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Seared Tuna with Gremolata and Cannellini Beans

Simple, no fuss food can be a little fancy too. The brightness of the gremolata is a perfect accent for tuna. This was a quick weeknight meal to throw together but would be quite a showstopper for special company.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x 1/2 pound tuna steaks (about 1/2 -3/4 inch thick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaves parsley
  • 2 tablespoon of capers in brine (drained and finely chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the bean salad:

  • 1 red bell pepper – seeded and quartered
  • 1 can Cannellini beans – rinsed and drained
  • 3 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

For the bean salad – combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix. Toss with beans. Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat a griddle pan until smoking hot then reduce the heat to medium-high.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the oil with the water until thick and creamy. Whisk in the lemon juice with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Stir in the garlic, capers, chillies and parsley.

Lightly brush the tuna steaks and bell peppers with the spicy dressing and cook on the preheated griddle pan for 2 minutes on each side (for medium rare tuna).

To serve, fill the grilled peppers with the bean salad. Place the tuna on the place and drizzle over the gremolata dressing.

Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Corn Enchiladas with Verde Crema

Enchiladas are one of those things I never order at a Mexican restaurant. I always want fish tacos or some special of the day – but I do love to make them at home and these are pretty simple to throw together.

Overall these enchiladas are a pretty healthy meal if you use light sour cream and are light handed on the cheese. I opted to use real Mexican sour cream (crema) and I was a little generous with the cheese… but how often do you make homemade enchiladas? Go all out.

If you are looking for a spicier dish try the homemade Verde Salsa from a Mexican grocery store. My verde salsa was HOT. To counteract the heat I served a salad dressed with Hot Pepper Jelly vinaigrette (jelly, lime juice, coriander, olive oil) and it was the perfect sweetness with the hot enchiladas.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3-4 small or 2 large), peeled, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups white onion, diced (1 medium onion)
  • 1 1/2cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 pound raw peeled deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups purchased salsa verde or mild tomatillo salsa
  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
  • 12 flour tortillas
  • 8 ounces Monterrey jack cheese(about 2 cups)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine the spices (first 5 ingredients) in small bowl and set aside.

Toss sweet potatoes with 1/2 of the spice mixture & 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; toss to coat. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Roast sweet potatoes until soft and browned in spots, turning occasionally, 20 minutes. Cool. DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

In a skillet over medium heat add 2 tablespoons oil. Add onion, corn and the remaining 1/2 of the spice mixture. Cook until onions and corn are caramelized about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and shrimp and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until shrimp are beginning to turn pink. Remove from heat. NOTE: Do not cook the shrimp completely as they will be overcooked once in the oven.

In a large bowl combine shrimp & corn mixture with the sweet potatoes. Add in ½ cup chopped cilantro and toss to combine all ingredients. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.

Lower the oven to 375°F.

Spray a 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spay or vegetable oil. Wrap four tortillas in damp paper towels. Microwave 30 seconds. Spoon 1/4 cup shrimp mixture on each. Roll up and place seam-side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Top with any extra filling.

Mix salsa and crema and 1/2 cup cilantro. Spoon over enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Yield: 4 -6 servings.

Potato-Crusted Halibut with Pesto

Anne Burrell is brilliant and can break down some difficult looking prep and make it SIMPLE. For instance, making fish scales out of potatoes. Mine didn’t turn out as beautiful as her perfectly potato crusted fish scales… but it was dead simple to do.

Her original recipe called for an infused oil to cook the fish in… but my basil was begging to become pesto and the fresh herbs with the meaty potatoes & fish was a delicious thing to eat.

Word to the wise: If you don’t have a mandolin… don’t even bother with this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 4 (6-ounce) Pacific halibut fillets
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup Basil Pesto

DIRECTIONS

Cook’s Note: In this case it is important to work quickly and to slice the potatoes for 1 halibut fillet at a time. We are NOT going to soak the potatoes in water, this will help them maintain their starch so they will stick to each other and to the fish, but could cause them to turn brown.

Using a mandoline, slice 1 potato extremely thin, (paper thin), in elongated rounds. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a clean, dry work surface. Arrange 3 potato slices in an overlapping vertical line pressing them together as you put them on the parchment. Repeat this process until you have a 4 by 6-inch overlapping potato rectangle that replicates fish scales. Brush the potato “scales” with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Season the halibut with salt. Lay the halibut fillet closer to 1 end of the potato rectangle than the other and then roll the fish up in the potato slices, using the parchment to help facilitate the rolling. Press to compact and really adhere the potatoes to the fish. Brush the outside of the potatoes with olive oil to seal the potatoes and to prevent the potatoes from turning brown, this will also help make a nice tight “fish package”. Reserve the fish in the refrigerator while preparing the remaining fillets. Refrigerate the fillets for at least 1 hour before cooking.

