Cod with Tomato & Onion and Mashed Acorn Squash

Cod with tomatoes and onions accompanied by mashed acorn squash

Cod with tomato and onion accompanied by mashed acorn squash

As I said recently, I only have time for about one post a month lately, so lets get July out of the way.

I picked up some frozen cod fillets at Trader Joe’s and was in the mood for a seafood dish with tomatoes, so came up with this tasty main and side dish.  The acorn squash has been on the countertop for months – perhaps since wintertime, so it was time to use it… it’s nearly the fourth of July!

Ingredients (to serve 2) for the cod:

  • cod pieces, ~1 pound, e.g., Alaskan cod pieces, thawed from frozen
  • diced tomatoes, 1 can, e.g., Hunt’s natural fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, I used a small red onion cut top to bottom into strips
  • garlic, ~4 cloves, sliced thinly or minced
  • olive oil, a couple tablespoons
  • fennel seed, ~1 tablespoon, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cayenne powder, ~1/8 teaspoon, or to taste

Ingredients for mashed acorn squash:

  • acorn squash, 2 medium, halved, seeds and veins removed
  • red potatoes, ~8 small
  • olive oil or butter
  • dijon mustard, ~1 teaspoon, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

First, to prepare the squash, bake the squash halves, open side down, with the whole red potatoes in a baking dish with about 1/4 inch of water, for about 50 minutes at 375° F until potatoes are tender.

While the squash is baking – perhaps 1/2 hour in – prepare the cod, by first sautéing the onion strips in olive oil, when partially cooked, add the cod pieces.  Once the cod and onions are nearly cooked, add the can of diced tomatoes undrained, garlic, and fennel seed and mix carefully, so as not to break up the cod pieces too much. Reduce to a simmer, and add the spices to taste, simmering a while, perhaps until the fennel seeds soften a bit.

Alaskan cod with tomatoes and onion

Alaskan cod with tomato and onion

When the acorn squash is done baking, allow it to cool a bit and scoop it out and place  in a bowl with the whole unpeeled potatoes and mash, e.g., with a potato masher, adding olive oil sparingly to develop the desired consistency and flavor. Flavor with mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

baked acorn squash and red potatoes

baked acorn squash and red potatoes

To serve, place roughly equal amounts of both on a plate and top mashed acorn squash with paprika, e.g., I used smoked paprika.

Cod with tomatoes and onions, accompanied by mashed acorn squash

Cod with tomato and onion, accompanied by mashed acorn squash

This was a nice dish that I’d  make again – both the fish and/or the mashed squash.  I didn’t consult any recipes this time, but I see there are a number of similar cod dishes on web sites, often baked.

I hope you enjoy it or perhaps it inspires you to create something with flavors you love… here I think the fennel and mustard made it great, but those are amongst my favorites!

Whitefish with Roasted Fennel and Potato

Pangasius fillet with roasted fennel and potatoes and fresh cilantro yogurt sauce

Pangasius fillet with roasted fennel and potatoes and fresh cilantro yogurt sauce

I love the flavor of fennel, both in seed form and as whole fresh fennel bulb, so I just recently bought some of this springtime favorite at the grocery store. I’ve also started experimenting with eating the stalks and fronds (that many recipes would have you discard or save for soup stock), so I put together a dinner that used the whole thing.

It seemed fennel and whitefish would go quite nicely together, and I found a couple recipes online (linked below) that I used as a guide. I’ve been using pangasius lately (from frozen), for the same reason everyone else is, it’s inexpensive, farm-raised, and tasty.

First, I roughly cut fennel bulb and red potatoes. I also chopped the fennel stalks and fronds, but left them aside, since they don’t need so much time in the oven. I coated a baking pan with olive oil, and tossed the potato and fennel, salt and peppered them, to prepare them for a 425° F oven.

Fennel bulb and red potatoes prepared for oven roasting

Fennel bulb and red potatoes prepared for oven roasting

Roast the vegetables (uncovered), for perhaps 40 minutes, initially; every 10-15 minutes, toss them so they cook and brown evenly.

