Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lemon Cilantro Tilapia

Now, let me preface this recipe by saying: you will never see a Brown Bag Gourmet recipe that involves re-heating fish in your office microwave.  First of all, I find re-heating fish to be downright gross and second, "Eau de Fish" is not a friendly scent to send wafting through the halls and down to unsuspecting cubicle dwellers.  

However, I will occasionally suggest a fish dish that you can prepare for dinner and then throw into a salad or a pita sandwich for lunch the next day.  This lemon cilantro infused tilapia, for instance, was fabulous in a salad I enjoyed earlier this week along with mixed greens, shredded green cabage, tomato, cucumber and topped with a lemon vinaigrette.  Lunch vehicles such as this are 100% Brown Bag approved and since tilapia is such a mild, non-fishy smelling fish, this is a great recipe to start with.

2 tilapia fillets, skin removed
Drizzle of olive oil
1 garlic clove, whole
1 lemon
3 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Begin by seasoning both sides of the tilapia with a good amount of salt and pepper and lightly drizzle each side with olive oil.  Heat a dry saute pan over medium heat and rub the garlic clove across pan so as to introduce a hint of garlic flavor, but not overpower the fish.  Add the fillets to the hot, dry pan to give your fish a crispy exterior but maintain its tenderness on the inside. (Shoutout to my Mama for teaching me this trick!)  Flip fish after a few minutes to build that crispiness on the other side.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side and squeeze lemon juice over tilapia fillets to finish.  Lower the heat and allow lemon juice to warm and infuse into fish, adding about half of the cilantro at the last minute and tossing in pan.  Remove tilapia from pan and garnish with remaining cilantro and a lemon wedge or two.  Dive into this fresh, healthy fish dish for dinner and save your extra fillet to mix into a salad, wrap or pita pocket for a great round 2 recipe the next day!

Makes 1 dinner + 1 heat-free lunch :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On the Side: Kale Sautéed with Garlic, Red Onion & Pecans

I'm always up for trying new ingredients (especially ones I feel somewhat embarrassed to have never tried before).  Take kale for instance- it's not exactly the most exotic of ingredients, yet up until this weekend it was somewhat foreign to me.  One thing I did know: it is often prepared similarly to spinach.  Well I love spinach in any preparation so naturally I should love its slightly over-looked leafy, green friend too, right?  My culinary logic seemed correct in theory, and happily proved incredibly successful in practice as well!  It's official, I'm a total kale convert.  And hopefully after you try this delicious side dish, I'll make one out of you too!

1 large bunch of kale (I suggest going organic for leafy greens like these)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped, roasted pecans
Squeeze of lemon juice to finish
Salt and pepper, to taste

Begin by washing the kale and cutting off the bottom of the stems.  Estimate about 4-5 large leaves for one serving. Begin heating the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add red onion to your garlic-infused oil to soften the onions and enhance their sweetness.  Slice kale into thin ribbons and add to pan, stirring frequently.  Kale is a significantly heartier green than spinach, so it will take a bit longer to wilt down.  Just make sure to keep an eye on it and stir the pan consistently to avoid any unfriendly burnt flavoring. When wilted, reduce the heat to low and give the pan a quick squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper.  Transfer into a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped pecans to finish.
Yep, it's just as easy as that.  I prepared this recipe for just me though, so keep that in mind when adjusting the recipe to serve a group.  And experiment- you may choose to use more or less oil, depending on your preference.  Just make sure there's an adequate amount of oil in the pan to help wilt the kale.  And if you choose to pack up some leftovers for a workday lunch side (I know I plan to!), just make sure to bag the pecans separately and add them after reheating the kale.  That perfect little crunchy element from the pecans is so key!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This Weekend at the Market...

I live in the Financial District of Manhattan, which isn't always swarming with things to do on the weekend.  So when my roommate picked up a flier a few weeks ago announcing a nearby farmer's market that was set to begin in the Fall, we were rather excited.  This afternoon we set out for the New Amsterdam Market, tote bags in hand and with the highest hopes of actually filling them with exciting market finds.  Thankfully, that we did.

To our surprise the market was brimming with all sorts of vendors from organic farms with fresh produce and veggies (quite reasonably priced) to cheese artisans to wineries and even a Kombucha station.  There was definitely no shortage of variety and almost every stall happily offered samples, which we of course accepted equally as happily (the wine tastings in particular!).  So after making our rounds, we circled back to our favorites to pick up some lunch fixings.  Back at the apartment, we assembled a beautiful selection of most of our goodies and added a few grape tomatoes and sliced cucumbers to round out our plate.  Check out a little sampling of our spread!

This weekend's picks:
Snack-sized local gala apples (Breezy Hill Orchard)- crisp, sweet and delicious
Whole grain Rye (Nordic Breads)- crusty outside, chewy inside: definitely the "health foods" item
Cow's milk Asiago cheese (Narragansett Creamery)- made even more fabulous with a sprinkle of truffle salt from our pantry
Cow's milk feta and olive spread (Narragansett Creamery)- creamy, dreamy, salty, tangy love 
Local Bosc pears (Breezy Hill Orchard)- not pictured
Organic red bell peppers (McEnroe Farms)- not pictured

With the vendors varying from weekend to weekend, we can't wait to see what we discover next Sunday!  Stay tuned :)

Autumn Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is one of my absolute favorite flavors of fall.  Its savory, yet slightly sweet qualities are intensified when slowly roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Or alternatively, with a combination of butter, sugar and cinnamon as a sweet dessert option.  Pretty much no matter how you choose to serve it, it's fabulous!  So with temps dropping and all of the recent rain in NYC, it felt like the perfect time to whip up a batch of cozy butternut squash soup.  This simple, yet deeply flavorful soup celebrates some of the best ingredients of the season and will have you welcoming the cool weather, knowing you have a big bowl of it to warm you up!  

1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 leek, cleaned and trimmed (Trader Joe's is great for this)
1 large apple (I like Braeburns for their tart & sweet flavor combo)
2 1/2 cups roasted butternut squash
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toasted pecans and roasted squash seeds, to garnish

Begin by roasting your squash.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut one large butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds as you would a pumpkin, only easier!  Rinse seeds and set aside.  Place squash halves on a baking sheet flesh side up and season each half with 2 tsp. olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Spread out seeds alongside squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper as well.  Place baking sheet in oven and roast away!  Check on the seeds about 10-15 minutes in and remove from sheet when sufficiently roasted.  All in all, it will take about 45 minutes to cook the squash until fork tender, possibly longer depending on your oven and the size of your squash.  But it's so worth the wait!

Once your squash is done, remove from oven to cool and begin building the base of your soup.  Chop apple into small cubes and prepare the leek.  Leeks impart a lovely, light onion flavor without the sharpness of regular onions.  However they are known for being notoriously gritty, so make sure your leek is clean by floating it in a large bowl of water to remove any grit from the inner layers.  Pat dry after rinsing and slice leek into thin ribbons.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and add leeks and apples.  Saute for about 3-4 minutes until softened.  While that's cooking, remove the skin from the cooled butternut squash and cut into small cubes.  Add squash to pot and pour in chicken broth.  Add grated ginger and cinnamon and simmer for 20-30 minutes to develop flavors.  Ladel into a blender and puree until smooth, or use an immersion blender if you're lucky enough to have one.  Definitely on my kitchen wish list!  Add back into pot to warm through.  Spoon into a bowl and top with roasted seeds and toasted pecans.  Since this recipe is a little more time consuming to prepare, it makes for an ideal weekend dish.  Dive into a bowl for dinner and pack some up for lunch during the week!

Makes about 3 1/2 to 4 cups.