Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hoy es Cinco De Mayo!

Hola a todas. Hoy es Cinco de Mayo y quiero darle una receta para preparar una gran plato mexicano. OK. I'm not going to make you go to Google translator to decipher what I'm writing ;)

Last week I made an awesome fish taco dinner to help me tame my Taco Tuesday craving. My friend Christy and I usually go to El Torito for their $1 tacos on Tuesday but I decided that making tacos (and margaritas) at home would be tastier and much more fun. I dropped by my local Henry's and picked up all the items I need to start a fiesta at home. Before going to the market, I researched some Food Network recipes to learn how to make oven baked fish tacos. Unfortunately, no recipes of this type existed on their site as most of the recipes recommended deep frying your beer battered fish. First, I didn't want to buy beer as I don't drink beer at home on a regular basis. Secondly, deep frying is not something you want to do on top of an electric burner. It just doesn't have the same effect as deep frying on an open fire. Third, deep frying is so unhealthy!!!

So the search continued and I found a recipe by Bobby Flay that definitely made my mouth water the moment I started reading the ingredients. CILANTRO and ground CHILI always makes me drool a little. Did you know that some people don't like cilantro because of a 'soapy' taste they get from it? Apparently there is a chemical in the cilantro plant that gives some people's taste buds the taste of soap... I'm glad my taste buds aren't bubbling up from the soap-like chemicals. So I went to the grocery store and went looking for mahi-mahi and was unable to find it. I asked the deli person if they could recommend a fish similar to mahi-mahi and they recommended two fish: swordfish and shark. I was not mentally prepared to touch any of those two fish so decided to try a new fish that I've never tried before called staie (sp?) that is similar to Tilapia.

Fish Tacos
Courtesy of Bobby Flay

- 1 pound of fish (such as mahi mahi or tilapia)
- 1/4 cup of canola oil
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tbsp of chili powder (I used regular chili powder/ Flay asked for ancho)
- 1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or as much as your taste buds want)
- 8 (or more) flour tortillas

For your garnish:
- Small white cabbage (cut it into thin slices)
- Hot sauce ( I love Tapito/ Cholula)
- More cilantro
- Red onions (nicely chopped)

Directions(with some edits by me):
- Whisk together the canola oil, lime juice, chili powder, jalapeno and cilantro in a dish - I used a food container so that I could shake the fish while it was marinating inside.
- Wash your fish and place it in the marinade. Let your fish marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. (Give it a little shake so you can coat all sides of the fish.)
- Remove the fish from the marinade and place it onto a hot grill, flesh side down (I had flesh on both side because the skin was already removed so I would recommend turning it). Grill the fish for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork (basically the meat falls right off). *Note- I used a George Foreman grill and my fish was cooked through in 9 minutes.

- Once you've taken the fish off the grill, slice it up with a fork on a dish and it is ready to be served. Warm your tortillas on a hot skillet or in the microwave before wrapping some of that fish in it.
- Add your favorite garnish and done!

Another tasty garnish is guacamole. Here is an easy 1-2-3 step to making guacamole:

- One ripe avocado
- 1/4 of an onion (red or yellow)
- Half a roma tomato (squeeze the juice out)
- Salt and pepper
- Chili powder
- Juice of one lime

- Peel the avocado and scoop its meat into a bowl.
- Finely chop the onion and tomato and pour it into the avocado bowl.
- Sprinkle the chili powder, salt and pepper into the bowl and squeeze the juice.
- Take your spoon and mash all the ingredients together.

Taste Bud Analysis:
Christy, Daniel and I loved the dish! The fish was not dry at all. It was vibrant with so many flavors. It was not overwhelming lime-like, salty or spicy - it was just really fresh. Topping it off with some guacamole (just a little), fresh lime juice and cabbage made it extra tasty. I would not recommend putting too much guac on your taco because that would hide the taste of your fish. The cabbage gave the taco some of the crunchiness texture that you usually get when you eat a beer battered fish taco without the extra calories/fat/oil. While some people don't like eating cabbage, I would recommend trying it as a raw garnish. By slicing the cabbage into thin slices, you don't get the usual bitterness of raw cabbage.

Have a fun, safe and tasty CINCO DE MAYO!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Garden!

The weather is getting better and better in San Diego and what's a better way to spend time in the sun (aside from the beach) than to tend to a garden :D. I've really been into different herbs like cilantro and basil and decided that since I buy so much of it in stores, why not plant my own? It seems simple enough for me to manage on my own. On average, I spend about $2.00 a week on a bunch of cilantro and basil that goes bad quickly in the refrigerator; why not invest in a plant that is less than $5.00 and will last me almost forever?

I went to Whole Foods and bought my first two plants: a basil and cilantro pot. The cilantro went kaput in a week probably because I didn't pinch the leaves off correctly and because I allowed the plant to become dry (the entire root came out!). The basil is still working hard to survive - the fluctuation in weather has not been good to it at all since it's been getting too cold and hot every other day. Other than that, it's hanging in there. :D I transfered it to a bigger pot so that it would have more room to grow out its roots. Just so you know, you should always re-pot your plant so that it stretch out its roots and breathe a little. As someone once told me, you need to let your plant "root" for you. Hehe it's cheesy but cute and true!

There are many household items you can use to re-pot your tiny store bought plant.

* Remember to always drill the bottom of the new pot so that water can escape at the bottom.
1.) Milk carton - cut off the top and there you go.
2.) Tea pot - yes, I've seen this and it's cute!
3.) Tin can - big or small - it's doable.
4.) Clam shell salad box - I'm currently growing mixed herbs in my clamshell. I found this great idea from Craftzine.

Here are a few photos from my tiny garden.

Bell pepper plant from Fallbrook, CA (caution: when growing bell peppers, you must have a lot of room. A 5 gallon pot is needed)

*It's gotten about an inch taller since I took this picture :)

Mixed Herbs: Basil, cilantro and other herbs are in the works.

Basil plant: This is so yummy in omelettes, pasta, pizza and great for making a large batch of pesto.

Get to know your fruits

Lately, Daniel and I have been crazy about fruit and veggies! We are making our diets much better by filling it with the seasons' best fruits and vegetables. We aren't stocking the refrigerator with just healthy things but we're stocking it with organic items. It's really important to us to know where our food comes from - how many miles did it travel, are we supporting local farmers, and most importantly are the farmers using many pesticides? It has been kind of a challenge to identify which fruits and vegetables come pesticide free. My Paper Crane created a cute little pocket guide to help you identify the fruits and veggies that you should buy organic or regular. As a graduate student on a tight budget, I know it's difficult for some people (especially college students) to buy organic fruits. This guide will be helpful in letting you know which ones you can buy without the high sticker price that comes with the word "organic". I've printed mine and placed it in my wallet already!

From My Paper Crane

So why is this important? It's important to know what we put into our bodies because these herbicides and pesticides can have long term health affects on our bodies. While you may not see a difference now, you may develop something in the future that is a result of the pesticides we've consumed in our fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should be grown in natural soil and environments without the pesticides. Not only are these pesticides harmful, they also cause the nutrients to deteriorate in our fruits and vegetables making it difficult for us to get the nutrients we need to be healthy and strong. I think this is why we are so dependent on taking supplements (this is a whole other story...) I hope you consider making some small changes the next time you walk into your grocery store.

More cooking expeditions to come soon!

- Cake for Mother's Day
- Hearty dishes from my cooking magazines