Crunchy Coconut Crusted Fish Tacos with Sriracha Mayo

crunchy coconut fish tacos with sirracha mayo
This was a fabulous meal last night.  I love the combination of coconut shrimp, but had no shrimp on hand and so I did the same crust on cut up fillets of tilapia and it worked perfectly.  We made our quick, crunchy cabbage slaw and srirracha mayo and it was the perfect combination: crunchy, sweet, spicy and satisfying! I did a different version of this with my corn slaw recipe, but the addition of the coconut has made it my new favorite! And Olive ate hers deconstructed (who cares) and gave the fish her “more, please” seal of approval.

Mealtimes around here have become more routine.  I don’t have as much time to plan out weekly menus or to be creative with new riffs on old classics.  I suppose you could say I’m just keeping us alive!  But I do make an effort to offer variety and color and make most meals, although there’s the very necessary trip to Torchy’s about once a week 🙂 I’ve learned to give myself a break from the demands of perfection (a struggle of mine) since this sweet baby came along in November.  I think with every child you have, you get one step further away from the possibility of having all your ducks in a constant, shiny row.  And I am kinda digging it.  I think everyone feels a little bit happier when I don’t consider frozen chicken nuggets to be some sort of personal failure.  😉

coconut fish tacos

Crunchy Coconut Crusted Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw and Sriracha Mayo

For the Fish:
3 Tilapia (or other white fish) fillets
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour

For the Slaw:
2 cups chopped purple cabbage
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
2 carrots, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro
1/3 cup mayo
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the fish into 1/2 inch strips and season with salt and pepper.  Set up three bowls: the first with flour, the second with the two beaten eggs and the third with the coconut/panko combination.  Dredge each piece of fish in flour, then egg, then coconut/panko and set on a paper towel to rest while you do the remaining pieces.  Heat up olive or coconut oil in a pan and fry the fish till they are golden on each side and place on a paper towel or baking rack to drain.  Keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you get the rest of dinner prepared.

For the slaw: combine all the ingredients and adjust seasoning as you like.  More vinegar, salt or pepper.  For the Sriracha mayo, just add sriracha to mayo.  Duh.  Not much to it, but it’s amazing with these tacos.  I did about a 1/4 cup to 1 TBS ratio for ours.  Adjust based on your desired level of spiciness!  To serve, start with a good amount of the mayo on a tortilla, add two fish sticks and plenty of slaw.  Enjoy!

 

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Parchment Baked Fish with Bruschetta and Pine Nuts

parchment steamed tilapia with bruschetta
A totally simple weeknight dinner recipe for you using the bruschetta recipe from Monday!  We bake, roast, and pan fry fish a LOT around here.  I buy the bags of frozen fillets and throughout the week, when I “don’t have anything to cook” I can generally reach in, grab three fillets and thaw them out in about 30 minutes to use alongside rice, roasted potatoes, soup, etc.  Olive thankfully loves all fish and so it’s a meal that is never stressful for me.  What’s even easier is just placing the fillets on some parchment paper (foil also works) with some oil and seasonings, wrap it up and let them bake!  I did this last week and it always feels like I went to a lot of trouble, is healthier than my usual pan-fry standard preparation, and the fish is always steamed perfectly.

Get creative with the ingredients you put in with the fish – the possibilities are endless!

steamed fish with bruschetta
Parchment Baked Fish with Bruschetta and Pine Nuts
serves 4

4 tilapia or cod fillets (really, any type of fish will work)
1 TBS butter or olive oil
3 TBS prepared bruschetta 
1 TBS toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Tear off four squares of parchment paper or foil.  Place the butter in the center of each square and place a fish fillet on top of the butter.  Season the fillet with salt and pepper.  Top with bruschetta and pine nuts and squeeze a lemon over the top of all of it.  Fold the sides up and together and crimp to close.  Place packages on a rimmed baking sheet and bake together for 20 minutes.

You can add just about anything to the fish that you have in your fridge – olive tapenade, green beans, corn relish, fresh herbs and sour cream – honestly, just have fun!

