Fish Tacos

I love fish tacos. Especially in the summer. They’re fresh-tasting and light. Plus they are so versatile with all the different kinds of salsa and veggies you can pile on top. Diced avocado, tomato salsa and shredded cabbage for traditionalists. Shredded carrot-zucchini slaw and a squeeze of lime for risk takers. Homemade tartar sauce with one or two french fries layered in for a fish-and-chips approach. The sky’s the limit with creativity. And you can grill, deep fry or saute all kinds of different fish for even more variety. I could have these once a week for a healthy, hearty summer dinner that you can hold in your hand.

So pick your favorites from all these items below and mix and match your way to a summer full of fun-tastic fish tacos!

Ingredients:

* Fish (try tilapia, salmon, halibut, catfish, shrimp or even fishsticks!)
* Small tortillas (corn or flour, but get the smallest size)
* Shredded lettuce, cabbage, swiss chard, baby mixed greens, spinach, etc.
* Salsa (green or red; or go wild with tartar or curry sauces, malt vinegar, etc.)
* Toppings of your choice (this is wide open too…try any combination you like from guacamole or diced avocado, chopped tomatoes, sliced green onions, diced yellow onions, chopped green or red peppers, diced cooked potatoes, diced or shredded zucchini or summer squash, shredded carrots, tiny broccoli or cauliflower florets, hot french fries…)

1. Either saute, grill or deep fry your fish until it is done (non-translucent). If your fish is large (whole fish, steaks or filets) break it up into bite sized pieces for easier consumption.
2. Place the taco tortilla in the curved palm of your hand.
3. With tongs or a spoon, place a few pieces of fish in the bottom of the tortilla.
4. Spread, drip or pour the salsa, curry sauce, tartar sauce, malt vinegar or whatever sauce you like, on top of the fish.
5. Top with your favorite ingredients to finish your masterpiece.

To serve, it’s fun to have the ingredients out on the table and let everyone make their own creations. Or you can carefully place two tacos on their sides next to each other on a plate and add rice and beans or whatever side dishes you enjoy.

They have frozen Tilapia at the La Honda Country Market in the freezer section and this fish defrosts quickly, so this is a wonderful quick dinner idea even for an unplanned occasion or weeknight dinner.

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Marinara Meatloaf

I love making meatloaf. There, I said it. I mostly use ground turkey because it is like a blank canvas and lets me add spices and vegetables to give it flavor and texture. But ground beef or meatloaf mix is equally good for this versatile and hearty main dish. I also just returned from a two-week business trip to New York City, which has more Italian food than anyplace outside of Italy. Every corner had pizza, pasta, antipasto and more. The smells were authentic and astounding. So when it came time to create yet another meatloaf for the family, I decided to make it like Meatloaf Parmesan–except without the breading on the outside and with mozzarella instead of Parmesan cheese.  It received major thumbs up and I think I’ll repeat it whenever I want to flash back to those days and nights in Little Italy.

Marinara Meatloaf (or Italian Meatloaf or Meatloaf Parmesan)

2 lbs ground meat (turkey, beef, chicken, etc.)
1 teaspoon Italian herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil)
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 can diced tomatoes including liquid
1/2 cup cooked green beans (cut up in 1/4-inch segments)
1 jar marinara sauce
4 slices mozzarella cheese (or can use 1 package shredded mozzarella)

1. Mix first 8 ingredients in a large bowl with your fingers. Be careful to toss without compressing the meat. Place in a bread pan and put the bread pan on a pizza pan or cookie sheet (to catch drips). Put into a 350 degree oven for 75 minutes. Try to do this hours (or even a day) before dinner so the meatloaf can solidify and be easily sliced at dinnertime.

2. Cut meatloaf into 1-inch thick slices. Top each slice with marinara sauce and then mozzarella cheese. Reheat in microwave for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until cheese is melting.

3. Add cooked pasta (premixed with marinara sauce) to the plate. Include green salad and garlic bread if desired to make a pretty meal.

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NARSAI DAVID’S FOUR-MINUTE MOLÈ

I was listening to KCBS radio in the car yesterday and my favorite part of the day came on…Narsai David’s food minute.  I love his perspective on wine, food, travel, and pretty much everything. He did not disappoint me. He shared his four-minute recipe for a traditional Mexican sauce that I love in restaurants but have failed miserably to recreate at home–molè. So I cheated this week and am offering up a recipe that I didn’t invent. But I know you’ll forgive me when you taste this savory chocolate-y sauce that is perfect over chicken…especially when I tell you that it only takes 4 minutes to make so you can have it for a weeknight dinner!