While roasting, prepare a yogurt sauce to accompany the fish. I made a sauce from homemade yogurt, chopped cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne powder.

When the potatoes are somewhat tender, mix in the chopped fennel stalks and fronds, and continue cooking for perhaps 15 minutes.

Oven roasted fennel and red potatoes

Oven roasted fennel and red potatoes

When the potatoes are pretty much done, it’s time to add the fish. Since it’s easy to bake fish in a hot oven as well, I decided to make this a one-pan meal, placing the pangasius fillets atop the partially-roasted vegetables for a final 15-20 minutes of baking.  I spread some mashed garlic on the fillets and seasoned them simply with salt and pepper before placing in the oven.

Pangasius fillets baked atop roasted fennel and potatoes

Pangasius fillets baked atop roasted fennel and potatoes

The dish is done when the fish is cooked through and just be flaked slightly with a fork, but not dry.

I served a single fillet atop the yogurt sauce, with the fennel and potatoes on the side, and some lime slices; wedges would have been more convenient for squeezing on the fish.

Whitefish with fennel, potatoes, and cilantro yogurt sauce

Whitefish with fennel, potatoes, and cilantro yogurt sauce

This was really nice and you can see I made three servings, so I’m happy to have leftovers for tomorrow – and the next day. :)

Here are some recipes you might like, that I consulted for ideas:

Blog Anniversary Excess: the Quesarito!

A homemade quesarito

A homemade quesarito

WordPress just wished me happy anniversary… I’ve been blogging here for about a year. For no particular reason, I’m celebrating with this possible abomination: the quesarito – a humongous burrito made with a quesadilla.

Apparently, this was invented, or likely reinvented, by a Chipotle Mexican Grill customer; I wouldn’t be surprised if it was conceived drunkenly. It has achieved an underground following with accompanying rumors of its legitimacy, as was pointed out last week by a friend who posted this article: “The Mystery Behind Chipotle’s Secret 1,500-calorie Super Burrito“. Anyway, I’m not a regular customer, so I thought, “Why not just make this at home?” I’m pretty sure that my vegetarian version is trimmed down from their 1,500 calories, but perhaps not by much. The two 10-inch tortillas, alone, contribute 180 calories each, yet these are smaller than what Chipotle uses.

To start, I sautéed green pepper, red pepper, and red onion pieces in a bit of oil. Then I added a can of rinsed black beans, and stirred in a couple teaspoons of adobo seasoning and a touch of salt. The amount shown here is plenty for two burritos.

Sautéing vegetable filling and warming tortillas

Sautéing vegetable filling and warming tortillas

Meanwhile, I made a simple “double” quesadilla from two large flour tortillas, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and dried cilantro leaf. I say “double,” because I typically make a quesadilla with just one tortilla, folded in half over the fillings.

Be sure not to make it too crispy, so that it won’t crack when wrapping the burrito.

Making the cheese quesadilla

Making the cheese quesadilla

Additional ingredients included: finely sliced romaine lettuce, ripe avocado, sour cream, Penzey’s Adobo seasoning, and Trader Joe’s awesome Jalapeno Pepper Hot Sauce.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Once the quesadilla was ready, the filling ingredients are piled on.

Quesarito in progress

Quesarito in progress

Because this wrapping tests the structural limits of the tortillas, I also wrapped it in foil, just like, umm, the finest restaurants do.

That's a wrap

That’s a wrap

That’s it: if you followed along, you’ve probably just made something you should be ashamed of, unless it’s your meal for the whole day.

Quesarito

Que sera sera: Quesarito

So, now the next time you need to add 400+ calories to your burrito, you know exactly what to do. :)

Here is the article that inspired this concoction:

P.S. If you’re a fan of stuffing things inside other things, you might like my “walking enchilada” as well: an enchilada stuffed in a breakfast burrito.

