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Shrimp and Broccoli Lo Mein

21 Mar

I started Friday thinking we’d have Shrimp Pad Thai for dinner. As the day went on, thought, I realized something. I just wasn’t in the mood.

It happens, right? You meal plan and shop and prepare, and then at the end of the day, you’d just about rather eat anything other than what’s on the menu.

The beautiful thing about being a grown-up, of course, is that you then get to decide whether to stick with the plan or move along to something else. I won’t tell you about the night DH and I had ice cream for dinner simply because the wait was too long at our favorite restaurant and  we just could (*ahem*), but there are perks to being taxpaying, crazed adults.

I didn’t want to waste the shrimp I’d defrosted, and I didn’t want to let my green onions to go waste. A quick search found a lo mein recipe that worked, except that it had a bunch of stuff in it that I either didn’t have (red peppers, fresh ginger, and a bunch of other stuff) or people here wouldn’t eat (carrots). So I improvised with what was in the pantry and my freezer. Which is another huge perk to being an adult. It’s playing with your dinner, yes? Playing is fun!

This turned out well. I loved it. DH would have liked it more had the sauce been a bit more subtle, but he’s a subtle sauce kind of guy. The kids had some without comment, which is a victory in my book, and it was even better the second day. That said, I recommend it for a quick meatless meal. I did eat this so fast that I totally forgot to take a photo–mea culpa.

To make it, you’ll need:

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

1/4 cup dark sesame oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped green onions

8 oz shrimp, peeled, tails removed

16 oz broccoli florets (I used frozen)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon grated ginger powder

In a large pot of salted water, boil spaghetti noodles until they’re on the tough side of al dente. Drain.

In a wok or large skittle, cook the onion, garlic, and green onions in the sesame oil over medium-high heat until you start to smell it–two or three minutes. Add shrimp and broccoli (I tossed mine in still frozen) and cook until the shrimp are about done and the veggies are softening a little.

Stir together cornstarch and the broth in a small bowl. Add that mixture to the wok and stir gently until it starts to thicken up, about a minute or two. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients. Once everything’s combined, pour your spaghetti in and stir it all around over the heat, letting the noodles finish cooking in the sauce. Enjoy.

Slow-Cooked Salmon

14 Mar

This is the day I have the most trouble getting out of bed in the entire year. The Monday after spring-forward is brutal. I do a lot of grousing about outdated traditions and stupid ways of doing things and the appalling way we continue on with things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Bring on daylight savings and leave it there, I say.

It’s a good day for an easy dinner, and one that’s comforting as well.

This one’s about as easy as they get, and it’s healthy, which is a fantastic bonus. If you like sushi, you’re going to love this–it’s all about cooking fish low and slow, which gives you a wonderfully fall-apart texture that’s amazingly similar to your favorite nori.

Unlike other slow cooking recipes, this one doesn’t require a special appliance. You’re going to do this in your regular oven. And it’s hard to go wrong with this. The temperature is so low that it’ll be fine if you forget about it for awhile, which is a huge blessing on this particular Monday.

Like some of my other recipes, this one is all about the method. You should season your salmon any way you’d like–lemon pepper, lemon juice, orange juice, honey, lime, barbecue sauce, whatever (I offered a few suggestions here). I use a commercially-prepared Asian salad dressing because that’s my favorite. And, of course, this is great for Lent Fridays or Meatless Mondays, or just healthying up your diet in general. I usually microwave-steam some asparagus or green beans, and serve it with that and rice or potatoes.

Sushi lovers, rejoice. And try this. You’ll need:

Salmon filets, one per person

Seasoning of your choice

Olive oil spray

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees (that’s not a typo). Season your salmon and lay it in a baking dish sprayed with olive oil. Bake it for about a half-hour, or until it’s cooked through to your liking (I like mine rare, so I go about 20 minutes with one filet). Enjoy.


Don’t forget you can win an autographed copy of Modern Spice! Go here and leave a comment to enter. And my little blog is still in the running over at Babble’s list of 100 best food mom blogs! You can vote for it here–and thank you!!


Retro Fish

23 Feb

Half an hour to dinner and no idea what to feed the kids.

Been there? I think we all have (and if you haven’t, just keep it to yourself; I love you but I don’t want to hear about it. Thanks.). It happened to me last night. DH and I had leftover chili, and I had no clue what to give my non-chili-eating children.

They’ve been asking me for fish tacos for a few days. That would have been simple enough except that I had no limes in the house. Lemons either. Or guacamole or salsa. And we’re trying to eat through what’s in the fridge and freezer, so going out to get that stuff wasn’t high on my priority list, especially since I waited until a half-hour before dinner to think of it.

But we did have plenty of rockfish in the freezer, and I remembered my mom’s chicken cutlets that my brother and I loved as kids, and it seemed simple enough to translate chicken to fish, and so I went for it. Old school in the kitchen, yo.

The results? Huge hit. Huge. I swiped a bit myself and it was delicous. Just as I remembered–crunchy outside, moist inside, easy to eat with fingers or a fork, and simply yummy.

The boy ate his with his fingers. The girl still wanted tacos, so I threw some into some taco shells and sprinkled cheese over top.

I made these in my cast iron skillet, which I love for browning. It’s heavy and while it takes awhile to come up to heat, it stays hot for a long time and doesn’t fluctuate as food goes into it. If you don’t have cast iron, be sure your skillet is good and hot before you pop these babies in there–you want brown and crispy, and a cool pan will give you tan and mushy. Which is not at all what we’re going for.

Any white fish will work in this recipe. My guess is that salmon would be equally good, and shrimp would work if you lower the heat a bit and keep a careful eye on them. Of course, you can always follow my mom’s lead and do this with chicken strips too. Simple and easy and something everyone will eat–a home run in my book. You’ll need:

Enough fish or chicken for your family (I used about a half-pound of rockfish for the kids and we had some left over), cut into strips

About a cup of dried bread crumbs (I used plain, but Italian would be good too)

About a quarter cup of shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Two eggs

Olive oil

Heat a medium-sized skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat until it’s screaming hot. Don’t go nuts and crank the stove to high or you’ll have burned outside and raw inside, which is gross. Medium high.

Break your eggs into a bowl and whisk them up.

Pour the bread crumbs and cheese into another bowl and stir them together.

Once your pan is hot, coat its bottom with olive oil and turn the heat down to medium.

Coat each fish or chicken strip first with egg, and then with the breadcrumb mixture. Shake gently to get rid of excess crumbs. Plop it down in the oil and leave it alone for about three or four minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook the other side. My strips were on the thick side, so I then cooked each side on its own too.

Remove to a plate that has two or three layers of paper towel on it. Let drain for a moment, and serve.

Fettuccine with Asparagus and Salmon

24 Jan

It’s nine degrees as I type this. Nine. And it was a very, very cold weekend–DH took our son to a Boy Scout event and the poor kids’ dishwashing water was frozen.

You’d think I’d break out the Crockpot for a steaming bowl of chili or chicken and sausage. I, however, wanted something lighter. Maybe I’m living out some summer fantasies at the dinner table, but when I came across a recipe for a very light pasta, fish, and veggie dinner, I had to try it.

This started out differently–I substituted broth for water, added lemon (and then more lemon), upped the asparagus-to-noodle/fish ratio substantially, and tossed in some fresh basil that wasn’t called for in the original recipe. I also cooked the fish differently than the original recipe called for (they wanted you to nuke plain salmon–um, yuck) and spiced it up a bit.

The result was good. It could use a little something, though. Next time, I’ll toss in a pint of halved cherry tomatoes. I added some more lemon when I reheated this on night 2 and that helped a lot, so I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly.

We got three dinners out of this, which makes me happy on a weekend. I served it with some steamed broccoli and a glass of red wine. Knowing it’s diet-friendly is our little secret. 😉

This is a great, simple dinner that’s perfect any time of year. I would absolutely serve it to company with a side of hearty garlic bread (adding in those cherry tomatoes). To make it. you’ll need:

1 pound fettuccine

2 pounds asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces

2 tsp olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (these will not make this hot–I promise!!)

1/2 cup hot chicken broth

1/4 tsp salt

2 6-oz salmon fillets, skinless

2 tsp lemon pepper

The juice of 2 lemons

A handful of fresh basil leaves

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the lemon pepper all over the salmon, coating both sides, and place it into a small casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake it for 15 minutes or so, until it’s cooked through. Let cool. (I did this step in the morning and set it in the fridge all day).

Get a large pot of water boiling, salt it liberally, and cook fettuccine until it’s al dente (start on the sauce while this goes). Drain well.

In a large skillet (I used my Calphalon Everyday pan), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute about 2 minutes–don’t let the garlic brown! Add asparagus and saute about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add hot chicken broth and salt, cover pan, and let cook about 2 more minutes. Uncover, let it go one more minute, stir in the lemon juice, and remove it from the heat.