To cook the fish: Add olive oil to a large nonstick saute pan until the bottom is generously covered and bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Season the fish with salt and add to the pan. Cook the fish on both sides for 3 to 4 minutes frequently spooning the excess oil over the fish to “baste” it. The potatoes should be crispy golden brown and very well flavored and the fish will be succulent inside its crispy “scales”. Transfer to serving plates, top with pesto and serve.

Grilled Salmon with Maple-Chipotle Glaze

This meal has been in my head since the Maple Chipotle Corn went in my mouth. It was more delicious than I had imagined and is a perfect balance of sweet and spicy that brings a new life to salmon.

I never attempt to flip fish on an outdoor grill… it just never works out for me. So I forget the showpiece grill lines and take the chance my fish will stay in one piece. Simply close the lid and let it cook skin side down and you will have a perfect piece of salmon.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound salmon, skin on

DIRECTIONS

Bring first 5 ingredients to simmer in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until glaze is reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Glaze can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Rub some olive oil on the skin to keep it from sticking.

Preheat grill (I prefer outdoor gas grill) over medium heat. When grill is hot reduce flame to medium-low and place salmon on the grill skin side down. Baste salmon with the glaze several times throughout grilling (closing the lid for 2-3 minute intervals). Do not flip the salmon! It will cook through in 8 -10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Sole Meuniere

Dover sole isn’t necessarily “from” Dover, but this English fishing port had plenty of it in the 19th century. I guess the name stuck. Sole is buttery, sweet and flaky and this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa is classic and fresh. The sole filets are quite thin, so have the other parts of your meal ready to go as the fish cooks lightning fast.

Why does my lemon zest look orange you may be asking?? I used Meyer lemons AGAIN. I’m addicted to those juicy little fruits.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 fresh sole fillets, 3 to 4 ounces each
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley or thyme

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Have 2 heat-proof dinner plates ready

Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large shallow plate. Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side with salt.

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Dredge 2 sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. While the second side cooks, add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to the pan. Carefully put the fish filets on the ovenproof plates and pour the sauce over them. Keep the cooked fillets warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining 2 fillets. When they’re done, add the cooked fillets to the plates in the oven. Sprinkle with the parsley or thyme, salt, and pepper and serve immediately.

Spotlight Dallas: Restaurant Ava (Seared Scallops with Meyer Lemon and Tarragon)

Well not quite Dallas… but Rockwall is a small trip worth taking for the menu Restaurant Ava so skillfully serves up. Chef Randall Copeland is brilliant and his tenure at Bolsa makes him a shoe in for tastefully putting it on the table.

The choices for the evening: Possibly the best spinach salad I’ve had in ages – the balsamic dressing is killer. Creamy risotto with morels – you want more? How about perfectly seared diver scallops on a bed of creamy potatoes and roasted vegetables?

This was the inspiration behind my seared scallops with my favorite citrus – meyer lemons. Yes, I still have plenty of the beauties in the kitchen and am proud I’ve managed to stay away from making lemon bars.

The meal didn’t end there. The spring pasta (homemade I may add) with lobster and pesto was equally delicious. And lets not forget the finale… the s’more brownie covered in homemade marshmallow and peanut butter ice cream.

The dinner was excellent and the company even better (love it when they like to share). Restaurant Ava is a treat you should indulge in. I loved it all.

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

Make the vinaigrette, but substitute the herbs de provence with fresh tarragon or basil.

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper. Tip: Moisture can keep the scallops from getting that golden crust, so be sure to not skip this step.

Heat skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add a drizzle of olive oil or a tablespoon of butter. Add scallops to the pan and DO NOT TOUCH for 2 minutes. When they are ready to be turned they will easily release from the pan. If not – be patient they aren’t ready.

Serve with mixed greens, roasted vegetables and top with the meyer lemon vinaigrette.

 

Shrimp Biryani: Indian Shrimp and Rice

The aromas alone are worth giving this dish a try. When you take your first bite you will be sold.

The flavors are not overpowering. They are subtle with a perfect balance of spice and sweetness from the shrimp and onions.

My friend Catherine of Fish and Veggies recommended this dish and passed on some great advice: put the whole spices in a cheesecloth sachet to avoid biting down on a whole peppercorn or clove.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 pound Shelled and de-veined Shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 2 serrano chilis (seeds removed)
  • 1 – 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 10 – 12 whole green cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 sprigs mint
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wash the shrimp and drain it well. Add the salt and turmeric and mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Peel the ginger and garlic and use a food processor to blend it to a paste with the cilantro and chilis. You can use a little water if it is too dry.
  4. Chop the onion and mint and leave to the side until needed.
  5. Heat the oil on medium in an oven safe dish. Add the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom and 1 bay leaf to a sachet of cheesecloth and tie securely. Add the sachet to the oil with the cinnamon stick and saute until fragrant, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped onion and saute until light brown, stirring constantly.
  7. Add 1/2 of the paste and saute for another minute or two.
  8. Add water and salt (1-2 teaspoons depending on taste) and bring to this to a boil.
  9. Add the rice to the boiling water and add the butter and mint. Bring this to a boil, cover and place it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
  10. When the rice has been in the oven for about 10 minutes heat some oil in a saute pan and add the remainder of the paste along with the other bay leaf. Saute this for a minute or two and add the shrimp. Saute the shrimp until done (they should be light pink) about 5 minutes.
  11. Remove the rice from the oven and remove the spice sachet and cinnamon stick. Top it with the shrimp and serve.