Crunchy Cornslaw – a new twist on the same ol’ slaw

Crunchy Corn Slaw Fish Tacos with Corn Slaw
This weekend we had a cookout with some of our friends from church and decided we’d bring a good coleslaw to go with the bbq type meats everyone would be cooking.  So we decided to do a punny version of coleslaw and bring cornslaw.  I started dreaming it up because every summer for the past four or five years, Matt and I have inadvertently gravitated toward a Corn Dish of the Summer.  A few years ago it was an amazing creamed corn, a year after that it was Esquites (a bowl full of the equivalent of Mexican street corn) and last year it was this amazing miso buttered corn with scallions and bacon, a la Momofuku.

Now, I’m not saying this is THE corn dish of the summer of 2014, but it’s a start.  We really like it.  To compliment the sweetness of the corn, I added a Granny Smith apple and poppyseeds.  To offset the sweetness, I added plenty of purple cabbage and red onion and fresh poblano peppers – everything diced the same size (that’s important).  Then, I made my own mayo because we had just run out and I didn’t remember it the TWO times I’d been to the grocery store that day.  I was not going back.  So, homemade mayo with a little dijon and brown sugar and sherry vinegar – the perfect sauce for our perfect summer slaw!

Corn Cole Slaw
This stuff was fantastic as a side for smokey sausages on the grill (and grilled bread, of course!)  Tonight, I made fish tacos and made a little Srirracha mayo with the leftover batch of mayo from the slaw and topped our tacos with the still-crunchy slaw.  Amazing!  Welcome to summer, my friends!

Fish Tacos with Corn Slaw and Srirracha Mayo

Crunchy Cornslaw

4 large ears of corn
1/2 head purple cabbage, diced
2 poblano peppers, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 TBS poppyseeds
1 cup of mayo (homemade or not – just don’t buy something fake or low fat or “miracle”)
2 TBS dijon mustard
2 TBS sherry vinegar
1 TBS brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, cut all the corn from the cobs directly into the bowl.  Add cabbage, peppers, onion, carrots, apple and poppyseeds and stir to combine.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the mayo, mustard, vinegar and brown sugar and fold into the corn mixture until everything is coated.  Season to your taste with salt and pepper.  If you want to make your own mayo, I’ll give you our super easy recipe below!  Happy cooking!

Homemade Mayo *
makes about 2 cups

2 large eggs
4 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups non-flavored oil like canola, grapeseed, vegetable

Add the eggs, mustard, vinegar and salt to a large cup and add the oil (if using an immersion blender). Start processing as you gradually lift the immersion blender up, letting the oil get sucked under in a steady stream.  If using a food processor, add everything except the oil to the processor or blender and blend for 30 seconds.  While running, slowly drizzle the oil in a thin, steady stream until all the oil is added and the mixture is smooth.

*adapted from Spike Mendelsohn’s awesome book, The Good Stuff

 

Fish Tacos 

2 fresh cod fillets or other firm, white fish
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper
olive oil for pan frying

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and season each side with salt and pepper.  Cut into fish-stick sizes (mine were about 3-4″ sticks) by cutting the fillet across it’s width.  Put the beaten egg in a large bowl and the panko and seasoning mixed together in a separate bowl. Dip each stick into the beaten egg and then roll in the panko/Old Bay mixture and pat on all sides to fully coat.  Lay the coated fish sticks on a clean paper towel while you finish the others.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add about 4 TBS of olive oil and let it heat till it shimmers.  Add the fish sticks without crowding (I had to do two batches) and fry till golden brown on each side.  Keep warm and crisp in a 250F oven until ready to assemble the tacos.

For assembly:

Dollop some srirracha mayo (there’s no recipe here – just add srirracha or any hot sauce to mayo and mix it up till it’s a heat level you like!  Mine was about 2 TBS per cup of mayo) along the center of a soft-taco sized tortilla.  Lay two fish sticks on top of the mayo and then top with the cornslaw.  Enjoy!

