T. brown sugar

Sea Salt to taste

Few basil leaves or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle fish fillets very lightly with sea salt on both sides.

Put 2 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter and 2 smashed garlic cloves into a large skillet over medium high heat.  As soon as it is nice and bubbly, stir to let garlic permeate the oil and butter, then add fish.  Turn fish when it is golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes or less.  Don’t worry if it comes apart when you turn it: messy is fineMessy is good.

Brown the other side of the fish.  With a wide spatula, remove fish from pan to a large serving platter with about 1 inch high sides, and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. (I used a round Corning Ware tart pan.)  In the same skillet, add 2/3 cup white wine, another tablespoon of butter, 1 T. brown sugar and juice from ½ the lemon.  Let this mixture simmer and bubble until the sauce is reduced by about a third.  Season with salt to taste at this point.  Pour the sauce over the “mess o’ golden fish” and garnish with lemon slices (from the other ½ lemon) and a few sprigs of fresh parsley or basil.  Serve family style with a spoon for dipping sauce.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Mess o’ Golden Fish in Buttery Lemon Sauce
The URL:http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Gp
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish

Chili Lime Southern Style Catfish

(Becky, the Mama)

As the story in our family goes, one day my father took my little brother David and my little sister Rachel out to the bank of a lake to cast a line and do a little fishing.  If you’ve ever taken children out fishing, you know you do very little ACTUAL fishing.  It’s mostly about putting on lost bait and untangling lines.   David was probably about eight at the time, and Rachel about age five.  To this day, my sister is an “observer” and “information gatherer.”  If you saw Friday’s post you know my sister also grew up to write humor, but where I tell stories (often about the messes I seem to get in with uncanny regularity),  Rachel is more Seinfield-like, finding humor in everyday quirky observations.

Anyway, she keenly observed my brother cast line after line with a ball of catfish bait attached to the hook.  We called this horrid, sticky black concoction, “stink bait,” and to this day I don’t think I’ve smelled anything worse in my life,  including my teenage sons’ gym socks.   Apparently, however,  catfish adore it.   My father and brother would each cast their  lines, and when they reeled them in, it would come back empty — the bait gone, but no fish — over and over and over again.   Rachel took all this in, and about the fifth time the bait disappeared she shook her head slowly back and forth, and dryly concluded,  “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.”   To this day we chuckle knowing she assumed one fish and one fish only consuming all that bait. From then on when anyone in our family declared they were eating too much and feeling “stuffed,”  someone would pipe up with, “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.”

If, however, you are lucky enough to be better at catching catfish than feeding them,  then…boy,  do I have a recipe for you!  And if you don’t have access to a pond or lake, no worries.  It is easy to find good fresh farm-fed catfish in larger supermarkets and most of it has never been frozen.  This easy recipe turns out a fish that is crunchy, slightly spicy with a great lime tang on the outside,  moist and flakey on the inside.  This is a slight twist on a southern favorite that is wonderful with a side of coleslaw and some oven-broiled sliced potatoes. (Recipe for these potatoes coming up this week!)

NOTE: Rachel and I are staring at the final months before a book deadline, and in order to have time to write it, we’re going to begin posting this food blog three days a week instead of five.  Typically this will be Monday, Wed, and Saturday.

CONGRATULATIONS to Erin MacPherson AND Megan DiMaria!  Both of you will be receiving a free copy of my sister’s new book, The Well-Lived Laugh.  Thanks so much for participating on Friday.

Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish (with Oven Baked Potato Rounds)

Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish

Ingredients:

4 medium sized catfish fillets

1 c. cornmeal

1 t. grill seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper and 1/4 t. garlic powder)

1 t. Tajins chili-lime spice (If you don’t have this, substitute 1/2 t. ground red pepper and zest of one lime)

Tajin chili lime spice — usually near Mexican food aisle of grocery. You can also order it from Amazon. Delicious, too, on fresh mangos and pineapples.