Chicken, Shrimp & Chorizo Paella

This was my first time to make real Paella. My dad started making Paella last year and for Christmas I gave him a proper Paella pan, golden saffron and 2 Spanish chorizo links. It was the real deal gift. Then the Paella pan I ordered arrived and it was barely big enough to stir the rice. Oh well – it was still a creative gift for someone who really wants underwear and socks.

A few weeks ago I lucked into the estate sale of my dreams! I scored French crêpe pans, French copper, and ebelskiver pan (thrilled about this find) and a huge Paella pan made in Italy. I passed the pan on to my dad and he invited me up to make Paella last weekend. We didn’t go all out with mussels and seafood – but this Paella was delicious and the true Spanish Chorizo (can be found at Central Market) was incredible and just oozed of orange paprika.

If you don’t have a paella pan – use a nonstick skillet or a wok!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into pieces (skin on) and marinated in spice mixture (see below)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, diced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped OR 1 can 14 ounce whole tomatoes crushed by hand
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 cups Spanish rice, short to medium grain, like Valencia
  • 1 generous pinch saffron threads
  • 4 1/2 cups warm stock or water
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp
  • 1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • Lemon wedges

Spice Mix for chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken; marinate for 1 hour, covered.

DIRECTIONS

Marinate the chicken for 1 hour and remove from refrigerator.

Heat the oil in a paella pan or wide skillet. Brown the chicken on all sides, when nearly cooked through, add the chorizo links and brown.

Remove the chicken and sausage from the pan. Cut the sausages into slices and set aside. Drain out excess oil but don’t clean the pan.

Sauté the garlic, onion, tomatoes and bell peppers. Cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice, stirring to coat the grains.

Add the stock and saffron and simmer for 15-20 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks and absorbs evenly. Do not cover or constantly stir like risotto.

Add the shrimp and the reserved chicken and sausage. Simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes.

Scatter the peas on top and continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed. Allow to rest off the heat for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with lemon wedges.

 

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I’ve never been a huge fan of Shrimp Scampi. I love the garlic but the butter seems overwhelming and traditional scampi can be a little flat in flavor. This recipe from the Barefoot Contessa makes up for all of the lackluster. You can prepare the butter & herbs early: just don’t add the panko until you are ready top bake. The original recipe calls for 12 tablespoons of butter. I cut it down to 8 but by all means knock yourself out and butter up.

The lemon is the star of the show. The aromas will keep you parked in front of the oven door… watching… waiting.

Serve with a side of whole wheat linguine or eat it out of the pan. This makes a great appetizer or entree.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunny Paris Cod with Crispy Capers

Penzeys Spices is an incredible store with an abundance of fresh herbs, spices and original blends. Penzeys’ storefronts are a rare find. Dallas is 1 of 2 lucky cities in Texas to have a store to walk in and be wowed by the many jars full of intoxicating aromas. They also have an online store and catalog.

“Sunny Paris” is a perfect name for a blend of shallots, green peppercorns, French basil, French tarragon, chervil, bay & dill… it smells warm. This is not a cheap blend of spices and history has it they actually stopped producing it due to it’s hefty cost. Thankfully the fans spoke and it’s back on the shelves. It is wonderful sprinkled on top of egg or in a dressing and such a warm flavor for fish.

If you are in Dallas head to Penzeys and peruse their incredible variety of cinnamon from around the globe, original spice blends and pick up a few vanilla beans from Madagascar at a bargain price.

A special thank you to my great friend JEN L for the introduction to Penzeys and sharing your Sunny Paris with me.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound Atlantic cod, or any white flaky fish
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Penzeys Sunny Paris spice blend
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl combine breadcrumbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper and Penzeys Sunny Paris spice blend.

Cut cod into 2 equal pieces. Pat dry with paper towel to remove any moisture and season both sides with salt & pepper and sprinkle ¼ tsp of Sunny Paris on each serving. Brush one side with Dijon mustard and top with breadcrumb mixture.

Preheat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add fish fillets and cook for 1 minute. Drizzle top of fish with a little olive oil and bake in oven for 5 minutes, or until fish is firm and done.

Meanwhile, heat a thin layer of olive oil in a small saucepan or skillet. When hot add capers and fry until crispy – about 2-3 minutes. Place on paper towel to drain. Note: STAND BACK – they will pop.

Remove fish from oven and top with crispy capers and fresh lemon juice.