The Walking Enchilada

The Walking Enchilada

Perhaps next year, I’ll do a Tex-Mex turducken: an enchilada inside a burrito, inside a quesadilla… because that just totally makes sense.

A Very Yellow Breakfast: Omelette and Cornbread

A Sharp Cheddar and Kyopolou Omelette with Cornbread

A Sharp Cheddar and Kyopolou Omelette with Cornbread

Maybe it’s just the winter weather, but I was definitely in the mood for something bright for breakfast, and yellow is my favorite color, so I decided on cornbread and eggs. Actually, that’s about all I had left in the house… so more than one reason for this meal.

This is merely a two-egg omelette with sharp cheddar cheese and kyopolou. I simply used the prepared Trader Joe’s variety that they call “Red Pepper Spread,” but authentically from Bulgaria. On the side is cornbread, prepared round from Jiffy brand corn muffin mix. (I substituted greek yogurt diluted with a bit of water for milk in the cornbread, since, *surprise*, I was out of milk.)

A Sharp Cheddar and Kyopolou Omelette with Cornbread

A Sharp Cheddar and Kyopolou Omelette with Cornbread

The omelette was served with a sprinkle of dried oregano and it made for a cheery, basic breakfast… it’s practially sunshine on a plate and maybe great fuel for wintertime Coldplay. :)

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

I should really come up with names for my dishes well before I go to post them. Tonight I spent half an hour on this one, only to arrive at “Thai-inspired Peanutty Rice Noodles with Catfish, Okra, Acorn Squash, and Onions,” … way too long.

This may seem like an asian-creole fusion dish, but it’s not since both okra and this catfish (I used Pangasius) are common to asian cooking.  Anyway, the dish is a rather nice mix of catfish, vegetables, and rice stick noodles (banh pho) with a sweet sauce including acorn squash, coconut cream, and peanut butter.

I apologize for the horrible state of the following “recipe,” but I didn’t measure anything and I’m apparently in a narrative mood; you’re probably not going to make this anyway. (That there is what’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”)

First I soaked dried banh pho noodles in water to soften them. Then I baked a small acorn squash, halved with “guts” removed placed in shallow water in a baking dish, for 40 minutes in a 375° F oven.

Meanwhile, I prepared the rest of the sauce: a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, peanut butter, and coconut cream. When the acorn squash was cooked, I scooped it from the skin and mixed it completely into the sauce with a wisk.

In a large pan with canola oil, I fried the catfish (thawed from frozen) and onion strips (thinly cut from half a large yellow onion). Once those were mostly cooked, I reduced the heat, added sliced okra (defrosted from frozen) and fresh thai bird peppers. Once the vegetables were warmed, I added the sauce (~2 cups total) and added the drained noodles to the pan, stirred carefully, and simmered until desired consistency.

I served the dish topped with cilantro leaf and chili garlic sauce.

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

I couldn’t find any precedent for this dish in my cursory search for Internet recipes.
Many thai dishes have catfish and others have noodles, but apparently the two don’t usually touch. If you’re familiar with one, please let me know. :)

Black Bean Chimichangas

Black Bean Chimichanga

Black Bean Chimichanga

Tonight I tackled that decadent Tex-Mex favorite: chimichangas!

I don’t eat chimichangas often; they’re delicious but don’t seem a particularly healthy choice. In fact, I can only remember ordering them once in recent years. One of my favorite local mexican restaurants makes them small, and fries them in some sort of basket/rack that pinches them to hold them closed, and serves them up 3 at a time. Here, I decided to make large (single-serving), vegetarian chimichanagas instead.

Ingredients (for 3 servings):

  • flour tortillas, e.g., 3 large, 10-inch
  • black beans, 1 can
  • sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, ~1 cup
  • bell pepper, 1 large, seeded, deveined, and finely diced
  • jalapeno pepper, 2, finely diced
  • garlic, 3 cloves, minced
  • cumin powder, ~1 t. or to taste
  • mexican oregano, ~1 t. or to taste
  • epazote, ~1 t. or to taste
  • canola oil (for frying)
  • all-purpose flour, ~1 T., to mix into a paste with water

Variation, add the following to the filling (to approximately double it):

  • whole kernel sweet corn, e.g., ~2/3 cup, from frozen
  • 8-10 oz. chopped fresh white button mushroom
Chimichanga filling ingredients

Chimichanga filling ingredients

To prepare, first sauté the peppers and garlic in canola oil in a small sauce pan.

Next, add the black beans, stir in the cumin and other spices, reduce heat and simmer. (I used the liquid from the can.)

Preparing the filling

Preparing the filling

When the liquid has reasonably reduced, stir in the shredded cheese and remove the filling from heat.

Adding cheese

Adding cheese

Prepare a couple tablespoons of paste  by combining flour and water; this will be used to “glue” the chimichangas closed while frying. (I recently learned this trick from the television program “America’s Test Kitchen.”)

Microwave the tortillas (perhaps 1.5 minutes on high) so that they are supple, and place some of the filling in the center, wrapping each one at a time.

Apply the flour-based glue to the edges of the tortilla when wrapping for deep-frying.

Wrapping and "glueing" the chimichangas

Wrapping and “glueing” the chimichangas

Heat canola oil in a pan (to ~300° F), perhaps 1/2 to 2/3″ deep, i.e., just enough so about 1/2 the thickness of the chimichanga is in the oil when they’re all placed in the pan simultaneously. You can test that the oil is at a frying temperature by seeing that it bubbles when a small piece of tortilla is inserted.

Place the chimichangas carefully into the oil, seam-side down first.

Deep-frying chimichangas, one side at a time

Deep-frying chimichangas, one side at a time

After 2-3 minutes, check to see if the undersides are browned. Turn the chimichangas over, when they’re nicely browned on the bottoms.

Flipping and frying the other side

Flipping and frying the other side

Carefully remove the chimichangas when the tops are attractively browned and place them on a rack with paper towels and allow them to cool slightly while excess oil drains from them.

I served my chimichanga with a simple salad of chopped lettuce, tomato, and a lime wedge, and accompanied it with sour cream.

Chimichanga filled with black beans, peppers, and cheese

Chimichanga filled with black beans, peppers, and cheese

All in all, these chimichangas were as tasty as those typically found in restaurants, and surprisingly easy to prepare; give them a try sometime when you’re in the mood to spoil yourself!

To serve leftover chimichangas (from the refrigerator): First, microwave each chimichanga on high, for perhaps 1 minute 30 seconds. Then bake the chimichanga, optionally covered with sauce and/or cheese, in a toaster oven or conventional oven at 350-400° F for a couple minutes; this will make them wonderfully crispy as when served fresh.

Here’s the Cook’s Country / America’s Test Kitchen TV video recipe that suggested using the flour/water paste to “glue” chimichangas for frying:

Vegetable Frittata

Vegetable frittata and romaine lettuce with oil and vinegar.

Vegetable frittata and romaine lettuce with oil and vinegar

I’m not a big fan of just eggs for breakfast – one is usually enough for me, and must be accompanied by more interesting textures. But, of course, eggs are inexpensive and nutritious, so I decided to try a frittata again. I had some fennel stalks around, and was curious to try them (since I love the flavor), after having used the milder fennel bulb for fennel au gratin at Christmastime and not wanting to merely discard the green stalks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 T. canola oil
  • 3 small to medium red potatues, cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 fennel stalk, finely sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 T. basil pesto
  • white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • scallion, white portion cut finely, greens coarsely
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, whisked with milk
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • swiss cheese, shredded

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425° F.
In an oven safe skillet, over medium low heat, sauté potato and fennel with salt and pepper until potato is somewhat tender. Add white portion of scallions and mushrooms, and lighly sauté. Stir pesto into vegetables and immediately pour egg mixture into skillet evenly over sautéed ingredients.  Cook for a few minutes, until egg mixture begins to set and top with tomatoes, shredded cheese, and scallion greens. Place skillet in oven for 7-15 minutes, until egg appears firm on top and is cooked through.