1 fresh lime, cut in half

sea salt

1/2 cup healthy oil — I like a combination of coconut and olive oil (to equal about 1/4 inch in your pan of choice)

Directions:

Heat oil in iron skillet until it is sizzling hot, on medium high.  Gently rinse fish fillets with fresh water and pat dry.  Squeeze a little fresh lime juice over all the fillets, both sides. Then sprinkle both sides of fillets with some good sea salt.   Pour cornmeal on a plate or shallow wide bowl and mix in the grill seasoning and chili lime spice.  Place fillets, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture pressing the fish into it until it is lightly coated all over.

Using tongs, lay each fillet into the sizzling oil.  Let cook until the bottom is golden brown and crisp,  then turn over and cook the other side.  Don’t crowd the pan too much, cook in batches.

When done,  remove to a paper towel and let any of the extra oil drain off.   Test a bite to see if it needs more seasoning and if so sprinkle with additional Tejon or sea salt while it is still hot.   Serve with tarter sauce or fresh lemon or lime, or cocktail sauce.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Ck
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa

Becky's Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa

Growing up, the only salmon I knew personally came from a can.  My mom would mix it with crackers and egg, fry it and serve it as salmon patties. Then we kids would  drown these little fish-fried hockey pucks in as much ketchup as possible, picking at them, eating a little bit of the edges hoping this would satisfy our mom so we could simply move on from this so-called dinner, and get to dessert.

I never made a single salmon patty for my children. Never served them salmon at all. Felt that I was doing them a huge favor.

Then, eight years ago I married Greg, an Oregonian and Lover of All Things Salmon. It was then, in my forties, that he gently let me know I’d not only never eaten salmon the way it was intended to be served, but I’d mispronounced it all my life.  Who know that there is such a thing as a silent “l” in the middle of a word?  It took me a full year to stop saying “SaL-mon” and start saying “Sah-men” as they do in the Great Northwest.  About that time my eldest son left Texas to hop on an Alaskan fishing boat and has been catching fresh salmon every summer ever since, living for 4 to 5 months at a time on a boat full of stinky sailors and fresh fish.

I figured, at this point, that I owed it to both my husband and son to learn how to cook salmon correctly.  I stumbled along, trying out recipes, eating salmon at restaurants and just sort of tolerating it.  Then one evening, I was out with a friend who encouraged me to order the salmon on the menu and let the chef cook it his way.  I took one bite of this chef-prepared salmon and said, “Oh. My. Gosh. This is the best meat I’ve ever tasted! But it doesn’t taste like salmon. Or fish. It tastes like crispy butter,  crunchy out the outside but moist flakes of soft yumminess on the inside. How did the chef make this?”

What the chef did was cook the salmon on a searing hot grill and left the middle of the fish still slightly moist and opaque.  He did not roast it. He did not cook it to death.  And this made all the difference.  He also served it with a fabulous lime-garlic-tomato salsa.

Now, I hate to brag,  but these days I make the best salmon you’ve ever tasted.  You need to start  with a good fresh piece of salmon, of the milder tasting variety.  Since Denver is not near an ocean,  the best catch of the day around here is at Whole Foods.  The Norwegian salmon is the mildest. I like the fish guy to cut  one big slab of it, enough for two to three people, and leave the skin on.   But I’m getting ahead of myself!  Here’s the recipe.  You will love it!

Seared Salmon, crispy outside, moist and flaky inside. Perfection!

Becky’s  Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa

Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients

Norwegian salmon, skin on, cut it one slab, enough to serve 2 to 3 people (Fresh wild caught salmon is also delicious, but not as mild as the Norwegian at Whole Foods)

1 -2 T. olive oil (enough to coat pan and keep fish sizzling)

1 – 2 t. grill  or steak seasoning (enough to lightly sprinkle on both sides of your fish)

1 avocado

1 small mango

1 small tomato

1/2 clove garlic grated fine

1 T. fresh lime juice

dash salt

dash sugar

Directions:

Using a grill pan preferably (or a large flat skillet that will take high heat) pour olive oil to coat the bottom and let it get “screaming hot.”  Put salmon skin down onto grill pan.  In about 30 seconds the skin will start to loosen, turn the salmon over and remove the skin with flat spatula, scrapping off any of the grey stuff on top of the pink fish.  (Toss the skin in the trash.) Sprinkle lightly with 1/2 t or so of grill seasoning. Flip back over and cook this side of the salmon on high heat until it is seared and beautiful rich golden brown.  In the meantime, sprinkle the other side with 1/2 t. of grill seasoning.   Flip and cook the other side on high heat until it is a rich golden brown.  Remove from heat.  Let sit a few minutes while you make the relish.

