Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cornbread Crusted Cod

I remember a day when I was eight or so.  I was at my grandparents’ house.  Some of the guys had gone fishing and came home with a couple of enormous fish. They set up a couple of saw horses and threw a piece of wood over and starting carving those babies up in the backyard.  I watched from the bing cherry tree that was my usual perch.  Big slabs of firm, white fish, not as smelly and gross as I was expecting. When I asked what it was I was told it was cod.  My grandma fried a big batch of it up and it was some of the best fish ‘n chips I’ve ever had to this day.

Cod is a great fish to cook with.  Very versatile.  It’s firm enough that it doesn’t fall apart when you cook it, but tender and mild, and goes with a variety of flavors and ingredients.  It’s also usually pretty inexpensive and available year-round.  And it’s an ocean-friendly choice as well (who doesn’t want to save the ocean?).  For the freshest cod, choose the whiter filets.  If they look a little grey, they are likely not as fresh as they should be.

I found these great cornbread croutons and used them to make the crumb coating for these filets.  I don’t see any reason why another kind of crouton (or bread crumbs) couldn’t be substituted instead if you don’t happen to have these on hand, but I did enjoy the corny texture and flavor.

Cornbread Crusted Cod.  With Lentil & Spinach salad on the side.  Yum!

Cornbread Crusted Cod. With Lentil & Spinach salad on the side. Yum!

Cornbread Crusted Cod

3-4 Cod Filets
1 tbsp. mayo
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cayenne
3/4 – 1 cup cornbread croutons
Fresh ground pepper

For sauce:
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp. capers (coarsely chopped if they are large)
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  In a small bowl mix mayo, dijon, lemon juice and cayenne.  Brush onto both sides of fish filets.

A little zippy sauce to coat the fish.  Tastes great and makes the crumbs stick really nicely!

A little zippy sauce to coat the fish. Adds flavor, keeps the fish moist and makes the crumbs stick really nicely!

Put croutons in a ziplock bag and grind some black pepper in there with them (if you don’t have cornbread croutons, any kind will work for this).  Using a rolling pin or the flat side of a tenderizing hammer (or anything really), smash the croutons into crumbs.

These cornbread croutons were a new discovery for me.  If you can't find them, you can use whatever croutons you have.

These cornbread croutons were a new discovery for me. If you can’t find them, you can use whatever croutons you have.

One at a time, put fish filets in the bag and shake to coat with crumbs.  Lay out on the baking sheet.

My own version of shake n bake.

My own version of shake n bake.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork and crumb coating is crispy and golden brown.  To make a quick sauce, mix a couple of tablespoons of mayo with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of capers.  Drizzle over the top or serve with lemon wedges.

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Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

Lentils are misunderstood.  They get such a bad rap for being boring, or mushy, or tasteless.  But I love them .  The wonderful thing about lentils is they are so versatile.  Beautiful in soup, but light and small enough to work well in salads as well.  I think part of the problem is that people tend to overcook them.  When boiled to mush, lentils can be underwhelming.  But I cook them just long enough to soften (usually about 25 minutes), leaving them tender but firm.  They have a nice delicate flavor that is enhanced by pretty much anything you combine with it, and they work well with a variety of spices and flavors.  Add to that the health benefits of this high-fiber, high-protein, gluten-free, low cal, zero fat food and in my mind, you’ve got a winner.

You can use any kind of lentils for this salad (I went with the typical greenish brown French lentils).  If you are in a hurry and you are lucky enough to live by a Trader Joe’s, they even sell steamed lentils in their refrigerated section that are delicious and ready to toss into whatever soup, salad or other creation you have in mind.  It just doesn’t get any easier than that.

Rustic spinach lentil salad

Rustic spinach lentil salad

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
Olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms (I used half baby bellas and half button mushrooms), cut into thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Salt & pepper
2 cups baby spinach

Bring the water to a boil, add lentils.  Turn down to medium low and cook 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender.  Drain and transfer to a salad bowl. Set aside to cool a bit.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan.  Add half the mushrooms (don’t crowd the pan).  Allow to cook a couple of minutes without stirring to get some good color on them.  Stir and cook another couple of minutes.  Remove from pan and repeat with the other half of the mushrooms.  Add first batch of mushrooms back in, add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook an additional minute.  Add to lentils.  Add lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt & pepper, and a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Stir to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.  Add spinach, toss and serve.

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

Rustic Spinach Lentil Salad

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5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

I am an expert of the field of minimal effort cooking.  Mostly this happens on days when I’m just cooking for myself (or at the end of busy, crazy days, or lazy ones).  I threw together this light and tasty pasta in about 5 minutes the other night and man, it was good!

You could use any kind of olives in this, but I happened to have some Castelvetrano olives on hand so i used those.  I recently discovered these and it was love at first taste!  They are bright green and round, and very mild and a bit nutty in flavor.  If your grocery store has an olive bar, that will probably be your best bet if you’re interested in picking some up, but I do occasionally see a jar of them here and there as well.  If you can’t find them, feel free to sub the olive of your choice.