CHICKEN MOLÈ

1 3 lb. fryer, disjointed and skinned
2 TBS salad oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TBS sesame seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 TBS chili powder
1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (or 1 – 14-1/2 oz. can)
2 TBS peanut butter
2 TBS raisins
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
*salt, if needed, but since most canned chicken broth has enough salt, be careful.

Brown chicken parts in oil in a large covered frying pan. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onion and sauté until golden brown. Stir in garlic, sesame seeds, cinnamon, chili powder and chili peppers flakes and continue stirring over medium heat for one minute. Add chicken broth and stir until all the pan residue dissolves.

Pour pan contents into a blender or food processor. Add peanut butter, raisins and chocolate. Process until a smooth puree. Adjust seasoning with salt. Return sauce to pan.

Add all chicken parts except breasts and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Add chicken breasts and simmer 10-15 minutes until chicken is tender.

Serve with steamed rice flavored with minced bell pepper.

***

Narsai David is the KCBS Food and Wine Editor. He has been a successful restaurateur, chef, TV host, and columnist in the San Francisco Bay Area spanning four decades.

Posted in Chicken, Dinner, La Honda Country Market, Mexican | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Pasta & Parmesan Chicken Strips

When I joined the low-carb lifestyle two years ago this month, I had no idea how beneficial the elimination of most of the wheat and yeast from my diet would be for my overall health. After all, I was reducing carbohydrates, not gluten. But accompanying my weight loss I noticed something more. More energy. More clear thinking. More lust for life.

Now I’m not saying that everyone should eliminate wheat and other grains from their lives. What I am saying is that the American diet is gluten- and yeast-heavy with all our favorites: pasta, bread/buns, beer, ice cream, ketchup, fast food and almost all processed food. So having a gluten-free meal once a week as a conscious choice is a very good thing.

Note: A gluten-free diet is completely free of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cereals: wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, and triticale, as well as the use of gluten as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent.

Gluten Free Pasta & Sauce with Parmesan Chicken Strips

  • 1 package of Gluten-Free pasta spirals (the market also has spaghetti and penne)
  • 1 jar of Muir Glen organic pasta sauce (with no fillers!)
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 cups grated parmesan (shaker) cheese
  • A pinch each of salt, black pepper, garlic powder
  1. Start your pasta water boiling in a large pot on the stove. Pour the jar of pasta sauce into a second pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Get out a half-sheet jelly roll style baking pan and place a metal cooling grid or rack into the sheet pan. The chicken must be elevated or it will simmer instead of bake.
  3. Slice chicken breasts thinly across the grain. Pour Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic powder and pepper into a large, low-sided bowl, mix gently to incorporate and then dip each chicken breast into the cheese mixture to coat. Place each breast slice on top of the wire rack in the jelly roll pan. Repeat until you’ve processed all the chicken. Bake for 20 minutes at 400-degrees until browned and remove from oven.
  4. As soon as you put the chicken into the oven, pour the entire package of gluten-free pasta into the boiling pot of water and cook according to directions. Your pasta sauce should be hot around this time too.

To plate this food, drain the pasta into a colander when it’s done and place the desired amount into each bowl. Add a ladle of sauce to the pasta and then decorate it with four or five Parmesan chicken strips. Sprinkle more Parmesan cheese on top if you like. A nice green salad completes the meal.  It’s gluten-free and yummy! I could discern no difference between this and regular pasta. And it is so easy it almost makes itself!

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Shepherd’s Pie

Another go-to meal in our house is shepherd’s pie. You can make it in a big casserole dish or individual bowls. You can use any kind of meat and vegetables you like. And the sauce to hold it all together can be virtually anything savory. Plus did I mention you can use home-prepared or instant mashed potatoes and no one seems to care? Seriously, they like it any way I make it. So it can be a long slow process or a quick meal, whatever you are in the mood to make.

Shepherd’s Pie

  • 2 pounds russet or all-purpose potatoes (prepared as mashed potatoes) or 1 package instant mashed potatoes
  • 2 to 3 cups of cooked chopped lamb or beef (or use ground meat…I use ground turkey)
  • 1 to 2 cups of diced vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, turnips, parsnips, whatever)
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth (add soy sauce, A1, Worcestershire, etc. to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil) or 1 teaspoon of dried herbs
  • a pinch of salt, black pepper and (optional) nutmeg
  • (optional) shredded cheese for topping
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. If making your own mashed potatoes do it now. If using instant mashed potatoes wait.
  3. If using precooked meat and veggies, combine well with broth, herbs and spices and then place in a greased casserole dish or individual greased serving bowls. If using raw meat and veggies, cook ground meat and diced veggies in an oiled frying pan until soft, but not brown. (7-10 minutes depending on how big the dice is). Sprinkle on herbs and spices and add broth. Mix gently. Place in casserole or bowls.
  4. If using instant mashed potatoes, make them now according to the instructions on the package. Top the meat and veggie mixture with mashed potatoes.  Either make waves on the top with a spoon or drag a fork along the top to make an interesting design. The “points” poking up will brown more than the rest of the potatoes giving it a wonderful appearance and some crispy bits for texture.
  5. Sprinkle with shredded or grated Parmesan or Cheddar cheese if you like, but use sparingly (optional).
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the potatoes are brown and the dish is bubbling. Let cool for a few minutes and serve with green salad and bread.
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Quickie Quiche