Dice tomato, mango and avocado and mix together in a medium sized bowl.  Add lime juice, fresh grated garlic, a dash of salt and a pinch of sugar.  Gently toss, taste seasonings.

Using two spatulas move fish to large serving plate (pour any pooled juices atop) and garnish with the avocado-mango-tomato salsa.  I like to serve this family style, letting every one at the table gently pull of the amount of salmon they want with a big serving fork and spatula.  Serve any remaining relish in a bowl and allow guests to add more if they like.

Variations: add minced red onion, chopped jalapenos, and/or chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or mint or flat leaf parsley or basil to the salsa

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/20/avocado-mango-lime-salmon/

Becky’s Salmon with Avocado-Mango-Lime Salsa

Sweet and Smoky Tilapia

Becky's Sweet Smoky Talapia

I raised my kids on a lake in the country in small town Texas.  I had three sons who all loved to fish, and by the time my youngest, Gabe, was six,  he could dig for his own worms, bait his own hook, walk out the back door to the dock and pull in a small crappie (pronounced “croppie” ) or two.

His older brothers would paddle the boat out further and catch bigger bass, and Gabe longed to catch a bass with all his little heart.  One day, I was being interviewed  “live” on the radio, via telephone.  I think I was discussing my first book, Worms in My Tea (co-authored with my mom, Ruthie), when the door to my office swung open, and a large mouth bass nearly smacked me in the face.  When I calmed down from the shock of a fish flying in my office, I realized the fish was on the hook end of a fishing pole, being held by one excited little boy on the other end.

“Mom!” he yelled. “I caught a bass!”  He sure did,  and the news of it was broadcast live, somewhere on the radio in middle America.  I managed to wipe fishy lake water from my brow, congratulate Gabe and carry on with the interview.  These are things professional mothers do.

But I digress. I started this blog post thinking about crappie, and how, though they aren’t very big,  they are, as we say in Texas, “some good eatin’.”  And we ate a lot of them.  So when the small fish, tilapia, seemed to swim out of nowhere into our supermarkets and on to the foodie scene as the new Rock Star of mild, affordable fish, I couldn’t help thinking how much they looked and tasted like crappie.  In fact, who knows? They might just be crappie, with a fancy new name.

I loved tilapia at first bite.  And it’s the best last-minute dinner! Even if it is frozen, it thaws in no time. Below is one of my favorite fish dishes.  It’s fast, it is easy, it tastes amazing with its sweet, smoky, spicy, citrus flavors.   And look how beautiful it is!  Serve with an ear of fresh corn and a salad with avocado, and you’ve got a beautiful plate of healthy “good eatin’.”

Here’s something you may not know about tilapia, but as soon as you read this you can tell your friends and amaze them with it.  Or just sound like a fish fact Know-it-All.  Tilapia can be found in the Sea of Galilee, and are sometimes called “St. Peter’s fish.” This comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth.   (Matthew 14:24-27.)

Becky's Sweet and Smoky Talapia

Becky’s Sweet and Smoky Tilapia

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter

4 medium to large tilapia fillets

2 T. smoked paprika

2 T. cumin

3 T. brown sugar

salt and pepper

1 lemon, cut in half

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Put oil and butter in rectangle pan (large enough to hold tilapia without overlapping) and put in oven until butter has melted.  Tilt pan until it is evenly coated.

In small bowl, mix paprika, cumin and brown sugar.  Lightly salt and pepper both sides of 4 fillets. Lay tilapia fillets side by side in the buttery pan. Turn over so both sides are coated with oil/butter.  Generously sprinkle tops of tilapia with the brown sugar-spice mix (using all of it), patting  it in gently as you would a rub or blackening seasoning.  Squeeze one half lemon over all.

Put in oven for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Then turn oven to broil and watching carefully, broil the tops of the fish until the spice mixture starts to caramelize.  Remove,  serve with the remaining lemon half, cut in pretty slices as garnish.

