Poached Tilapia

Poached fish is a simple technique for can cooking lean fish like tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper or halibut, as well as fatty fish like salmon or trout.  Poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat — though you may want to serve poached fish with a sauce made from the leftover water.

~POACHED TILAPIA~

Ingredients:

  • Filet of fish
  • Large skillet
  • About 4 cups of water, fish stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 Lime (1/2 sliced and the other 1/2 left for juice)
  • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 White Onion (sliced into “coins”)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of either Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Preparation:

  1. Start by making a series of shallow, diagonal cuts on the skin side of the fish fillets. These cuts prevent the fillet from curling during the poaching process.
  2. Heat the liquid on med-low until it reaches the point of almost simmering– the liquid should be hot but NOT boiling.
  3. Add the fish to the hot liquid, skin side down.  The fish should be covered completely by the liquid.
  4. To this, add the sliced onion, minced garlic and lime slices.
  5. Cook for about five minutes or until the fish is just done without being overcooked. (It should just have reached the point of becoming opaque and is no longer translucent.)
  6. Carefully remove the fish and the onions– set aside. Cover the fish to keep it warm while you do the next step of preparing the sauce.
  7. Remove the lime slices and discard.
  8. Cook the liquid over high heat until it has reduced by half.
  9. To the reduced liquid, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter and whisk into the liquid.
  10. Next, add the same amount of all-purpose flour to the mixture (equal amounts flour to butter)
  11. Whisk until flour is cooked and mixture has thickened (it should smell more like toasted bread rather than “doughy” when the flour has reached the point that it is cooked).
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Place the fish on a plate and garnish with the onions that you set aside.
  14. Top fish with the sauce, garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice and an extra pinch of salt (sea salt if you have it; if not, then Kosher salt will do.)

*Instead of making a white sauce to top the Tilapia, you could instead top with a Roasted Salsa Verde (or a Basic Salsa Verde) which you can make ahead of time.  You can serve the fish with rice, pasta or on top of a bed of fresh spinach.

fish

Brine, baby, Brine!

What IS Brining?

In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat or poultry is soaked in brine before cooking.[1] Equal parts sugar and salt is added to cold water in a container, where the meat is soaked usually six to twelve hours. The amount of time needed to brine depends on the size of the meat. More time is needed for a large turkey compared to a broiler fryer chicken. Similarly with a large roast versus a thin cut of meat.

Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.[1] The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes.[1] This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis.[1] The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins.[1] The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.

Thanks to  Wikipedia   for the above info!

*You can brine any proteins (or even vegetables) that you’d like, but I recommend it most with poultry.  A good brine will yield the moist, succulent kind of meat that every cook is looking for.  Here is a simple brine recipe that you can use for any meat:

Basic Brine Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon warm (not hot) water
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Preparation:

        Combine all ingredients in a large pot or bowl and whisk together until the salt and sugar is dissolved.  Submerge meat in the liquid and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Once the brining process is complete, take the meat out of the liquid, strain off liquid and dry well with a towel.

*Some brines contain herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus.  You are welcome to find any recipe or try anything you like to infuse flavors into your food through brining.  This Basic Brine recipe is just a jumping-off point– the possibilities are endless.  Believe me though, once you brine, you’ll never go back!

🙂

 

The Technique of Braising

     “Braising“(from the French “braiser”) is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavor. Braising of meat is often referred to as “pot roasting”, though some authors make a distinction between the two methods based on whether additional liquid is added

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     I couldn’t have written it better myself, so please visit THIS BLOG to learn the technique of  braising.  Thanks to  The Reluctant Gourmet   for such a detailed explanation of how and what to braise– great post!

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni ~ a French herbal mixture. It consists of a collection of herbs, gathered together and tied into a bundle or sachet in cheesecloth, or directly tied together when using fresh herbs. It is used to enhance the flavor of stews, broths or stocks. There are two versions – a dried version and a fresh version.

Fresh Version:Bouquet_garni_p1150476_extracted
1. Gather together fresh herbs, making sure they have long stems.
For a traditional bouquet garni, the herbs should consist of 3 sprigs of parsley, 2 sprigs of thyme and 1 bay leaf. (2 sprigs of fresh rosemary is optional)
2. Tie the bunch together with kitchen twine and leave a tail that you can use to haul the bunch in and out of your pot.

Dried Version:
1. Gather together dried herbs.bouquet garni
Mix together 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 bay leaf. (1 teaspoon of rosemary is optional.)
2. Wrap in a cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine, again leaving some length for hauling in
out of the pot.

 

How to use a bouquet garni:
These can be used in making soups, stocks and sauces. Place the bouquet in the liquid at the beginning of cooking and leave in until right before serving. Some classic French dishes that these are used in include:

• French onion soup
• Brown Windsor soup
• Pot au feu
• Poule au pot
• Carbonnade flamande
• Lapin chasseur
• Blanquette de veau
• Ossobuco
• Bouillabaisse
• Court-bouillon
• Boeuf bourguignon
• Cassoulet

Remember: there is no generic recipe for bouquet garni, but most recipes include parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the recipe, the bouquet garni may also include basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory and tarragon. Vegetables such as carrot, celery (leaves and stems) celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root are sometimes included in the bouquet. You can feel free to use whatever you’d like to infuse flavor in your soup, stock or sauce depending on your taste– feel free to improvise!

Thai Curry Sauce

There are a great many varieties of curry.  This is a recipe for how to make a yellow-curry sauce that is a kind of Thai Curry.  It is a versatile sauce that you can use with a variety of meats, vegetables and tofu.

  • Start by making a blond roux (or basic white sauce)
  • To this, add about 2 Tablespoons of Curry Powder

* Curry Powder comes in a few different varieties: green, red and yellow.  What I am using is yellow curry powder that is made up, generally, of tumeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves, cardamon, fennel, nutmeg, laurel, allspice and garlic.  If you don’t like the flavor of any of these ingredients, you can always make your own curry powder out of any of the ingredients I just listed.

  • Add 1 can of coconut milk (be sure that it is coconut milk and not coconut juice– big difference!)
  • After the sauce is homogenous, add the juice of one lime. (Taste the lime first to make sure it isn’t bitter.)
  • Salt to taste and top with freshly chopped cilantro and/or thai basil.

 

Goat Cheese Alfredo Sauce

  • Over med-high heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of Butter in a large sauce pan
  • Once the butter is melted, add 1/2 Cup of chopped Onion
  • After the onions have cooked until they’re soft, add 3-4 cloves of minced Garlic
  • After only a minute or so, add 2 Cups of Milk
  • Stirring constantly so that the milk does not scorch, cook until the milk is good and hot.
  • Add a 4oz package of Goat Cheese and stir constantly until the cheese is fully incorporated.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

* You’ll want to wait and salt at the end because the goat cheese itself will be rather salty.  To this sauce, you can add sautéed mushrooms, fresh chopped parsley and even some cooked white (or navy) beans to add variety and depth of flavor.  Serve over pasta or use for a baked casserole.  It’s a rather versatile sauce!

How to make a basic Cheese Sauce

Making a simple cheese sauce may seem a little daunting at first (Wouldn’t be so much easier to just use a packet or a hunk of Velveeta?), but it’s worth the time (and money) to learn how to make your own.  Once you’ve learned how to do it, you won’t ever want to go back!

  • Start by sautéing a half a cup of finely diced onion in about 4 Tablespoons of Butter on med-high heat in a large pot or deep skillet.
  • Once the onions are soft, stir in about one Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard, and add a dash of freshly grated nutmeg.
  • If you’d like the flavor, you can add a couple of cloves of minced garlic at this point, making sure to not cook the garlic very long.  You’re only really heating it up– it will burn quickly
  • To this mixture, add 4 Tablespoons of All-Purpose Flour (You’re making a basic White Sauce at this point).
  • Once the sauce becomes cooked and is blond in color, add 3 Cups of of milk.
  • Stirring constantly, cook the sauce down until it thickens a bit.
  • Once the sauce has thickened, take the sauce off the heat.
  • Then, stir in about 8oz of grated cheese (I prefer to use Sharp Cheddar)– make sure that you have taken the sauce off the heat before you add the cheese.  Otherwise, the cheese will break.