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

5-Minute Capellini with Tomatoes and Olives

Capellini or angel hair pasta
3-4 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
Handful of olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced or minced
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Parmesan or feta cheese (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil while you heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the skillet.  Toss in the pasta and keep an eye on it.  Capellini is very thin; it will only take about 4 minutes to cook.  While the pasta is cooking, saute the garlic in olive oil for about 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.  Add tomatoes and olives.  Turn heat down to low and give the mixture an occasional stir until the pasta is ready.  You really don’t need to cook the veggies much, mostly you are just heating them up and letting some of their juices release and combine to make it a little more saucy.

Just a little mingle in the heat to really bring out the flavor.

Just a little mingle in the heat to really bring out the flavor.

Taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed (depending on the type of olives you use, you may not need much salt at all, if any).  Drain pasta (reserve a bit of the pasta water) and toss with tomato mixture.  If pasta seems dry you can add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water or drizzle with a touch of olive oil.  Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan or feta if desired.

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Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti

In recent years, I have started a new tradition of buying myself a Christmas present or two and wrapping it up to put under the tree.  As it turns out, Santa always seems to bring me something I really want!  As you might imagine, kitchen gadgets tend to make my wish list here and there.  This year I really wanted a spiral slicer!  I love the idea of making “noodles” out of whatever veggie happens to be handy, but I do not love the idea of sitting there painstakingly peeling or slicing away at it to get my uniform, healthy, yummy veggie-noodles.  But now!  I have the perfect little tool and let me tell you this baby is fun to play with!  At the risk of sounding like an informercial, let me just say it worked like a charm and I had a pile of lovely curly strands of zucchini in mere moments.

What else can I slice up?  Quick!  Get me a carrot!

What else can I slice up? Quick! Get me a carrot!

A quick sauté with a bit of garlic and they were perfect alongside my delicious veal parmesan.  My daughter, who is not usually a big zucchini fan, actually ate the entire serving.  As for the veal, you’ve got to try these delicious burgers.  With a simple marinara topping and a sprinkle of cheese, they were a huge hit!  Not a veal fan?  No problem.  Feel free to substitute ground beef or turkey, or even slices of eggplant!

Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti.  So delicious!

Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti. So delicious!

Veal Parmesan with Zpaghetti

Sauce:

Olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of crushed red peppers
Salt & pepper
1 tsp. capers

Blend up or crush tomatoes (with juice).  Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add garlic and stir about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, crushed red peppers and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer.  Toss in capers.  Let sauce simmer while you prepare the burgers.

Mmmm.  Simple and good.  When I have a bit of fresh basil I throw that in as well.

Mmmm. Simple and good. When I have a bit of fresh basil I throw that in as well.

Burgers:

1 pound ground veal (or ground beef or turkey)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
3-4 mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
3/4 cup panko (or other bread crumbs)
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded

Heat oven to broil.  Mix veal, garlic, egg, mushrooms, onion and seasonings until well blended.  Form into patties.  Dredge both sides in panko and shake off excess.  Heat a drizzle of oil in a large skillet.  Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes on each side until brown on the outside and done in the middle.

Cooking up the burgers.

Cooking up the burgers.

Remove to a baking sheet.  Top each burger with a generous spoonful of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan.  Place under the broiler 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.

All sliced up and ready to cook.  The strips are so thin it only takes a couple of minutes to cook!

All sliced up and ready to cook. The strips are so thin it only takes a couple of minutes to cook!

Zpaghetti:

3 zucchini, cut into thin strips either with a spiral slicer or using a vegetable peeler
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper

While burgers are broiling, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet and toss in the zucchini, along with minced garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Add a pinch of salt & pepper if desired.  Sauté 2-3 minutes until zucchini is tender.  Serve hot, topped with extra marinara sauce.

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Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Well here we are in the first week of January.  Resolutions abound and I admire all of the chubby joggers and people eating up their veggies like troopers, working hard to meet their goals.  I hope they stick with it.  Some years I join in with the efforts.  Admittedly, I make and pursue my own throughout the year.  But this year, I’m not so much doing it by the calendar.  And for me, it’s all about moderation.  I’ll happily eat my fruits and veggies, but sometimes they taste even better with a pork chop!

These are one of my favorite fall/winter pork recipes.  Sweet, savory, but healthy too!  It was perfect with a generous serving of roasted root vegetables and salad.

Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Apple-Baked Pork Chops

Pork chops
Sliced apples
Cinnamon (about 1/4 tsp. per chop)
Brown sugar (about 1/2 tsp. per chop)
Fresh sage, minced (or you can use dried if you prefer)
Salt & pepper
Butter

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Place pork chops on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and some minced sage.

I don't usually measure the spices, just sprinkle to your heart's content.

I don’t usually measure the spices, just sprinkle to your heart’s content.

Peel and slice apples and cover the surface of each chop with apples.  Top with a pinch of cinnamon and brown sugar and a small pat of butter.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until apples are tender and browned and chops are done in the middle.  Slice into one to check or use a meat thermometer – internal temp should be at least 145˚.

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