Variations: Try this method with other fish and other spices you enjoy!

Vegan Variation:  Use Earth Balance instead of butter, pressed or plain tofu slices or veggie burgers instead of fish.

Blackened Tofu

Rachel made this with thin slices of pressed tofu & Earth Balance, following the above directions exactly and said it was delicious!

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet and Smokey Tilapia
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/11/sweet-and-smoky-talapia

Sesame-Pecan Salmon with “Avocado Goddess” Salad

If I were to find out this morning that I had to host a dozen execs for lunch today, this is the recipe to which I’d turn. It makes a beautiful and amazing-tasting one-bowl dish. Served with some warm crusty bread, it is all you need to impress your guests.

I invented this recipe when I married my husband eight years ago.  Greg is from the great Northwest and adores salmon. I grew up in Texas cattle country with a mother who thought all fish tasted like cat food. Needless to say, I never developed a fondness for food with fins. If I were served fish sticks as a kid at school,  I’d peel the breading off, eat that, leaving the meat for the disposal. Sad, I know.

It was for the love of Greg, and Greg only,  that I determined to figure out how to cook, eat, and hopefully, love fish.  This is the recipe that started my love affair with salmon. I served it to my pastor, Hugh Halter,  and he scraped his plate cleaning, calling it “praline fish.” The coating isn’t quite like candy, but it is just as hard to resist. Truly this recipe was my gateway drug to the pleasures of fish, and as I continue to blog my favorite recipes, you’ll discover this landlubber has come to embrace the fruit of the sea with gusto.

The salad is easy, too, with a dressing that just adds 3 ingredients (avocado, fresh lime juice, pepper) to your favorite Ranch salad dressing.

Becky's Sesame-Pecan Salad with "Avocado Goddess" Dressing

Becky’s Sesame-Pecan Salmon

Serves 2

2 pieces fresh salmon, skin removed

1/2 c. thick teriyaki sauce  (teriyaki sauce often has soy sauce in it that is made from wheat. Gluten free folks may want to make their own. Here’s one gluten free recipe.)

2 T. sweet Thai chili sauce

1/4 c.  toasted sesame seeds (these are cheaper and come in larger containers on the Asian aisles of most grocery stores)

1/4 c. pecans,  chopped to about the consistency of Grapenuts in food processor or blender

1 T. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In one shallow wide bowl mix teriyaki and Thai chili sauce.  In other similar bowl, mix sesame seeds and ground pecans.  Coat both pieces of fish with sauce on all sides, then do the same with the seed-nut mixture.  Carefully lay in a square glass baking pan that has been generously coated with olive oil. Pour any left over sauce and nut-seeds over all.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish is done.  (I prefer mine slightly opaque and moist in the middle.)  I also like to broil the fish (watching carefully) for just few seconds to give the topping additional thickness and crunch.

Avocado Goddess Salad

Ingredients:

1 bunch Romaine lettuce, chopped

1 avocado, peeled and cut into thirds

1/2 c. Ranch dressing, any kind you like

1 T. fresh lime juice

1 t. pepper

Directions:

Put about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped Romaine into each of two large salad bowls.  (I use big wide pasta bowls.)

Take 2/3 of avocado and cut into slices, arranging evenly on top of the two salads.

Mash the other 1/3 avocado in a small bowl.  Add Ranch dressing, lime juice and pepper to this and stir.

Avocado Goddess Dressing

Using a wide spatula, carefully lay one piece of the cooked salmon on top of each salad. Drizzle “Avocado Goddess” dressing over all.

Vegan Options: You could easily make sesame-pecan tofu with slices of pressed tofu marinated in the teriyaki Thai Chili sauce mixture instead of fish and simply substitute vegan ranch dressing to make the Avocado Goddess dressing. This is a great dish for serving both vegans and non-vegans since it wouldn’t take much extra work at all to make both versions.

Chicken Option:  You can use this same technique with chicken tenders if you prefer.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sesame-Pecan Salmon with “Avocado Goddess” Salad
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/03/30/sesame-pecan-salmon-with-avocado-goddess-salad
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved