Archive | May, 2012

Simple Baked Tilapia, Asparagus and Potatoes

21 May

Today’s recipe is very simple, the kind of food that I crave when I crave a home-cooked meal.  There’s something about eating out at restaurants that gets tiring.  It’s fun to try new things, but constantly eating rich and fancy and indulgent meals gets old quickly for me.  Sometimes I just want something simple.  And somehow this meal satisfies my craving for a simple, square meal.

So here’s the disclaimer: this isn’t anything wild and crazy and innovative, it’s just simple and satisfying and good (and healthy).  This is the sort of thing we eat on weeknights when we’re not feeling adventurous, so feel free just to use this as inspiration, rather than a hard-and-fast recipe.

I tend to use a lot of tilapia when I cook fish, mainly because I usually buy a big bag of the individually wrapped frozen fillets and keep them in the freezer for a quick and easy weeknight meal.  But feel free to substitute any other white fish you like (or even salmon) – you will just need to adjust the baking time depending on the thickness of the fish.


Simple Baked Tilapia with Asparagus and Baby Potatoes

Yield: 2 servings; Time: 15 min. active, 15 min. inactive

  • 1 bundle asparagus, ends trimmed off
  • 3/4 lb. baby potatoes
  • 2 tilapia filets (or other white fish)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried (or 1 teaspoon fresh) thyme
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot and fill with enough water to cover, plus a teaspoon or two of salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for ~7  minutes, depending on size.  The goal is to par-boil them, not cook them all the way (and then finish the cooking in the oven).

Coat a baking dish with a layer of olive oil or cooking spray.  Place the tilapia filets in the dish and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, lemon juice, half the garlic and half the lemon zest (I seasoned one side and then flipped them over a few times to make sure they were well coated).

Remove half-cooked potatoes from the boiling water, allow to cool briefly, then cut into halves or quarters.  Toss potatoes and asparagus with a tablespoon or so of olive oil (just enough to coat), salt, pepper and remainder of minced garlic and lemon zest.  Place on a baking sheet.

Place the tilapia and potatoes/asparagus in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes (the fish will take 15-17 min depending on the thickness – it’s done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque all the way through; the potatoes/asparagus will take 13-15 minutes).

Serve immediately with fresh basil and/or diced tomato.  Make sure to pour any lemony liquid from the fish baking dish over top!

Not-your-Average Lentils and Rice

13 May

Yet again I find myself posting a vegetarian recipe that I swear will really satisfy even the most carnivorous meat lovers in your house, just like the Food Network Tex Mex Rice and Beans recipe I posted or this recipe for Spiced and Roasted Eggplant with Quinoa Salad.  Lentils are hearty, filling and healthy, so you don’t have to feel guilty about this dinner. I also tried to add more veggies to this recipe (like zucchini and bell pepper) to really make it a complete meal.   I calculated the approximate fat, calories protein and fiber in this recipe and I was pleasantly surprised.  This recipe has (approximately) 280 calories, 5 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein, and 6.5 grams of fiber per serving.  Compared to most other dinners I eat this is probably ranking pretty high for health!  Let’s just say I did not calculate the nutrition facts for my Mac and Cheese recipe…

One of the best parts about this recipe, besides the fact that it’s healthy, is how satisfying it is.  I think that’s for two reasons – it has a lot of flavor and is just one of those comforting, hearty, warm and stomach-coating dishes (but without the guilt! yay!).  The flavor is a unique combination of warm and earthy turmeric and curry powder, spicy cayenne pepper (if you want), fresh ginger and garlic and scallions, sweet coconut and fresh mint (which really adds a nice refreshing element).  All together, these ingredients really help jazz up the plain lentils.  Definitely don’t skimp on the Greek yogurt for serving – it’s like a healthier and more tasty replacement for sour cream – and the coolness really helps cut through the rich, spicy stew.  Oh, and don’t skimp on the salt either (adjust according to your taste, and depending on the saltiness of your chicken broth, but if the dish is under-seasoned, all the flavors will be a little more dull, so make sure to season it enough).  So without further ado…

Not-your-Average Lentils and Rice

Time: 20 min. active, 30 min. inactive, Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup canned crushed or diced tomatoes + juice
  • 1.5 cups dried lentils (12 oz), rinsed and sorted
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 6 tablespoons shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, for serving

Add oil to a large saucepan or soup pot and heat over medium heat.  Add green pepper, zucchini, green onions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in broth, tomatoes, lentils, turmeric, curry powder and salt.  Heat to boiling then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook ~30 minutes until lentils are tender (taking care not to let too much liquid evaporate – if it does, add more stock or tomato juice).  Make sure lentils are cooked through – “al dente” does not apply to lentils ;-)

Meanwhile, you should be cooking the rice… in a rice cooker if you have one – they are life changing :)  Probably because I’ve had multiple instances of burning rice to a pan on the stove (which is embarrassing).

Once tender, right before serving, stir in coconut and mint.  Serve over rice and top with a dollop of yogurt.  Proceed to watch vegetarian-food-haters convert…..

Beer Battered Lime Shrimp Tacos with Slaw

5 May

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I am mildly obsessed with Mexican food.  Ok, not mildly.  Mexican food is my absolute favorite and I could die happy if the only thing I could eat for the rest of my life was chips and salsa and enchiladas.

Now that that’s out of my system, here is a somewhat Mexican recipe.  Haha.  I claim to be no authentic Mexican food expert, however, I tend to cook a lot of Mexican/Southwestern-inspired dishes.  I like making salsas and slaws  to serve atop everything (like this fish) and generally using a corn tortilla as a vehicle to eat pretty much anything (trivia time: did you know huevos rancheros is my favorite breakfast dish ever?! Ever since I tried this recipe, I’m a convert.  Sorry Mr. Benedict.)

This recipe came about because I wanted to come up with a way to use some of my Persian Lime olive oil (I know, oh la la), which was a gift from my fellow-foodie aunt:

Lime olive oil is definitely not a requirement of this recipe, but you may want to up the lime juice or zest in the recipe if you are as much of a lime-lover as me.  The olive oil is from D’Avolio if anyone is interested.  They have all sorts of fun flavors of olive oils and vinegars (I also have the peach white balsamic vinegar and it’s awesome in salad dressings, mmm).  So fun. 

So basically I wanted to come up with a use for my olive oil and I was in the mood for something summery and refreshing and well, Mexican.  Shrimp was a logical choice, and just to up the ante, I beer-battered them.  And shallow fried them.  In lime olive oil.  Ahhhh it was so delicious!!  And so surprisingly easy.  Did you know you can make a beer batter with just equal parts beer and flour?!  Who knew.  Well, I figured it out. And now I’m all excited to try different beer varieties and beer batter everything in sight (think about it – something like an IPA or a more fruity beer like Blue Moon would probably be awesome).  The batter will be really thick, but that means it will make a great coating.  I highly recommend trying this, because it’s awesome.  And super low-calorie.  Just kidding :-D

 When I eat something a little more gluttonous, I somehow justify it to myself by topping it with vegetables.  Specifically, broccoli slaw. 

In general, I much prefer topping tacos with slaw rather than boring old lettuce or salsa.  I think I first got this idea from Bobby Flay – long, long ago I remember making some taco recipe of his and he used cabbage slaw (or something) instead of lettuce, and it was great.  Cabbage/slaw gives a great crunch, and you can marinade it to make it really, really flavorful, almost like a salsa itself.  In this recipe I went overboard with lime juice and acid and salt and it was wonderful.  But use this recipe as an inspiration – and know that you can use any type of cabbage or slaw mix and any other type of seasonings (just always make sure to use some sort of acid and some salt to help wilt the slaw a little bit). 

Beer Battered Lime Shrimp Tacos with Slaw

Time: 20 min. active and 30 min. inactive; Yield: 2 very large portions or 3 normal-person portions


  • Juice of 1 lime (~2 tablespoons)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons lime olive oil (or regular oil if you do not have lime)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced (taste a small piece to see how spicy it is – if very spicy, only use half)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced
  • 6 ounces broccoli slaw mix (or any other cabbage mix you can find)
  • 6 radishes, very thinly sliced


  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (optional)
  • Lime olive oil (or regular oil) – enough to generously coat a fry pan, about 1/3 cup
  • 1/2 pound of raw shrimp (~4-6 large shrimp per person), peeled, deveind and tails removed

+ Corn tortillas for serving (6)

+ Queso Fresco or Feta cheese for serving, optional

Combine all slaw ingredients and toss to coat slaw well.  Allow to sit for 30-40 minutes for flavors to develop and for salt and acids to draw some moisture out of the slaw.  This will help is soften slightly.

For the shrimp, stir together beer, flour and Old Bay.  The mixture will be very thick and pasty.  If too thick, add slightly more beer; if too thin, add more flour.  The mixture should easily coat and stay on the shrimp.  Meanwhile, heat a saute pan on the stove over medium/medium-high heat with enough oil to generously coat the bottom (the goal is to shallow-fry the shrimp).  Season shrimp with salt and pepper and coat in batter.  Once oil is hot (you can tell because it should start rippling slightly), place shrimp in oil.  Cook until coating has turned golden brown on the first side and shrimp is mostly cooked through (~2-3 minutes depending on size of shrimp); flip, and cook remaining side for another 30 seconds or until golden brown.  Shrimp cook very quickly, so take care not to overcook them.  When they are pink and firm they are done – so don’t keep cooking them!  Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess oil.

To serve, heat up corn tortillas (in the microwave with a damp paper towel – so they get moist and flexible and don’t tear).  Serve each with plenty of shrimp, slaw and queso fresco.