Use your fingers to break the salmon apart into chunks. Add to sauce mixture. Return fettuccine to its cooking pot and pour sauce over it. Toss together and serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Grilled Rockfish Salad

20 Jan

I wanted to show you yesterdays’ lunch, which was re-mixed leftovers from the night before’s fish tacos. Super simple–romaine lettuce, red bell pepper (which is sweeter than its green cousin), diced avocado, a little cheese, the leftover rockfish, some cucumber, and salsa as dressing. Really good.

Thinking of leftovers as more than boxes to be nuked up the next day helps break up the monotony when you have more of a dish than you can eat one night. This didn’t feel like leftovers. It felt like something entirely new. It was really tasty, filled me up, and had no trace of “tacos again!”. Which was awesome.

That’s not to say there wasn’t trouble. That came walking my daughter home from ballet last night, when she excitedly asked if there were more fish tacos for dinner. I confessed to having eaten all the fish, and caught heck for it. Who knew a 7-year-old would fall so hard in love with rockfish? 😉

This same salad works with chicken, leftover steak, leftover fish or shrimp, or just beans if you have some laying around. It was a happy lunch!

I’m still giving stuff away!

There’s a new button over there on the right (you’ll have to click through if you’re on email subscription, Kindle, or a blog reader–sorry!)? That’s for Playing With My Dinner’s brand-spanking new Facebook page, where our readers are already chatting, sharing ideas, and getting the inside scoop on the blog.

To celebrate its launch, I’m giving away a copy of Aviva Goldfarb’s newest cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’ Clock Scramble To The Rescue.” It’s all about making healthy, Earth-friendly meals your kids will love, and you’re going to love it.

One lucky reader will find a copy in his or her mailbox, and all you have to do to enter is “like” the blog over on Facebook before February 5. I’ll use a random number generator to pick our winner.

So c’mon over! Visit the page, hit that “like” button, and join in the conversation on the wall. See you there!!

The Easiest Fish Tacos Ever (and I’m giving stuff away!!)

19 Jan

Confession: For years and years, I wrinkled up my nose at the thought of fish tacos.

I know. Ridiculous. But I’m from the east coast and we think of fish in totally different ways than you southwesterners, and the thought of fish + taco was just odd. Sort of testifies to my younger-self ignorance, doesn’t it?

I’ve since, in my old age, fallen for tacos with fish in them, and there’s not much argument against them. Done right, they don’t taste fishy. They’re light and healthier than their ground beef counterparts, and when I tell you I spent 10 minutes in my kitchen, start to finish, to make them, I tell the honest truth.

These work best with solid white fish. I used rockfish because I had a mess of it in my freezer from a fishing trip DH took last fall. It was very good. But cod would be good. Halibut would be good. Pollack would also do. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try shrimp or salmon. Buy it either frozen or fresh from a fishmonger you trust. You don’t want that fishy smell in your house or taste in your tacos.

There are a lot of recipes out there that call for all sorts of marinade for fish tacos. I’ve seen mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, tequila, vinegar…you name it. But I was going for light here, and so my fish got a simple spritz of lime juice and a shake of Mexican Seasoning, which you can buy by the jar from The Spice Hunter directly. No Mexican Seasoning around? Use fajita seasoning or a sprinkle of mixed chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, and maybe a chili flake or two. I wouldn’t use taco seasoning here–it’ll be too overpowering.

If you’re using an indoor grill pan or a regular saute pan, be sure you grease it well. Fish likes to stick! On an outside grill, I’d recommend a layer of foil beneath the fish so you don’t lose it between the grates, with an ample spray of nonstick cooking spray.

Toppings? Well, anything you’d use on tacos. We had salsa, cheese, and guacamole. But you could do chopped tomatoes, cabbage or lettuce, onions (raw or caramelized), jalapenos–the sky’s the limit. Put your taco shells or tortillas out on the counter with a plate of fish and a selection of toppings and let the family self-serve their dinner, making their tacos exactly the way they like them. Kids LOVE that, and it’s the best way to ensure everybody gets just what they like.

My daughter devoured two entire tacos tonight, which never happens with chicken. Then she asked if we could have fish tacos “a lot.” My son didn’t appreciate the fish with salsa, but picked it out of his taco shell and ate it naked. DH and I very much enjoyed these, and I have some fish left over, which will re-appear as lunch tomorrow on top of some Romaine lettuce with a little salsa, avocado, and chopped onion. Yum.

I had these with some Spanish rice–a Goya mix I found in the supermarket. Rice reheats wonderfully, so make it during the day or the night before and just nuke it when your fish is about cooked. Presto chango easyo dinnero. In minutes.

These are being added to our regular dinner rotation. To try it, you’ll need:

About a pound of firm fish filets or steaks (see suggestions above), fresh or frozen and thawed.

One fresh lime, halved, at room temperature (so it lets go of all its juice)

About a tablespoon of Mexican or Fajita Seasoning

Taco shells or tortillas (this is marked gluten-free, which it is depending on your choice of these)

Taco toppings of choice

Preheat your indoor grill pan over medium-high heat (use a regular skillet if you don’t have a grill, or cook these outside on your regular, manly-firey grill). Slice the fish across the narrow side into pieces about 1 inch thick. Squeeze a little lime juice on one side and sprinkle some seasoning on top.

When the grill is hot. spray it liberally with oil or cooking spray. Place the fish, juiced side down, on the grill–it should sizzle if it’s hot enough. Sprinkle the second side with juice and seasoning.

Let the fish cook about 2 minutes or until it appears cooked halfway through the slices. Gently turn over and cook the second side.

Carefully–really carefully–use tongs or a spatula to remove it from the grill. Serve with shells or tortillas and toppings, or as a salad. Enjoy!

NOW: The giveaway!

There’s a new button over there on the right (you’ll have to click through if you’re on email subscription, Kindle, or a blog reader–sorry!)? That’s for Playing With My Dinner’s brand-spanking new Facebook page, where our readers are already chatting, sharing ideas, and getting the inside scoop on the blog.

To celebrate its launch, I’m giving away a copy of Aviva Goldfarb’s newest cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’ Clock Scramble To The Rescue.” It’s all about making healthy, Earth-friendly meals your kids will love, and you’re going to love it.

One lucky reader will find a copy in his or her mailbox, and all you have to do to enter is “like” the blog over on Facebook before February 5. I’ll use a random number generator to pick our winner.

So c’mon over! Visit the page, hit that “like” button, and join in the conversation on the wall. See you there!!

Salmon Three Ways

21 Aug

Yesterday was one of Those Fridays. You know those Fridays? Three errands to run, several hours of work to do (interrupted, oh, a thousand times by bickering, whining, end-of-summer children; I love them, I love them, I love them.), two hours at the pool to placate said end-of-summer moppets, showers, a mountain of paperwork and bills, and then…dinner.

Dinner. I forgot about dinner.

These are the nights I’m thankful for frozen salmon. I buy big bags of frozen filets at Sam’s Club just for nights like Friday–nights that would otherwise find us wolfing down delivery pizza or greasy Chinese food because life got in between me and the stove. They defrost in a snap in a bowl of lukewarm water and they cook in no time, with so much natural flavor that they don’t need a lot of spices or sauces on top.

DH had another late night at work, which meant we were eating after the kids’ bedtime again–not unusual for many of us, I’m sure. So I defrosted the salmon in water while the kids showered and put a pot of rice on the stove.

The first way I cooked salmon was for the kids, and it couldn’t be simpler. I used salmon and honey. That’s it. Spread the honey on top of the salmon and bake it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through. It’s sweet and delicious with a beautiful golden crunch on top, and they gobbled it down. Hello, Omega 3s, and nobody fussed! Score!

DH and I have different tastes in fish, so I lined two small baking dishes with foil and sprayed them with olive oil. His fish got just a sprinkle of lemon juice and some pepper, and then the same baking treatment as the kids’. If I’d had fresh dill, I’d have chopped some of that and sprinkled it on top of the cooked fish, but I didn’t  and he didn’t miss it. Easy peasy.

I’m a little more complex, but it’s still really easy. I threw my fish into a plastic bag while the kids’ fish cooked, with about a tablespoon each of honey and lime juice, and a few pinches of chili powder. And then later, that baked for about 10 minutes; I like my salmon rare (raw, if I can get sushi-grade, but rare if it’s frozen and I trust the source). So DH’s and my fish went into the oven at the same time, and I just pulled mine out a few minutes earlier than his.

So that’s salmon three ways, with no pans to scrub thanks to the foil and just a few simple ingredients. We ate a healthy, delicious dinner that made everybody happy, and I didn’t have to tip a delivery guy.

Happy Friday!

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