Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mojito Tilapia; My Dish of Fish

Often I think,  "We should eat more fish."
This is mostly because I think our West Texas rotation of beef, chicken, beef, pork, beef, lamb and beef decidedly needs some variety.  For some reason, nobody around here loves salmon.  Trout is fine when you can get it, but the bones are a hassle.
So what else is available?  Tilapia.
Nutritionally, compared to other fish species, tilapia is not an especially healthy choice because the farm raised tilapia is so high in fat, but it is high in protein, very low in carbs, a good source of vitamins and minerals, has very low sodium and mercury content is nil.  It is mild and un-fishy.  And it's cheap.  And, let's face it, anything home cooked is better than take-out. 
The best thing this particular recipe has going for it?  It's delicious, dead easy and quick.  If you keep frozen tilapia fillets in the freezer you can have this on the table in 15 minutes.  Here's what you will need:
Fresh mint leaves
Tilapia fillets

Step 1:  Start your rice.  I think you need some good brown rice to go with this dish.
2. Chop up the fresh mint leaves.

3. Put the tilapia fillets in some warm water to thaw.
4. Cut some nice juicy limes and get out your lime squeezer. You'll need about 1 for each fillet.
5. Put a couple of  pats of salted butter in a skillet.  I like to use carbon steel because of the way it browns.
6. Heat the butter until it's starting to brown.
7. Put a paper towel-dried fillet in the butter and cook for 2 minutes.

 8. Turn it over and grate some lime zest over the fish.

9.  Squeeze some lime over it, too. 
10.  Cook another 2 minutes and check to make sure it's flakey and cooked through.
11. Put it on a plate of hot rice, spoon any juice/butter in the pan on it, and sprinkle mint leaves over it.
12. Nice with a glass of crisp white wine.

 Yes.  We should definitely eat more fish.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chope's Tapatias

 "Chope's" is a very famous restaurant/bar in La Mesa, New Mexico.  Doña Lupe's tortillas were homemade when I was a child, and a bean burrito from Chope's was something that I loved just as much as fudgesicles or peanut butter and jelly.  Her green enchiladas were made with jalapeños, and you needed to have your feet nailed to the floor when you ate them!  The Chile Verde was, and still is, succulent, tender, and can cure the common cold. 
But  I have another favorite, too.  Tapatias.
Lupe Benavides with great-great grandchild

The Tapatias at Chope's are like something your Mom would make on a busy weeknight;   light, tasty and easy to get on the table.  No body part is going to burn, now or later.   All the major food groups are represented; vegetables, lettuce, meat, cheese and corn tortillas.     I think it was Margie Benavides (maybe Amelia, or Cecilia, it was a long time ago) who told me how to make them and I'll think of their welcoming and hospitable family and my friends and loved ones in La Mesa every time I serve them.
Here's how to make it:
Cook a pound of good quality lean beef with seasonings, as for tacos.  I used a mixture of garlic, onion and Consomate.  Let it get cool.

 Slice a head of lettuce into thin ribbons.

Take some corn tortillas and put them on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  I used olive oil.  Put them in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes and take them out when you have reached the desired level of crisp.   I like  mine just slightly soft, not quite as hard as tostadas.
Cook a bag of mixed vegetables .  I used the microwave kind.   Throw it in the same dish as the cooked, cooled meat, along with the lettuce.

 Add 2 tablespoons of good mayonaise to the meat, vegetables and lettuce.  Stir it around to mix well.

Get your cookie sheet and put the baked tortillas on it.   Mound the the meat/vegetable/lettuce mix on top of each tortilla.

 Sprinkle the tops with grated Monterrey Jack cheese,  and run them under the broiler for a few seconds until the cheese is melted. 

And there you have it.  I ♥ Chope's.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Griggs Empanadas

One of the recipes in Mrs. Griggs cookbook that I've been wanting to try is the empanadas; it's one of the many dishes from Griggs Family Restaurant that I miss on a regular basis.  Mincemeat empanadas were the perfect dessert after a plate of red enchiladas. Today seemed like a good day to try my hand at it.

You can see from the recipe that it's simple enough, in fact, sparse in the instructions, but I like the economy.  If you don't have a jar of mincemeat and have instead, as I did, a box of the kind that needs to be reconstituted, you ought to do that first.  Then:

Mix 2 cups of flour,  1 tsp. salt and 2 tsp. baking powder by sifting it together.   Cut in 2 tablespoons of "shortening" which I took to mean Crisco into the flour.   Then the recipe says, "Add only enough milk to make a medium dough."

Well.  Hmmm.  I thought about that, and decided 1/2 cup of milk would probably work,  and luckily I was right.  I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and went out for a while to play with the pup.

About 30 minutes later I rolled it out, as instructed, very thin.  This is important!  I found out why when I fried them.

She said to cut them in circles 3-4 inches in diameter.  I found a saucer that seemed about right, and cut 5 out of the first rolling.  Then I took the scraps and rolled it out again for 2 more, so I had seven in all.  I think if I had rolled it just a little bit thinner I could have done 8.

 When you fill them, paint some water on half of the inside edge and put a tablespoonful of filling in it.  Close it up by pressing the edges together and then crimp the edge with a fork.
Do not poke any vent holes in the crust, you don't want the filling leaking out into the hot fat.

Yes,  I said fat!  Mrs. Griggs says fat, which I take to mean lard, and that's what I used.  And I learned something about frying in lard.  First of all, it makes a beautiful brown crust, and two, it cooks really, really fast.  This isn't like frying chicken, where you can toss in the chicken and turn away for a couple of minutes.  This will burn very fast if you let it!
Empanadas cooked perfectly brown in a minute or so on one side, then the other.  If your dough was too thick it would be raw on the inside.
A shake of powdered sugar on top, and they are ready to try.

Yep.  Just like I remembered.  Mrs. Griggs surely has a winner there.
Griggs Empanadas

Sift the following:
2 C. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1tsp. salt

Cut in
2 T. Crisco

Mix with 1/2 C. Milk until it forms a ball
Rest the dough 30 mins.
Roll out very thin.
Cut into circles 3 to 4 inches diameter.
Brush water on half of the edge of the circle.
Place a heaping Tablespoon of filling slightly off center.
Fold long side over and press closed, then crimp with fork tines.
Fry in hot lard until golden brown.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Easy as Cobbler

It's been awfully busy. Getting started at school again, new puppy,  all kinds of business going on.  What's an easy dessert?  Cobbler.
My Mother made cobbler often.  It's just such a snap to throw together, and of course, it's much better nutritionally than a cake or cookies.
Here's how to get one together in about 5 minutes flat.  Then you have to cook it, of course.
I use frozen blackberries or mixed berries all the time.  You can use any kind of frozen fruit.

Sometimes I will find a bag that has been hiding (for a while) in the freezer.  If that happens, just put your berries in a colander and run cool water over them.  Good as new, right?

Put your berries in an ovenproof dish and add sugar.  For this much I add about a half cup.

Then add instant tapioca.  Again, I used about half a cup.

Add some lemon juice to brighten up the berries, about 1 lemon will do.

Add some salt because it sharpens up the flavors.   Now you can just stir it up and top it with some chunks of butter. 
Everything's better with butter, right?

Okay, now for the cobbler part.  I used a cup of self-rising flour.  That way I don't have to mess with baking powder.

To that, I add  a small amount of sugar.  Best to let the berries be sweet and the cobbler contrast a little bit.

Salt, again, and then stir it well with a whisk.

Add vanilla, and about a cup (for a batter, you need about the same amount of liquid as flour)  of half and half or cream.  This was half and half, because that's what was in the fridge.  You could also use buttermilk, or just plain milk.

Whisk it smooth and into the oven it goes, 325 for about 45 minutes.
Make sure the cobbler crust is completely done before you take it out, and the berries are all bubbly.  Wow, isn't that easy?