Roasted Salmon with Lima Bean Risotto

lima bean risotto and salmon
This week is really busy already! Hence, being behind in my posting! The Palmer house is bustling with preparations for the first annual Carpenter’s Banquet this Friday.  We are cooking for about 250 people, and my friends, that is a LOT of food.  I am amazed by how much it really is.  Forty heads of lettuce for the salads, forty butternut squash, fifty eggs for the bread pudding, two gallons of salted caramel for the bread pudding.  Two gallons?!  Of caramel?  It just adds up.  Anything multiplied by 250 is going to be insane and I will be the first to say that I’m super glad I’m not a caterer!  I think it’s going to be an amazing event and all the proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction will go directly to Carpenter’s Church for their supportive housing project.  It’s nice to be a part of something so good.

Tonight, we also shot the second show for our 24 Frames segment, and I’m super excited that Matt got to be a part of this episode!  It is about our very regular pizza nights and Matt’s perfect pizza crust!  I can’t wait to see what Paul and Daniel do after the first episode turned out surprisingly wonderful, considering I was in it. 🙂

Tonight I give you a simple dish that is packed with flavor.  It’s a riff off of yet another Tyler Florence recipe from his wonderful family cookbook, Start Fresh.  The recipe originally called for peas, but I had lima beans and I think it worked great!  I loved this dish because it was really simple to make and had a protein, a starch and a vegetable in just two dishes!  And it felt super comforting without being too heavy.  We’ve got a few chilly nights left in this season, I’m afraid, but with dishes like this, it won’t be so bad to stay in and cook!

salmon and lima bean risotto - great for toddlers

 

Roasted Salmon with Lima Bean Risotto
serves 4 or 6-8 child servings

2 tbs olive oil
1 pound salmon fillet, bones removed and cut into 4 portions
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup lima beans
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the over to 400F.

Season the salmon portions with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the salmon pieces and cook without turning until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the salmon just flakes when tested with a fork, about ten minutes.

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium heat.  Add the lima beans, reduce heat, and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes.  Scoop out the beans into a bowl.  Transfer half of the beans to a blender and puree until smooth.  Set aside.  Keep the broth warm on the stove.

In a large saucepan, toast the rice over medium heat, stirring often, until the rice has a nutty aroma, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the broth, one cup at a time, stirring and waiting until each addition is almost absorbed before adding more.  Continue until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Before all the liquid has been absorbed, stir in both the pureed and whole beans, butter, and cheese.  Serve the salmon fillets on top of the risotto, or flake the salmon into bite size pieces and serve risotto on the side, like I did for Ollie’s plate in the pic above! Enjoy!

Tilapia with Tomatoes, Butter Beans and Sweet Peppers

tilapia with tomato sauce and butter beans

This was dinner on Monday night.  Olive’s plate looked no different than ours, except I compartmentalized things so she could easily grab them.  She ate one piece of tomato, one bean and all her fish.  She tried and spit out one olive.  We also gave her a cracker and after she ate half, she declared herself “all done.”  That’s it!  We didn’t ask her to eat more, we didn’t get upset that she wouldn’t try any more beans, although I know she loves beans and would like them.  I wanted to but I didn’t.  It’s a hard resolution but we have vowed to stop messing with Olive during meal times.  I have resolved to respect her more and trust her to eat what she needs at the mealtimes provided.  She only has one snack a day, between lunch and dinner, as we usually don’t eat dinner until 7 or 7:30, and so for the most part, she is hungry at meals and will eat.  Lately, because she’s not growing as rapidly as she did around a year-18 months, she doesn’t have a big appetite.  She is fine after a few bites and will declare herself finished, sometimes way before I believe she’s had enough.  But what do I know?  And how exactly do I know how hungry she is when she is probably a tenth the size of me?  I have seen that when she knows she’s not going to be messed with, she acts more controlled, more independent, and she is more focused on her meal.  On the contrary, when she feels watched, observed (it’s hard not to look at a kid while they’re eating), she immediately starts acting out.  She drops things and bangs her spoon on the table and tries to get out of her chair, and if I’m honest, it’s probably because she doesn’t want to eat with someone who stares at her every move and intimidates her to take “one more bite.”  Would you want to eat with one person like that, much less two?!
So we’ve vowed to stop.  Before Matt and all Olive’s stuffed animals as witnesses, we both said we would simply present dinner, encourage her to try new things, and then back OFF.  I firmly believe that if we trust our children to eat well and make good decisions, they will, eventually.  It’s that eventually that I know so many of us parents struggle with.  We want our kids to eat like we do, right now.  And so we often fall back on what we know they’ll like (insert fried or bland food here). We don’t realize that good eating is a learned skill, just like anything else.  It takes time.  It takes a few meals of “I don’t like it” and a few times of eating two bites and declaring “all done.”  But we must stick to it and not abandon ship at the first sign of resistance.  Here are a few rules around eating that we adhere to, nearly every day:

1. Eat only at meal times and one snack a day (Olive is 22 months old, by the way, and I’ve been doing this since she she was about 15 months old.  I do let her have milk between meals, but about an hour before a meal, I cut her off and give her only water if she’s thirsty.)
2. Variety is offered, along with something she recognizes.
3. I serve the new thing to her first, and we all eat a little bit of it together as a “first course,” if you will, because what kid is going to eat Brussels sprouts when there’s chicken on the table?
4. After the new food is presented and at least tried (she doesn’t have to eat much of it, just a taste), then I bring out the rest of the food, I put a little bit of each thing on her plate, explain what everything is, and then back off.
5. No distractions during meals – no toys (well sometimes the stuffed animals eat with us, but they’re not used as a distraction from the food), no toys, a.k.a. iPhones for me and Matt, no answering texts or calls.  This helps.  It really does.  Because as soon as Olive spots a phone, she wants it, or suddenly becomes dissatisfied with her sitting-down-and-not-playing-instead situation.  We try to engage her in our conversation, as well as encourage her not to shout during ours 🙂 It’s a growing and a learning process and more often than not, it does NOT go perfectly, but I think it’s the consistency that is the key.
6. If there’s dessert, you don’t have to do anything special to get it.  Not even eat all your vegetables.  You simply have to wait for everyone to finish.  So, if Olive eats just a bit of dinner, but not much, and I have already planned on serving a dessert, I do NOT tell her she needs to eat more before she can have it.  She can have it if she stays at the table.  If she wants to get down, she can, but if she wants dessert, she must come back, sit down and be civilized to get it. Dessert must not be contingent on her being a “good girl” or eating her “bad broccoli.”  If I could banish one crippling habit in the world, it would be our habit of calling foods “good” or “bad” and rewarding or punishing ourselves accordingly.
7. We eat together.  She doesn’t start first just because she’s hungry.  She waits.  And then we all sit down together.  This teaches respect, patience, and a realization that she’s not the only one that needs consideration.

So before you declare yourself or your kids a failed attempt before even trying, let me remind you that Olive very often doesn’t like what I serve.  She very often will only eat one of four things presented. Sometimes she shocks me and eats EVERYTHING, including the stinky cheese.  But this is rare, and yet I let it be a glimpse and a proof that she likes food, she just doesn’t always want a lot of it.

This meal was from Jamie Oliver’s, Jamie Magazine Recipe Yearbook (on news stands now!).  It’s so full of great recipes and I can’t wait to try more.  We loved the flavors and it was a refreshing way to serve the same ol’ fish and beans 🙂

tilapia with tomatoes, olives and butter beans

Tilapia with Tomatoes, Butter Beans and Sweet Peppers*
serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced and seeded
2-4 sweet pickled red peppers (I got mine at the olive bar at our grocery store)
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted olives
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-15 oz. can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
4 white fish fillets (sole, tilapia, swai)

For the sauce, heat half the oil in a medium pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the peppers and fry for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and olives and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add the beans and dill and heat for about a minute.  Set mixture aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and cook the fish about 2-3 minutes per side, until a nice golden brown is on each side.  Season with salt and pepper and arrange fillets over the tomato/bean mixture and serve with extra dill and a side of bread – dinner is served!

