Sunday, August 31, 2008

Red Snapper with Garlic Red Potatoes and French Green Beans

My brother Brad and I like to order a shot called a Red Snapper when we go to 6th street. I’m having trouble remembering what all is in it: crown royal, cranberry juice and some other stuff. Whatever it is, the Red Snapper shot remains one of my favorites because it is so yummy and easy. Up until now, this shot at the bar was my only interaction with red snapper until I went to the Austin Farmers Market last Saturday and decided to be daring and purchase a filet of red snapper fresh from Freeport, TX.

After doing some online research I learned that red snapper is a popular choice for cooks because of its white color and sweet mild flavor. This versatile fish can be paired with a variety of flavors and sauces to go with whatever “style” of dish you want. Cajun, Italian, Mexican “ole.” Fish in general is a great choice for those wanting to eat healthy. It’s low in fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids.

The fisherman tried to sell me the whole fish, saying it’s easy to grill a whole fish and the skin helps protect the meat and keeps it moist. I believe he even said there were not bones to pick out either. That would have been a huge leap for me, I felt the filet of fish was daring enough. When I asked him how to cook the filet he said it’s easy to make, and described how I should use foil to make a boat for the fish, season with salt and pepper and then fill the boat with some olive oil. He said if I put this on the grill for 8-10 minutes that I could use a spatula and lift the meat right off the skin.

This was great news since I have a phobia of fish and its skin, scales, bones. The last time I had to remove the skin from a fish I ended up crying in the kitchen and Jim had to do the dirty work for me. I’m completely grossed out by fish parts. I do like the taste of a white, flaky, buttery fish however; I’m just not able to handle the fish. Lucky for me, Jim was available to “do” the work while I gave instructions from behind him. He first rinsed the fish with water and patted dry. I put a good ½ cup of olive oil in a baking dish first and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Jim placed the fish, skin side up in the dish and we let it marinade this way for an hour or so.

While the fish was marinating I took some small red potatoes and quartered them and placed in small baking dish.

Now for the spices. I sprinkled the potatoes with cracked rosemary (heavenly).

Next I added healthy dashes of salt and pepper and then melted two tablespoons of parmesan chive butter over the top. These went into a 350 degree oven covered for an hour and then I baked them an additional 15 minutes uncovered. About every 20 minutes I tossed the potatoes around so they would be evenly coated with the special butter and spices.

This is my fish fryer that I’ve never used, but decided to give it a shot since this way I wouldn’t have to touch the fish while it cooks. What I didn’t do, but would recommend is to spray the foil on the grill with non-stick spray first.

Next, my brave boyfriend Jim puts the oiled snapper in my grill pan for me.

I cooked meat side down in a medium hot grill (sorry I didn’t look at the temperature. I simply turned the grill on high and let it heat up for 20 minutes and then turned the flames down a bit to what I would call medium) After about five minutes, I used the handy dandy fish fryer basket and flipped the fish so it was skin side down and meat side up. I melted a tablespoon of the parmesan chive butter (yes, I’m putting it on everything these days) and with a basting brush I coated the flesh with this lovely concoction.

THEN, because you know my love for garlic I spread two chopped cloves of garlic over the fish and closed the lid of the grill to let it cook for another five minutes. Oh my goodness! You wouldn’t believe the gourmet flavors and scents hovering in my backyard. The dogs were going crazy, so curious as to what was going on. Maybe they felt my excitement as I poured myself a glass of wine and yelled from the kitchen, “Jim, I am soooo good!”

I flipped the fish one more time after that and cooked for maybe five minutes to get the parmesan and garlic crust on the meat. When pricked with a fork the fish flaked beautifully and was opaque throughout. It was done, my masterpiece complete.

Goodness gracious!

I heated some french green beans and served it alongside the grilled red snapper and rosemary garlic potatoes.

The fish was delicious, buttery and juicy with the right amount of seasoning as to not overpower the simplicity and cleanness of the mild and sweet fish. I swear, that parmesan chive butter is amazing.

We drank a J. Lohr cab from Paso Robles with this meal. This winery has a tasting room in San Jose where Jim and I are spending our Labor Day Weekend, so when I saw it on sale for $12 I definitely wanted to give it a shot as a prelude to our wine weekend adventure.

I have to say that at first sip I said, “It’s okay” but the more it opened up in my glass the juicier and smoother it got. This leveled out to be a great rounded dinner wine. I might suggest a buttery chardonnay with a fish dish, especially this one with its many layers of garlic, rosemary and buter flavor – but I wanted to start getting us in the mood by drinking something from San Jose.

We are on our flight now to San Jose as I type this. After a two hour delay, we are finally in the air. Here is a classic picture of Jim sleeping in the terminal while we wait and wait and wait. Good thing he doesn’t read this blog!

Once on our flight, we were anxious to use my southwest drink tickets to take the edge off the delay. Jim and I both ordered a cran-apple with vodka. I don’t know where the miscommunication was, but this is what we ended up with.

You should have seen the look on the faces from those around us. She didn’t even take my drink tickets, I think it was her way of apologizing for the delayed flight.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dog Food

Four years ago a friend of mine invited me over to help her make homemade dog food. I was hooked instantly and have been making variations of this recipe ever since.

If you’ve ever thought about making your own dog food, let me tell you that it isn’t as time consuming or expensive as you may think. The chef in me not only enjoys preparing their food but I have the secure feeling of knowing the ingredients I’m feeding them. The book I reference is by Dr. Pitcairn’s called the Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

The recipe I follow is for doggie oats, and I double the original recipe so it lasts an entire month. This makes so much at one time I actually mix it in the sink, then pack it into freezer containers, using one container per week.

First, you need to mix your Healthy Powder. This rich mixture of nutrients is used in all the recipes by Dr. Pitcairn. The recipes by themselves provide necessary protein, fat and carbs, but to make sure your dog is getting the adequate vitamins and minerals they need, we add this health powder – which all of the ingredients can be found at most natural food stores like Central Market and Whole Foods or your local herb store. If you just wanted to blend this health powder together and add it to your dog’s commercial dog food, use 1 to 2 teaspoons per day for small dogs, 2 to 3 teaspoons per day for large dogs.

Healthy Powder
2 cups nutritional or brewer’s yeast
1 cup lecithin granules
¾ cup kelp powder
4 tablespoons bone meal powder
1,000 milligrams vitamin C (ground) or ¼ teaspoon sodium ascorbate

Measure all these ingredients together in a 1-quart container and refrigerate.

Now for the dog food! When I begin making this each month my two dogs Madeline and Cole stand at my feet just waiting for me to drop something. They have become accustomed to the sounds, the smells –and know once I get everything mixed to the right consistency, they get to sample the new batch!

These are the ingredients for the doubled Doggie Oats: 10 cups raw oats, 6 lbs ground turkey, ½ cup vegetable oil, lots of raw fruits and vegetables, ¾ cup health powder, 1 tablespoon of bone meal powder, 800 IU vitamin E, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 cloves garlic. For veggies I always add a small bag of carrots, zucchini and squash are great as well as apples. Lately I’ve been adding a bag of carrots which is important for vitamin A, a zucchini or two and then two or three cans of veg-all.

Start by putting all the oats in a big bowl and covering it with warm/hot water. I used to bring water to a boil and add the oats, but the purpose here is to make it really mushy, it doesn’t have to be cooked to perfection. Add a lot of water and let it sit to turn to mush. Oats are a good choice of grain for pets. Not only are oats quick-cooking, but they contain more protein per calorie than any other common grain. Keep in mind that it’s best to add some variety by substituting other grains at times. I’ve used rice and lintels in the past.

Defrost your meat if you have purchased the $1 logs of frozen turkey. Mix it up every now and then, use half ground chicken, half turkey, throw in some ground beef if you have it. If I find a container of chicken liver, I throw that into the cuisinart and puree before adding it to the ground meat mixture. Note that the recipe calls for raw meat and many vets don’t see anything wrong with a raw diet for dogs. Madeline and Cole have been on this raw diet for years until a recent vet visit changed my mind. Madeline has a few medical issues which I need to pay special attention to. To be safe and feed her the cleanest, healthiest food possible I’ve begun to cook the meat before adding to the mixture. I don’t want to take any chances with her. Another excellent point my vet brought up is if your dog has an accident in the house or even scoots their bottom across your carpet, you could have fecal matter in the house and if the dog ate raw meat and it was infected, you could have a serious problem if you had kiddos crawling around on the floor – or really for our own adult safety. Have I convinced you to cook the meat yet?

Back to the recipe: Once your oats are soggy, throw that in with the meat. Now you need to start pureeing all your fruits and vegetables. Cut everything up in small pieces, remove the stems, seeds and add in batches to your cuisinart.

Measure out the other ingredients and add it to your sink. Vegetable oil, health powder, bone meal, vitamin E, soy sauce, garlic.

Now is the gross part when you dig in with your hands and mix it up really good. You want this really moist, so if you need to add water to make it like thin oatmeal, do so. I don’t want the consistency to be soupy, but thin oatmeal is the best analogy I can come up with.

My dogs are both under 15 lbs, so they are fed ¼ cup each in the morning and ¼ each at night. This totals one cup of food per day consumed by both dogs. Back in the day, I would scoop exactly one cup of food into a ziplock bag, flatten the bag, seal, and put in freezer. I would have 30-40 little bags of food at the beginning of every month, and pull one out every night to defrost on the counter, then feed my dogs the next day from that bag. Over time, this process got tedious and wasteful of all those ziplock bags. So, my new method which I’ve used for eight months now is to scoop seven cups of food into a ziplock container. This gives me 4 or five containers of food that each lasts me a week. It has worked out much better for me.

What really gives me great joy is to watch my dogs excitement as I pull out the tub of dog food in the morning. Cole starts whining and Madeline stands on her back legs and begs for me to feed her. They gobble their food up every time, which gives me a great feeling.

Cole gobbeled his "sample" and then looks up at me asking for more. My pumpkin is too cute!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Austin Farmers Market

Last Saturday I went to the Austin Farmers Market with my friend Allyson (pictured above with me at a happy hour last year.) No, we aren't becoming hippies, but the curiosity of what would be there was killing me. They have this every Saturday downtown and on Wednesday evenings you can find them at The Triangle (for you locals).

The first thing we grabbed were the most delicious quiche. Mine was caramelized onion and blue cheese. The crust was perfectly flaky and the egg mixture moist and flavorful with the perfect browning on top. Allyson had the spinach and feta quiche. Both were to die for.

An Austin bakery shows his beautiful loaves in wicker baskets. The round sour dough loaf was priced at $30.

I couldn’t pass on this red snapper from the gulf of mexico. I’m still learning to cook fish, and this looked like a beautiful fish to try. I bought a large filet (enough for three people…or you could say dinner for Jim and I and then lunch for Jim the next day.)

The colors of the produce were magnificent. These eggplants were so purple, and the listada di gandia variety was so unique (to me at least) I had to photograph it.

We saw everything from garlic to tomatoes and lamb to bison, fresh milk, watermelons, and even cactus.

When the sun started to peek through the clouds I looked for something cold and returned to this hibiscus mint tea stand. A boy who was probably in 5th grade took our orders. He scooped the ice into my cup and filled with the premixed hibiscus mint tea, then took his little fingers and plucked a few mint leaves of a potted plant in the stand and dropped them on top of my tea. I wish I had a picture of the little boy he was so freaking precious. The tea was really tasty too!

I purchased this zephyr squash, couldn’t pass up the color.

Local goat cheese…oh my. I purchased the cilantro/jalapeno, not sure how I’m going to eat it yet. Probably slathered on a cracker. Yum!

Allyson picked up some really nice produce at the farmer’s market and I’ve asked her to document how she used them. So here she is, my favorite guest blogger Allyson.

At the farmer's market, I bought some beautiful yellow pear tomatoes, feta cheese marinated in olive oil with basil and tomatoes, and I also purchased fresh basil. These ingredients were perfect for a fresh dinner salad on Saturday night.

The Ingredients: Mixed greens (from a bag!), the yellow pear tomatoes (some sliced in half, some whole), the marinated feta cheese, deli turkey that I tore into the salad, Kraft light balsamic vinaigrette dressing, freshly ground pepper.

YUM! If I closed my eyes and drown out the sounds of the Olympics and the monsoon outside, I felt like I was in the Mediterranean....

To go with our dinner, I made the Pioneer Woman's cheese muffins. Well, I guess they are not hers, someone else submitted them for her most recent contest, but her web site is where I found this recipe. I had to cook them longer than the recipe said -- 30 minutes? I think something is wrong with my oven...
I thought these were good, and my husband agreed. Probably would have been better with full-fat cheese (I used low-fat), and I think they needed more salt. But that didn't stop me from eating 3 in a row...and 2 more the next day...

Coming up next in Allyson’s Adventures in Baking…Peanut Butter cookies and homemade bread!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chicken Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas

I’ve already made the Verde Salsa, the plan is to combine this with sour cream to make these chicken enchiladas a bit differently than I usually make them. In a blender of cuisinart, mix tomatillo salsa (2.5 cups) with sour cream. Then heat over low heat on the stove.
Start with three boneless skinless chicken breasts and boil in water that has been seasoned with salt, onion and garlic powder. Once cooked through, shred the chicken with a fork.

Saute chopped onion over low heat with some olive oil, add some garlic and continue to cook until onion is translucent.

Add a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon of the vinegar from the pickled jalapeno jar. Add a cup of the verde/sour cream mixture and fold in the shredded chicken.

Heat 3/4 cup canola oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, dip one corn tortilla in the oil for a second or two until it becomes soft. Drain the oil and place the tortilla on a plate. Pat the tortilla with a paper towel to absorb excess oil if you wish.

The secret to great tasting enchiladas is dipping the tortillas in hot oil to soften them.

Set up your assembly line. Tortillas, chicken mixture, shredded Mexican cheese. Spread half a cup of verde/sour cream mixture in bottom of casserole pan. Stuff a spoonful of chicken and a pinch of cheese in each tortilla, place seam side down in casserole dish. Continue making the rest of the enchiladas in the same way. Generously cover the enchiladas with the rest of the verde/sour cream sauce.
Sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over the top.

Heat in a 400 degree oven until sauce and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 10 to 20 minutes.