Some mornings I just seem to get up way before everyone else. Blame it on an overactive mind. And when it coincides with a Saturday or Sunday morning I love making quiche. It’s much easier than you think. It’s basically a two-step process. And the results are spectacular. Quiche also makes a lovely dinner when paired with a green salad and some lovely French bread or baguettes.  It’s both economical and delicious. Plus the variety is limited only by your imagination.

Quickie Quiche

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup leftover cooked chopped meat (or your choice of meat that you cook now)
  • 1/4 cup leftover cooked chopped vegetables (or your choice that you cook now)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (your choice, but I love a mixture of salty shredded cheeses)
  • a pinch of salt, black pepper and (optional) nutmeg
  • frozen 9″ pie shell

Note: If you want Quiche Lorraine, use bacon and Swiss cheese. Ham, cheddar and broccoli are another great combo. Use roast lamb leftovers or cooked shrimp. Even onions and chives or simply herbs fresh from the garden work well. I’ve even used almond milk or cream instead of milk. Experiment!

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While that’s in progress, grab a cup of coffee or tea, put food out for the dog/cat, watch the sunrise…you get the picture. It’s glorious “me time”.
  2. When the oven’s ready, prick the bottom of the frozen pie shell four or five times with a fork to prevent bubbles in the crust bottom and slip it into the oven. Bake 15 minutes. Then let it cool for 5 more minutes.
  3. While this is happening, assemble the rest of your ingredients. Now I may like getting up early from time to time, but that doesn’t mean I like to do dishes. So I grab a 4-cup measuring device (preferably one that pours) and do my mixing right in that. Add the meat/cheese/veggies first to make measuring easy, then add the milk, and finally the eggs, salt, pepper and whatever other spices you enjoy.  Whisk it all together gently with a fork or wire whisk to incorporate.
  4. When the pie shell is somewhat warm instead of hot, pour in your ingredients, place on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and carefully place it on the top shelf of the oven. Bake 35-40 minutes until the top is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it stand 10 minutes before slicing.

By now your family will know you’ve been baking, trust me. The amazing odors wafting through your house are a fantastic thing to wake up to. Mangia!

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Easy Enchiladas

I used to hate making enchiladas. Loved consuming them, hated trying to get them out of the baking dish to serve. What a mess. Talk about lousy presentation on the plate! Until I discovered how easy it is to assemble a combo plate complete with enchilada, rice and beans and then pop it into the microwave. Delicious, easy, perfectly cooked and no messy pans to clean up!

Easy Enchiladas

  • 4 small to medium tortillas (corn or flour)
  • 2 cups cooked chopped meat (love roasted pork or chicken especially)
  • 1 package shredded cheese (Mexican mix, Monterey Jack, or Cheddar are great)
  • 1 large can or two small cans of enchilada sauce (red or green whichever you like)
  • 1 can of pinto or black beans (I’ve even used kidney beans in a pinch)
  • 2 cups cooked rice (it can even be cold because you’ll heat it in the microwave)
  1. Warm the tortillas in the microwave, or in a frying pan on the stove on medium heat, for 30 seconds or less, just until pliable.
  2. Lay the tortilla flat on a dinner plate. Place ¼ of the meat mixture and a sprinkling of cheese on the tortilla and add a dash of enchilada sauce to taste. Roll it up and place the seam side down on one side of the plate. Carefully and slowly pour a bit of enchilada sauce over the rolled up tortilla and sprinkle it generously with cheese.
  3. Add a scoop of rice and ¼ of the beans on either side of the enchilada, sprinkle those with cheese as well, and place in the microwave for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes until the sauce is bubbling.
  4. Serve the first combo plate to the first person and start on the next one. For four plates this only takes a few minutes. Or you can assemble all four plates before dinner and just pop them into the microwave in a serial fashion when ready. And the best part is that it’s so easy to do you’ll put enchiladas on your regular list for dinner instead of saving them for special occasions.
  5. You can also add a green salad in the empty space on the plate (there always seems to be one with this dish) and you’ve kicked it up a notch. Just remember NOT to put the salad on the plate until AFTER you take it out of the microwave.
Posted in Beans, beef, Chicken, Dinner, La Honda Country Market, Mexican, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment