Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Here I am! Here I am! Oh, wait, Anna has done such a good job maintaining the blog, no (too tame for the wonderful stuff I've been reading about her culinary adventures) - taking the blog further - that it may take me a while to get back into the swing of things... But, I feel the best place to start is with a Sunday night dinner...
The primary reason for my extensive hiatus was moving - mostly it was caused by the subsequent loss of my digital camera cord, because really, who wants to read posts without pictures? But, I'm always up for an excuse to feast, so to celebrate my new kitchen (diswasher! disposal!), my new porch (grill!) and my new roommates (Claudia! Lisa! Emma!) I decided the best summer fiesta would be GRILLED FISH TACOS! (ok, now I'll lay off the exclamation points - I swear)
So, fish tacos, as I am used to them in sunny Southern CA, usually consist of a breaded, fried filet of white fish, green cabbage, pico de gallo and sour cream all on a corn tortilla. The thing about them that I like the least is the fried... every once in a while I come across a grilled fish taco and it is always such a treat - more it's own entity then just leftover fish 'n chips slopped into a tortilla. So, after poking around on the internet and much heated conversation with CA friends and family, I decided on Tequila-Lime marinated tilapia for the fish, slight variations on the condiments, rice, beans and guacamole for the celebration menu:

The best part of the evening was introducing old friends to new ones and being able to take the time to learn excellent grilling techniques from new roommate Lisa:

After charring the tortillas over the gas flame and grilling the fish to moist, flaky goodness (in a marinade most referred to as an alternatively tasty margarita), tacos were built up with shredded red cabbage, farmers cheese, chopped cilantro, creme freche thinned with light cream and spiced with cumin and cayenne, charred tomatillo salsa (yay Whole Foods!), guacamole and freshly squeezed lime. Some were creative and piled the black beans and rice inside as well. The meal was perfectly capped with fruit salad (thanks, Nadine) and roommate dessert creations, peach cobbler (yumm Claudia) and lemon cheesecake (no words for the tasty goodness, Lisa). In all it was the perfect way to welcome summer and new friends into our new home.

Tequila-Lime Marinated Tilapia (adapted from Epicurious)
- this recipe will work with 1 1/2 lbs. seafood (scallops and shrimp would also be good) as well as chicken

1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 T. fresh lime juice
3 T. tequila
2 T. triple sec
1 large jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
1 1/2 t. lime zest (I just used the zest of one lime)
1 t. chili powder
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. coarse salt

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Let mellow and blend in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before adding to meat or seafood (but can be made up to one day in advance). If using chicken, add to poultry and let marinate for 1-3 hours; if using for seafood, let fish marinate for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then, grill away!

Smokey Black Beans (very adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

1 lb. dried black beans (washed and picked over for stones)
1 package turkey bacon (I think a package is a pound), sliced into small strips
1 green bell pepper, chopped coarsely
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
6 medium cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 t. table salt (or to taste, I added more than this)
12 c. water
(optional: 1-2 T. cornstarch, as needed for thickening)

1. Bring all ingredients to boil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pan, skimming the surface as necessary to get rid of foam and fat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 2 hours until the beans are soft, but not falling apart. Add more water if it reduces to the level of the beans while simmering. When beans are soft, use immersion blender (my favorite) and blend beanpot ingredients thoroughly, leaving some texture of ingredients there to your liking. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour to reduce and thicken the beans further. If, like me, you needed more thickening (I wasn't trying for bean soup in this circumstance, but a thinner version - without the cornstarch - of this would be good as a hearty soup in the winter), whisk in 1-2 T cornstarch until the desired consistency is reached. Serve wtih chopped cilatro, scallions and sour cream (cheese would be good as well).

Everyone I know has their own take on this recipe. Mine came from my mom and is a bit untraditional (we like a little extra creaminess, you'll see), but it's always a hit - 7 avacados worth was gone by the end of this night.

2 ripe avacados (give slightly to the touch when squeezed gently, not collapsing under your fingers - no brown spots when opened)
1/4 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
2-3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely
juice from 1-2 limes (to taste)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Mix all together. I usually mash the avacados together with the yogurt or sour cream first to get the right consistency before adding all the mix-ins. Serve with tortilla chips and margaritas :)

So, I'm back in blogging land, finally. I have so many entries in my head, and, thankfully, off of my camera and on to my iPhoto, so there will be much more to come... Have a great weekend!


Jonathan said...

Damn good cookout, as far as I'm concerned. The marinated tips though are hard to beat, I must say.

Anna said...

The beans were soooo good. Perfect complement to the fish tacos. I was a happy happy girl that night. Thank you, Melissa :)