Go Fish

Hi friends, it has been a while since I have posted. I have spent a lot of time working at a new job, moving, and life sometimes gets in the way. The good news is that the new job involves wine, which has been an incredible education. I will save that post for another day.
Lately I have had many opportunities to eat my words, literally and figuratively. One of the biggest areas has been seafood. Growing up there were two ways my family ate seafood: Starkist and frozen fish sticks. Not the most delectable introduction to be sure. I grew up and older knowing that I was not a fan of seafood. This was heightened by the fact that shellfish makes me nauseous and headachey. I had tried a few times to broaden my horizons, trying salmon and other fish cooked by those indifferent to the quality of their ingredients. It didn’t help matters.
That has recently changed, I dated a chef that recognized the importance of quality in his ingredients. Through him, I have finally found an appreciation for seafood. The first thing he convinced me to try was Atlantic salmon. It is also the first seafood I ever tried to cook on my own. Home cook that I am, the results were as pleasing as the pro’s. Just remember, fresh, never frozen, is the key here.
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Ingredients

Fresh salmon fillet or portion of. It is easier to cut into portions before cooking
2-4 tablespoons butter
Lemon, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Your choice of seasoning

Directions
Preheat oven to 500 degrees
Melt butter and pour into pan
Place salmon skin side up in pan and bake for 5 minutes
Remove salmon from oven and flip
Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of any seasoning you would like to have
Place thinly sliced lemon on each portion.
Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes

Enjoy!

Skillet Lasagna

The alternative title for this post was “How Not to Dirty Every Dish I Own”, as that seems to be the general plan whenever I make lasagna.  Get out the sauce pan, the cutting board, the tomato smashing tools, the garlic press, the big pot for the noodles, the strainer to dump the noodles in, the bowl to mix the cheeses, the various spoons and such for dealing with all the things that are going in the pots and bowls…the pan for the lasagna.  Then quick, while it is bubbling away in the oven, wash everything.  Then get out more dishes for the salad, the garlic bread and the dinner plates.  That would be why I have not made lasagna in, ummmm, well I can’t remember how long.  It an exhausting dish to clean up around.

But much like Garfield, I love lasagna.  I kept thinking that there had to be a better way around this until I can afford a lackey whose sole job was to do dishes behind me, the poor unlucky future bastard.  I have been tinkering around with some versions of this skillet lasagna.  This is my favorite, and last night was the final tinkering: fresh mozzarella or shredded.  I made the dish and melted half and half.  The fresh mozzarella not only looked better but it won on taste hands down.  My family has had a long-standing argument about the ricotta vs cottage cheese in lasagna.  Over the years we have come to a compromise in mixing half and half.  If you prefer one or the other, go nuts, my recipe is what I make to keep the odd cottage cheese folks happy.  I won’t say I eliminated all of the dishes, but less than a sink full when all was said and done is a victory to me.

Skillet Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 12 ounces of mafalda noodles (think miniature lasagna noodles, go ahead and substitute-I don’t judge)
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced thin
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping
  • Fresh basil leaves for topping
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a 12 inch skillet, cook onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent.  Add pepper flakes and heat for another minute.
  2. Add ground beef to skillet and brown, breaking beef into crumbles.  Once fully cooked, spoon off most, but not all, of the fat.
  3. While beef is cooking, stir together crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, brown sugar and Italian season in a large bowl.
  4. In an even layer, add noodles on top of the beef and pour tomato mixture over the top of the noodles.  Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low-medium.  I occasionally need to add a bit more water from time to time, but usually there is enough moisture in the tomato sauce to cook the noodles to al dente.  Add salt/pepper to taste to the sauce.
  5. Mix the cottage cheese with the ricotta in a small bowl.  Once the noodles are al dente, drop spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese mix onto the lasagna.  I like to drag the spoon through like you do when creating a swirl in a cake.  It spreads it around a bit but not too much where you lose the taste by spreading too thin.
  6. Scatter the pieces of fresh mozzarella over the top of the lasagna and cover with a lid for about 5 minutes.
  7. Chiffonade the basil and add it with the shredded Parmesan to the top and enjoy.
  8. Find someone to do the dishes:)
Left side fresh, right side bagged.  Fresh is the best.

Left side fresh, right side bagged. Fresh is the best.