Vegetable frittata

Vegetable frittata

I served frittata wedges with chopped romaine lettuce and a dressing of simply olive oil and red wine vinegar. This one came out nicely, and the bit of fennel stalk worked nicely to flavor the potatoes.

Vegetable Biryani and Raita

Vegetable biryani and raita

Vegetable biryani and raita

I like Indian and Pakistani vegetarian dishes and have been preparing more of them lately so that I can share them with vegetarian (and gluten-free) friends; I’d not made biryani before, so here’s my first go at it.

This is like my Vegetable Pulao recipe, but with slightly different spices and vegetables.
I made a large amount, perhaps 8 servings.

Ingredients for the rice:

  • basmati rice (2 cups, rinsed and soaked for about 30 minutes, and drained)
  • ghee (~2 T., alternatively substitute canola oil)
  • turmeric (~1 T.)
  • bay leaves (a few)
  • coriander seed (~1 t.)
  • cumin seed (~1 t.)
  • cardamom (~6 pods)
  • cinnamon (1 stick, broken in half)
  • water (4 cups; I mistakenly used 8, having not carefully read the recipe below that par-boiled the rice in 10 cups, then drained and discarded the water, so I needed to bake the biryani to remove excess moisture)

Preparation: In a large pot, melt the ghee, add the spices, cook for a couple mins over medium heat; add the rice to brown slightly, and then add the water, stir and cook rice as usual, covered over low heat.

Ingredients for the vegetable and masala:

  • canola oil (~2 T.)
  • sweet onion (1/2 medum, sliced thinly lengthwise)
  • fresh green beans (1/2-2/3 pound, ends trimmed and cut to 1 inch lengths)
  • carrot (2 large, diced)
  • whole cashews (~1/2 cup)
  • slivered almonds (~1/3 cup)
  • coriander seed (~1 T.)
  • cumin seed (~1.5 t.)
  • garlic paste (~1 T.)
  • fresh ginger (~2 thumbs, finely minced)
  • fresh habanero pepper (1 pepper, seeded, deveined, and finely minced)
  • water (1/2 cup)
  • fresh roma tomatoes (4, puréed with the aforementioned 1/2 cup water)

Preparation: While the rice is cooking, prepare the following in oil (in an oven-safe pan if possible) over medium heat, in this order, progressively: carrot, onion, nuts, spices, garlic, ginger, habanero, green beans, stirring regularly.  When those vegetables are mostly tender, add tomato/water purée and reduce until carrot is tender.
When rice is done, stir tenderly into the vegetable mixture, e.g., with a bowl scraper.

Once I did this, the dish was still too moist, so I baked it at 350° F for 20-30 mins to reduce moisture and create a slightly dry consistency on the exterior.

Ingredients for the raita:

  • greek yogurt (16 oz.)
  • garam masala (~1 1/2 t.)
  • cucumber (1, peeled and cut to small pieces)
  • tomato (~1/3 cup finley diced)
  • carrot (1 small, julienned)
  • water (~1/2 cup, to desired consistency)
  • salt (to taste)

Preparation: before or during the preparation of rice and vegetables, mix thoroughly and let sit.

Serve the biryani with the raita on the side.

Vegetable biryani

Vegetable biryani

My desi housemate visiting from Bangalore approved of it; that’s a pretty good measure.
I asked him not to say anything if he didn’t care for it. :)

This was my first attempt, so if you have suggestions, please let me know.
The baking may be unnecessary if the water amount was corrected (e.g.., 2 cups water per cup of basmati rice), but I like the slightly crispy texture and browning it adds to the biryani.
Also, the habanero spiciness was nearly undetectable; if you like spicy foods, I’d use 2 or 3 habaneros for this amount of rice.

