Brazilian Fish Stew

A few weeks ago, I found myself climbing a mountain. It was foggy and misty when we got to the top, but coming down, the sun had peaked and it was warm. As we started down, the discussion turned to food and dinner because we were both starving. Somehow this luscious fish chowder came up and I couldn’t let it go, despite being tired. It’s been ages since I made it and I knew it would be perfect for dinner despite being a bit of work to fix; nothing fussy, just a few more steps than I normally would take after a long day.

Please note and take my advice; make this on a lazy evening, when you 1. Have plenty of time to relax and cook and aren’t too tired; and 2. Have all the time in the world to spend in the kitchen instead of watching the Tony Awards. I was in and out of the kitchen watching the terrific broadcast with the best opening performance ever (if you are a theater buff and haven’t seen it, you can watch it here). So needless to say when I made this, I was completely distracted toward the end and dinner was really late, even for me–as in closer to 9 p.m.! But regardless, it was delicious, and it’s gluten- and dairy-free, too! Admittedly, this is a rather expensive dish, with two different kinds of seafood plus clam juice , but it makes several meals if you are serving it for two, or it’s perfect for a special meal to make for a summertime dinner party!

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Brazilian Fish Stew
Originally published in the September 2001 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

This recipe calls for sea bass or halibut, but I always substitute a light, white fish, usually cod. 

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 1/2-pound) sea bass or halibut fillet, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup minced green onions (about 1 bunch)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 large)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro, divided
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, green onions, garlic, and bay leaf; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high; add tomato, and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cilantro, clam juice, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

3. Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour pureed vegetable mixture into pan. Repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture. Add coconut milk and red pepper to pureed vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 3 minutes. Add fish mixture; cook 3 minutes or until fish is done. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cilantro.

One Skillet Pasta

DSCN0321A note to all non-cooks or those who think they can’t cook: this recipe requires no cooking skills other than slicing some tomatoes and onions, chopping some garlic, and putting everything in a pan!

A few weeks ago, I stopped by my friend, Richard’s, home on a cold and very wet Saturday afternoon. He had the latest issue of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine (June 2013) and he wanted to cook lunch together. But honestly, there wasn’t much for me to do, he put some pasta, sliced onions, minced garlic, and basil in a skillet, added some water, brought it to a boil, and I stirred it occasionally. It was delicious, and lunch for four on that cold afternoon was perfect, it was warm and filled us all up.

So I decided to go home and recreate this with a few twists of my own. First off, I had three very sad-looking zucchinis that either needed to be eaten that night or tossed, so I sliced them and added them to the pan. I upped the garlic and basil, and added a half-cup of white wine and a parmesan rind that I pulled out of the freezer. If you don’t have that, don’t worry, just top the finished pasta with cheese (I discovered as I was about to serve I didn’t have any). This dish is first off easy, but it’s also a nice blend of the vegetables in a flavorful sauce. On yet another cold and rainy evening, served with a nice green salad, this was a quick meal that is perfect for a weeknight dinner!

DSCN0323One Skillet Pasta

Inspired by the June 2013 recipe “One Pan Pasta” published in Martha Stewart Living.

Serves 4-5 eaters.

¾ of a box of linguine, or 12 ounces
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
A big handful of basil
1 onion, thinly sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
3 small zucchini, sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ½ cups water
½ cup white wine (optional. If you aren’t using the wine, add 4 cups water total)
1 big skillet

To the pan, add the linguine, tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic, zucchini, and olive oil. Add water and wine, if using. Bring to a boil then turn to simmer. Stir occasionally and cook until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes or so. Serve in large bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

I Went to a Garden Party…

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This happy yellow iris was given to me by my friend, Deb, a few years back. It greets me with its bright color every time I come home.

And a couple of weeks ago, I did just that! It was my longtime friend Chris’s birthday. She invited me over to her friend Annie’s house for a garden birthday dinner before heading out to hear music that evening. It was hotter than blazes that day, but we had a spot in the shade with some cool dishes to eat that was just perfect. Small salads that require no cooking and “finger sandwiches” were served alongside sun tea and white wine. It was the perfect dinner, and it got me thinking of garden parties and how much fun they are, mostly for the variety of food!