Tuesday Tips-Lemons

vtlemon

Today has definitely been a “glass 3/4 empty” kind of day.  The kind of day where life poos in your Cheerios and then has flatulence to boot.  I don’t feel I am exaggerating when I say that today lived up to the “life is a dirty rotten bastard” adage.  If it isn’t an adage yet, it will be.

Okay, deep and cleansing breaths, this is not a blog on my crappy day (God what a great and compelling title that would be for a blog).  I was banging my head into a wall trying to think of a cooking tip and all thoughts of how awful today was kept intruding.  I was stern with myself and said “When life hands you lemons…slice those bad boys up and add them to your vodka tonic!”  So today will be about the lemon.  Because I was a slacker last week, I will include a couple of lemon related tips.

  • When choosing lemons, go for the firm one with smooth, shiny skin.
  • To get more juice out of your lemon, nuke it on high for 10-20 seconds and/or rub between your hands.
  • Lemon zest is the yellow bit of the skin.  Once you reach the white part stop.  That is the pith and is bitter.
  • Lemon juice is great for preventing discoloration in food, like sliced apples.
  • Lemons are a great way to remove the scent from hands, cutting boards, knives, etc.
  • Lemons help fight scurvy.
  • Lemons are the perfect garnish for a vodka tonic when buying a drink for the brilliant author of this blog.

Cheers!

Terra’s Tips-Spoon Coating

Every once in a while, a friend or relative decides that I am a walking dictionary on food and calls for advice.  Well, either that or every once in a while my friends suffer through the food snob babbling until something useful falls out of my mouth, but I am feeling generous with myself today.

One of the fun things about food is that there is always something you have not tried or understood yet.  Especially for those of us in the self taught category.  You can read directions, but if no one is there to babble at you and explain why or what is meant by that, then you apply your own meaning.  I had that point brought home in a cooking class taught by a French trained chef.  The class was a gift to my son for Christmas, as the food snob thing is contagious.  I was amazed at how many things I learned, or got deeper meaning out of.  I knew how to do many of the things he taught, but didn’t know the why.  Learning the why or the methodology and reasons behind the methodology were exciting.  It brought more depth to what I do when I cook.  It also inspired me to begin teaching a cooking class for a few friends.

One night a month we will get together and cook some food in a combination of girls night out and learning.  Being such a complete and utter food dork, I have already developed a syllabus in my head.  I can’t wait.  The thought occurred to me that I could do a similar thing here.  My goal is to publish a short tip every Tuesday.

Today’s tip is coating the back of a spoon.  Many recipes have the instructions to reduce liquid until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  This phrase to me is way too subjective.  Define coat.  Is it windbreaker thick or expedition to the South Pole thick?  Try this trick using a wooden/bamboo spoon, and yes the wooden/bamboo spoon helps (that is another tip for another day).  Dip spoon in sauce.  Use finger to draw a line in the back of the  spoon with your finger.  If the sauce does not run down and obliterate your line, the right thickness has been achieved.

Like so

Like so

Burrito Casserole

burrito

I love cleaning out my fridge, to the point of almost being therapy level.  Finding something to do with all of those little leftover bits that didn’t fit in the previous recipe always brings joy.  It means I didn’t waste any money and I am not throwing away food that could have better served starving children somewhere.  As a side note..is it just me or do we all carry around a miniature version of our mom with all of her favorite sayings in our heads?

The following recipe is great for using up those last two large tortillas in the package.  Especially if you bought all of the ingredients to make burritos and realized when you got home that you only had a couple of tortillas, not the full package you thought was hiding under the bread.

Burrito Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 2 large tortillas (burrito size)
  • 1 (16 ounce) can of refried beans
  • 2-4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 ounces of sour cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º
  2. Brown ground beef and drain
  3. Add taco seasoning to beef and combine.
  4. Add refried beans to taco meat and mix.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the cream of mushroom soup and the sour cream.
  6. Spread 1/2 of the cream mixture on the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.
  7. Lay a tortilla over the top of the the cream.
  8. Add 1/2 of meat mixture on top of the tortilla.
  9. Add 1/2 of the cheddar cheese.
  10. I do the next layer in slightly different order.  Add the second tortilla, then remaining cream mix, then the meat mixture, and finally the remaining cheese.
  11. Bake in the over for 30 minutes, and enjoy.