*adapted from Jamie Magazine Recipe Yearbook

Citrus Cured Salmon

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It’s Monday – time to scale back.  Drink more water, take a walk after dinner.  Eat lighter, eat simpler.  Undo what might have been done over the weekend of eating out with friends, drinks with co-workers or quick meals eaten on the run out of paper bags.  I am currently in a very scaled-back mindset.  This blog obviously has the most popularity when I post sugar and flour concoctions (don’t worry, there’s plenty in the queue) but for this week, I’m going to write about simple, clean, mindfully healthy recipes that are also incredibly fulfilling and delicious.

Over the weekend I dipped into Michael Ruhlman’s cookbook, “Ruhlman’s Twenty” and tackled the citrus cured salmon.  This is not the type of recipe that calls my name. I love cured salmon in the form of lox, but this type of do-it-from-scratch recipe is a direct influence of my husband.  He has made me see the joy in cooking for cooking’s sake.  Not just eating the food, but enjoying the process.  I can honestly say I thought he was crazy when I first heard him say, “I don’t even need to eat what I made, as long as I taste it and see that it came out well, I can move on.”  I used to think this was ridiculous because I used to be a quantity over quality type eater.  I used to think more was more.  More mediocre food is better than less high-quality food.  This is a mindset of an over-eater.  As Matt taught me the joy of the process of cooking, I began to see what he meant.  Just tasting that something you spent hours making came out well is beginning to be enough of a pay-off for me. And when you don’t eat as much, you have more to share.  Which puts you in the middle of what food should be: communal.

I know what you’re thinking: this stuff is pretty easy to buy in the store.  However, I never want to buy it because how old is that fish, anyway?  And where did it come from?  All these questions  are answered simply if you just do it yourself.  So, we bought a pound of salmon from the fresh fish counter, I grated lots and lots of zest and dumped kosher salt on it.  24 hours later – perfectly cured salmon with a HUGE citrus flavor.  Amazing with cream cheese and capers and diced shallots on top of Matt’s homemade, toasted bread.  This is eating simply and without regret!

Happy Zesty Monday.

Citrus Cured Salmon

Citrus Cured Salmon*

1.5 lb salmon filet
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl, combine the salt and sugar and stir to distribute the sugar throughout the salt.  In another bowl, combine the citrus zests.  (Buy a Microplane.)

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to extend beyond the length of the salmon.  Spread a third of the salt mixture in the center of the foil to serve as a bed for the salmon.  Place the salmon skin-side down on the salt.  Distribute the zest evenly across the salmon.  Pour the remaining salt mixture over the salmon.  It should be covered.  Fold the foil up to contain the salt.  Place another sheet of foil over the salmon and crimp the sheets together firmly.  The idea is to have a tight package in which the salt mixture is in contact with all surfaces of the salmon.

Set the foil package on a baking sheet.  Set another baking sheet or dish on top of the salmon and weight it down with a brick or a few cans from your pantry.  This will help press the water out of the salmon as it cures.  Refrigerate the salmon for 24 hours.

Unwrap the salmon and remove it from the cure, discarding the foil and the cure.  Rinse the salmon and pat dry with paper towels.  To remove the skin, place the salmon skin-side down on a cutting board.  Holding a sharp, thin, flexible knife at about a 30-degree angle, cut between the flesh and the skin.  When you can get a grip on the skin, pull it back and forth against the knife to separate it from the flesh.  Set the salmon on a rack or on paper towels on a tray and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, to allow the salt concentration to equalize and to dry the salmon out further.  Wrap the salmon in parchment and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Serve sliced extremely thin on crackers, bagels, or with scrambled eggs for a hearty breakfast – the options are up to your tastes!

*adapted from Rhulman’s book in that we could only find 1.5lb filets of salmon and his recipe called for 2-3lbs.

lox