Now that your sauce is ready, you can pour it over pasta, vegetables or make a casserole with it.  Done!

chees sauce-1IMG_0751

Crispy Seared Tofu

     It seems to me that quite a lot of people have heard of replacing meat with tofu, but hardly anyone knows what to DO with those questionable-looking white blocks of it that they see in the store.  First, you have to decide what kind of tofu you’re needing.  The soft tofu is good to use in smoothies and also sauces that call for soft cheeses (light ricotta).  However, if you’re going to be putting tofu in a dish and you don’t want it falling apart, you’ll want to purchase the “hard” or “extra-firm” version of this soy-wonder.  What I’ll be describing is how to prepare crispy seared tofu made from the extra-firm variety.  This would be the kind of tofu that would work well in curry dishes, hearty stews or eaten on their own with a yummy dipping sauce.  So, here we go!

Tofu

  • As I mentioned before, you’ll want to start with a very firm block of tofu.  You can find these in almost any major super market near the produce or the cheese sections of the store.  If you can’t find it, just ask!
  • Tofu is stored in water, so you’ll want to drain the water off of the block of tofu and pat it dry with a clean towel.
  • Next, cut the tofu into cubes (or whatever shape you like, really) that are roughly the same size.
  • Using a non-stick skillet, lightly coat the pan with oil (preferably one that doesn’t have a low smoking point– I prefer canola oil) and set the heat on high.  You want that sucker to be good and hot!
  • Once the pan is nice and hot, arranged the cut tofu around the pan so that they are not touching and are evenly distributed.  What you’re going to do is sear the tofu until it is golden and crispy.
  • After a side has been seared, gently turn tofu and start searing another side.  You will repeat this process until all sides are golden and crispy.
  • Once all sides have been seared, remove the tofu from the pan and place it on a towel (or paper towels) in order to get some of the excess oil off– you don’t want your tofu to get soggy.
  • Lightly salt (or season with whatever seasonings you’ll be cooking with) and set aside.crispy tofu

Now you’ve got some great looking, crispy tofu that’s ready to eat, thrown into a sauce, mixed with rice or eaten with pasta!  It’s easy, it’s cheap, and now you know how to work with it.

fried tofutofu patties

Making a hearty vergetarian meal

     Many people who have attempted a vegetarian diet often feel discouraged quickly because they feel like they’re “missing something”, and that can often be the case if you’re making your regular recipes and just subtracting the meat.  You have to re-think your plate.  Instead of basing your meals around your protein, you have to start thinking of dishes as a whole.  Basing the meal around whatever sauce you are wanting to make is a great way to re-train your brain.  Making a hearty, vegetarian meal requires very little effort, once you get the hang of it.  Here are a few ideas to help you:

  • Remember that the majority of our world rarely (if ever) eats meat, and so you will want to be willing to look to different cultures and flavor profiles to see what other cultures eat– it may require you going out of your comfort zone, but it can be a worthwhile adventure!
  • Don’t be ashamed of making”one pot meals” as these are often the source of great vegetarian cooking– plus it can save you time!
  • Base your meal around your sauce and go from there.
  • Tofu is a great option for a adding chunky, protein-filled punch to your meals
  • Having various kinds of beans and lentils on-hand to add to dishes that normally would call for chicken or ground beef makes these proteins easily interchangeable.
  • Eggs are also a great source of protein and can be easily added to sauces (see: How to temper an egg), fried over-easy and put on top of pasta (non-tomato based sauces), baked on top of pizzas, boiled and put on top of salads, fried into a sheet and cut up to add to pasta and rice dishes.  Eggs are really a versatile wonder-food!
  • Lastly, try to remember that vegetarian cooking is not about taking something out, it’s about replacing what you usually use as protein with something else.  There are a great many opportunities to try your hand at vegetarian cooking, so take on the challenge– you might be pleasantly surprised!

* Feel free to comment and ask any questions you might have.  If there’s a particular recipe that you’re wanting to know how to make in a vegetarian way, I can try and help you!  Look over some of your favorite recipes, check out new recipes from other cultures, and just get creative.  And remember, I’m always here to help 🙂