Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fish Tacos!

Fish tacos are one of my absolute favorite summer dishes. Ah, who am I kidding — fall, winter, and spring as well! After falling in love with the fish tacos from Meetinghouse Restaurant in Bedford, NY, I decided to create my own recipe. And after many failed attempts, I finally came up with a version that I really enjoyed.

An important note here is the type of fish being used: Halibut works because it is a firm-fleshed fish. While flounder and sole are some of my favorite fishes, they are a little too soft for this recipe and would not hold up in this dish. Additionally, this recipe is tasty enough on its own, but also goes well with a chipotle cream sauce — the smokiness and fiery nature of the chipotle peppers are a great balance for the sweetness of the pears and the crunchiness of the cabbage.

Fish Tacos!

Makes 4 servings

4 medium fillets wild-caught Pacific Halibut

4 soft taco-size whole wheat flour tortillas

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

salt & pepper, to taste

chili powder (or cayenne pepper), to taste

1 teaspoon light extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

1 shallot, diced

1/2 medium red bell pepper, julienned

1 bartlett or Anjou pear, diced

1/4 head red cabbage, shredded

2 large carrots, shredded

Wash the halibut, cut into smaller slices, and set aside. Don't dry the fish completely, as the dampness will allow the flour to stick. In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt, pepper, and chili powder (or cayenne pepper, depending on how brave your spirit is. If you've never experimented with cayenne pepper, do proceed with caution.). Blend well and, one by one, evenly coat the fish with the flour mixture.

In a pan, heat the olive oil and butter over a low flame. Add the shallots and allow to soften, about 1 minute. Turn heat to medium and add peppers, sautéeing for another minute or until just beginning to soften. Add diced pear, toss, and let cook for an additional minute. Set aside.

Add the fish to the pan, making sure that all pieces are flush to the pan. You may need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan if it is a little dry. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until nice and browned.

Just before you're ready to serve (or have everyone serve themselves), heat the tortillas on the pan quickly on each side to really bring out the flavor. Using your hands to mold the soft tacos into a dish, add a few pieces of halibut, followed by the peppers, shallots, and pear, and then finally topped off with some crunchy red cabbage and carrots.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Buckwheat Cheese Straws

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here as I’ve been buried among the dead weight of work and winter. And, while it took some time for me to get over that winter-spring boundary line (I’m a snowboarder — this is what happens every year come March), I am completely ready to embrace spring. Winter is packed and put away — it’s time for me to come out of the dusty, stale woodworks and play. (I swear, I did not mean for that to rhyme.)

This isn’t an original recipe. Actually, I can’t say that I will be posting mainly original recipes on here — they’re not exactly easy to come up with on a full-time worker/Maid of Honor’s schedule. But it is an ode to one of my absolute favorite blog sites, 101 Cookbooks. Every time I enter Heidi Swanson’s virtual kitchen, I feel like a kid in an all-natural candy store. She's a published cook book author and an amazing photographer to boot! Seriously, each and every one of you (whoever you are) should check it out. Right now. Yes, I’m serious!

To me, these Buckwheat Cheese Straws are comfort snacking at its finest. I usually make a batch (or two) at a time and store the little “twigs” in a Ziploc bag for future enjoyment. They keep incredibly well and taste just as good as the day they came out of the oven — well, minus the heat.

So off you go, you people, baking and enjoying Heidi’s Web site.

Buckwheat Cheese Straws

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) white cheddar, shredded on a box grater

1/2 cup ice cold water

Combine the flours, salt and thyme in a bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles little pebbles in a beach of sandy flour (about 20 quick pulses). Alternately, you can cut the butter in using a knife and fork. Transfer to a mixing bowl and toss in the cheese. Sprinkle with ice water and use your hands or a spoon to stir it through and bring everything together into a ball of dough. Flatten the ball into a 1-inch thick square patty, wrap well in plastic, and place in the freezer for thirty minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat, and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
I find it easiest to work with one half of the dough at a time. Remove the dough from the freezer, cut in half, re-wrap the half you won't be using immediately, and place it back in the freezer. If the dough gets too warm it is difficult to work with. On a well-floured surface roll out the remaining dough into a rectangle roughly 6x12-inches and 1/4-inch thick. Use a knife to cut 1/2-inch wide strips (see photo), each about 6-inches long. Now take a strip of dough and gently pinch it all along its length so that it is easier to roll out into a straw shape roughly 12-inches long. If the dough is giving you trouble, consider chilling it a bit longer. Place each straw on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining strips, leaving at least 1/2 inch between each straw.

Bake the straws one pan at a time for about 8-10 minutes, or until the straws look set, and the cheese is golden where it is touching the pan. Flip each straw and bake for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Keep in mind if your straws are on the thin side, they'll bake in a flash, if they are slightly thicker they will need to go longer. Remove from oven and let cool, they will crisp more as they cool.

Sometimes I bake off half the dough, and keep the other half in the freezer for another day, but feel free to bake all of it - repeating the process with the second half of reserved dough.

Makes about 4 dozen straws.

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