Annie served these “sandwiches” that were delicious, so of course I had to go home and recreate them. I always am looking for quick ideas for weekday lunches or dinner during the week when I don’t feel like cooking.

I’ve gotten in the habit recently of poaching a couple of boneless chicken breasts on Sunday or Monday for the coming week. This is great, so you have fresh chicken available to add to salads, make chicken salad, or to make these delicious sandwiches. Once the chicken is cooled from baking, I either dice or shred it so it’s ready to go.

I have no idea what to call these, Chicken Rollups? Chicken Cigars? Chicken Finger Sandwiches? Whichever name you select, it doesn’t require a “recipe” per se. Take one tortilla and add some pesto sauce. (My homemade recipe can be found here or you can use store-bought.) Cover it with some shredded chicken and some lettuce. Roll up like a cigar and slice in half. If you’re gluten-free, substituting Boston lettuce leaves for the tortilla shells would be perfect, you might need to use a toothpick to be sure everything stays in place.

As I was making these, I thought some shredded carrot would make a nice addition for some added crunch. Or maybe some nuts? But the pesto has such flavor and the lettuce adds a bit of crunch, you don’t really need to worry about adding anything else if you don’t want to. Serve with a side of fruit or another cool salad. These would be perfect to take along on a picnic, to the beach, or a short hike this summer.

Reminisce we did that evening, as we were with Chris ten years ago when she celebrated another milestone birthday. This year’s party was more intimate, but I admit, more fun. We celebrated until the temperature broke and then made our way home in the cool of the evening.

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It’s Grilling Season!

This was the sky when I was making dinner Sunday night. Pretty incredible, yes?

This was the sky when I was making dinner Sunday night. Pretty incredible, yes?

I don’t know if you’ve been having the late spring heat wave like we had last week, but when it gets to be stifling humid weather, the last thing I want to do is be in front of a hot stove. Dishes get made or at least prepped in the early morning when it’s a little cooler or dinner is just a few simple cold salads. But of course, grilling outdoors is the best way to make dinner in the summer!

We finally got rid of the grill we had for years two summers ago and spent all last summer grill-less. But that’s not going to be the case this year; it won’t be long before we’ll be cooking in the outdoors again! In the meantime, this recipe, a rub plus a glaze for chicken, is terrific even if you cook your meat in the oven!

This recipe, originally from the July 2012 issue of Cooking Light, has you grill this over hickory chips. (You can see the original recipe here.) I’ve tweaked the recipe just a little, but the basic original recipe is still there. For me, this is a weekend dinner; it always seems to take a while to make it, but it’s definitely well worth the extra effort!

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Grilled Chicken Thighs with Ancho-Tequila Glaze
Inspired by the July 2012 Cooking Light recipe

The original recipe is for 12 bone-in skinless chicken thighs, and I’ve made this with both thighs and chicken legs and both ways it’s delicious. Also, if you don’t have a full bottle of tequila in your liquor cabinet, just buy a miniature bottle; that should  roughly be three tablespoons worth.

The Rub
1 tablespoons ancho chili powder (I use regular chili powder)
1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
2-3 finely minced garlic cloves
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
Lots of freshly ground black pepper (1 ½ teaspoons)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
12 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

The Glaze
6 tablespoons amber agave syrup
3 tablespoons tequila
1 ½ tablespoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon butter
The juice of ½ lime
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (less if you don’t want the heat)

1. In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients for the rub except the olive oil. Add the chicken, toss to coat, and add the oil, and mix again. From here, you can pop in the fridge if you’re doing other things, or set aside until the glaze is finished.

2. For the glaze, mix together the ingredients and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally until it is reduced and thick.

3. Place the chicken either on a greased grill rack or a baking pan and brush some glaze to each piece of chicken. Continue to brush each piece of chicken with a bit of glaze every so often until the meat is completely cooked. If you have leftover glaze, you can add a little bit to each piece of chicken before serving.