Here are the recipes I consulted for ideas:

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers: bacon or vegetarian with epazote.

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers: bacon or vegetarian with epazote

To keep New Year’s Eve hot, I prepared spicy poppers: some with the “traditional” jalapeno and some with the more adventurous habanero.

These may seem pretty straightforward to prepare (just take a bit of time), but I’ll give a few suggestions and tips, after having made them a few times.

Ingredients

Popper ingredients

Ingredients:

  • fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and deveined
  • fresh habanero peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and deveined
  • cream cheese, softened to near room temperature
  • bacon, strips cut to half length
  • epazote, dried & crushed
Halve, seed, and devein t

Halve, seed, and devein the peppers.

When preparing these on a broiler pan under the broiler, wrap the top of the pan in aluminum foil and cut slits in the foil (where the slits in the pan are) so that bacon grease will drain. Also, pour a half cup of water into the bottom of the pan to keep the drained fat from burning and be careful to not tip the pan.

DSC06972

Add water to broiler pan to keep drained fat from burning.

Carefully fill the pepper halves with cream cheese, optionally wrap with bacon (tucking one end underneath, perhaps with the help of a knife tip, so they stay wrapped), and place them cheese-side down (at first) on the broiler pan.

Pepper halves filled with cream cheese

Pepper halves filled with cream cheese

Place them under the broiler and cook the bottom side of the poppers before the cheese melts.

Cook the bottom sides first so the cheese doesn't melt out.

Cook the bottom sides first so the cheese doesn’t melt out.

Once the bottoms are done, flip them upright with tongs and complete the cooking. I sprinkled the vegetarian poppers (without bacon) with epazote for a extra dash of flavor before it gives way to the heat.

Flip the peppers with tongs and complete the cooking under the broiler.

Flip the peppers with tongs and complete the cooking under the broiler.

Now you have a spicy appetizer for your parties, and one that intially tastes of cheese and bacon or spice, then after 20-30 seconds the heat kicks in nicely. :)

Vegetarian habanero and jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and epazote.

Vegetarian habanero and jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and epazote.

Even though some people that eat these poppers might think you’re trying to kill them, you’ll know you really love them.

Love people.Cook them tasty food.

Love people.
Cook them tasty food.

Happy new year to you all! Love people and cook them tasty food.

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup

Here’s a zippy soup for a rainy autumn day, which is what we have here today.
It’s sweet, from butternut squash, and definitely spicy, from poblano pepper.

Ingredients (to make about 2 quarts of soup):

  • 1/2 large butternut squash, seeds removed, peeled, and cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into large pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers (I used one large bell pepper and one smaller ripe pepper of unknown variety)
  • 2 green poblano peppers
  • 4 medium to large scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil, ~1/3 cup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water, ~2 cups (saved from boiled squash and carrots)

Preparation:

First, boil the cubed squash and carrot until quite tender.

Boiled butternut squash and carrot

While the squash is boiling, roast peppers and onions under the broiler. Turn and move while roasting to blister pepper skin evenly and to avoid burning scallions.
Peel, core, and remove seeds from the peppers, and roughly chop the scallions.

Roasted red bell peppers, poblano peppers, and scallions

Dry-roast two cloves of garlic until tender, then peel and roughly chop.

Dry roasting garlic cloves

Lastly, using a food processor and/or blender, purée all the ingredients while adjusting the thickness with the water; add olive oil, salt, and pepper to your taste.

I used both a food processor and traditional blender, in two rounds each with about half the ingredients because the quantity of soup exceeded the capacity of my blender.

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup, topped with thyme and toasted squash seeds

Serve the soup topped with dried or fresh thyme leaves and toasted squash seeds, perhaps accompanied by a piece of sourdough toast.

(I toasted the lightly oiled seeds with salt, pepper, and paprika on a baking sheet in a 250° F oven.)

I hope you enjoy this blended vegan soup – it’s perfect for cool fall days!

It was inspired by this recipe: