Friday, April 18, 2014

5 Simple Fish Recipes that Don't Sacrifice on Taste

Salmon with Mushrooms Sauce--from Cooking Chat post with 5 great fish recipes
Seeing my social media streams fill with recipes for Good Friday and for Easter, I figured I ought to contribute some ideas, too. I haven't observed Lenten dietary restrictions since I was a kid, but respect those who do. We've been getting more involved at church, so who knows, maybe one of those days I'll do something along those lines. But for now, the contribution I want to make is to show eating fish on Good Friday or any other day doesn't have to feel like a big sacrifice. I'll be demonstrating that tonight when I make the wild salmon with mushroom sauce pictured above!

Both of my parents grew up in traditional Catholic homes in which meat wasn't served. In today's global cuisine with its tofu, lentils and quinoa, this might not be such a big deal. But for a meat and potatoes Irish American family, no meat was a big sacrifice. I'm not sure exactly what fish dishes were served as an alternative, but whatever they were gave seafood a bad name. I suspect it tended to be bland and overcooked. When my folks set out on their own, fish was the last thing they wanted to be having for supper. So I grew up rarely eating seafood.

Knowing the health benefits of fish, I've set out to gain an appreciation for it. Trying out different recipes and learning how to cook it (not overcooking it!) has gradually turned me into a fish fan! And I'm happy to report my 8 year old gobbles it up and want harbor bad memories of bland seafood when he's out on his own. Below I'm sharing links to some my favorite fish recipes for your inspiration, be it on this Good Friday or any other day you are looking for a healthy, tasty meal.
Simple Pan Seared Salmon with Ginger Soy Marinade. #seafood

Simple Pan Seared Salmon with Soy Ginger Marinade I got my basic method for pan searing salmon from Barbara Lynch's cookbook, Stir. The recipe in that book is served with olive lemon relish, definitely worth trying! My version with Soy Ginger Marinade is a bit easier, and kid friendly!


Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa. Cooking Chat recipe.

Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa Got your grill going yet this spring? You'll want to give this one a try! Grilling the pineapple makes for a very tasty salsa topping for the swordfish.

garlic herb butter adds nice flavor to tilapia
Garlic Herb Seasoned Tilapia I gravitate toward meaty fish like salmon and swordfish, but have been trying to expand my repertoire. I recently connected with the folks at McCormick around our common use of the Twitter hashtag #FishFriday. I picked up this tasty recipe from them along with a collection of #FishFriday spices that I used for this dish. I'm still trying to perfect the timing and method for cooking tilapia; this was a tasty step in that journey!

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto.

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto I got this recipe from Irish Country Cooking, a nice recipe collection from the Emerald Isle. This one is light and easy to make.

Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with Orange Soy Marinade

Pan Seared Mahi Mahi with Orange Soy Marinade If you note a resemblance to the salmon recipe above, it's no accident! I successfully applied the same cooking method that worked well with salmon to the Mahi Mahi, and tweaked the marinade slightly, with tasty results.

Do you have a favorite fish recipe? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens

Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens. Cooking Chat recipe.

After going for steak a few weeks in a row for our Saturday supper, I was ready for something a bit more budget friendly last weekend. A nice hearty pasta seemed like the thing. Building the recipe around chicken sausage and collard greens, both only, gave a healthy, low-cost base to the meal. A moderate amount of bacon and feta keep it fairly healthy while adding some nice flavor. All told, this Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens is a winner! You could substitute other substantial greens here. Of course, you could use pork sausage too if you had it on hand.

1 strip bacon
1 large garlic herb chicken sausage, or 2 small ones
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 celery rib, diced
1/2 red or yellow bell peppers (I used a mix)
1 bunch collard greens, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup feta cheese
tbsp chopped parsley
12 ozs rigatoni or other short, substantial shape
salt and pepper to taste
pinch red pepper flakes

Coat a large skillet with oil spray and heat on medium. Cook the bacon until it gets nice and crispy. Remove the cooked bacon to a plate covered with paper towel. Drain the excess bacon fat from the pan--but leave a bit for flavor! When the bacon cools

Return the skillet to heat. Add a bit more oil spray, and add the sausage to brown. Turn over occasionally and cook until it's browned on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside on a plate for later. The sausage I used wasn't precooked. If that's the case with yours, be sure to complete cooking it through at the end of the dish. After it has cooled, slice the sausage into thin circles to be ready for use.
onions and peppers sauteeing for Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens.


Heat the skillet on medium with one tbsp of oil. Add the onion, cook for about 5 minutes, then add the celery and peppers. Saute for another 5 minutes, then add the garlic. This is a good time to start the pasta water boiling.
Collard greens to be cooked with chicken sausage and rigatoni. Cooking Chat recipe.

After the garlic has cooked for a minute or two, gradually stir in the collard greens on medium high heat with, along with a pinch of salt, pinch of red pepper flakes, and another tbsp of olive oil. After the collards have start to wilt a little, and you've got them all in the pan, stir in the chicken stock. Once the stock begins to boil, lower heat to medium low and cover to simmer.

The greens should simmer for about 20 minutes to get nice and tender. About halfway through, begin cooking the rigatoni according to package instructions.  When the greens are about done cooking remove the cover and stir in the sausage to finish cooking them and get the flavors melding together. Cook the sausage and green mixture for about 5 more minutes, uncovered, until the sausage has cooked through.
Chicken sausages with collard greens, to be tossed with rigatoni. Cooking Chat recipe.

Drain the pasta when cooked, and stir in the greens mixture along with the cheese. Plate the pasta, topping with the reserved bacon crumbles, and enjoy!

Rigatoni with Chicken Sausage and Collard Greens. Cooking Chat recipe.

Wine Pairing: A full bodied white works well with the flavor combination here. A chardonnay would probably work, but I went with white Rhone style blend here, and that was a good pairing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto from Irish Country Cooking

Roast Cod Served with Herb Pesto. From Irish Country Cooking.

During my most recent visit to Ireland--too long ago at over ten years--I was struck by the way cooks were making good use of nature's bounty there. Along with fresh produce, meat and dairy from the local farms, I enjoyed a lot of good fish from Ireland's waters. So after trying Irish Lamb Stew from the Irish Country Cooking book, I was ready to sample one of its fish recipes.

As much as I like meaty fish like salmon and swordfish, I'd like to do more with lighter, white fish as part of an overall effort to put seafood on our plates a bit more often. So I decided to try the Roast Cod Steaks with Herb Pesto recipe. This is a very simple preparation that can be done in 30 minutes, as you make the pesto while the cod cooks. The herb pesto adds nice zest to the fish, and the fresh taste is particularly welcome in these early days of spring. I definitely give this recipe a thumbs up!

Irish Country Cooking, a good collection of recipes from cooks from around the country.
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 to 2 tbsp other fresh herb (I use mint, recipe called for dill and/or tarragon)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juice and finely grated zest
2 tbsp olive oil
cod fillet, about 1 1/4 inch thick (see below for notes on the amount needed)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season the cod with a bit of salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil on medium high. When the pan is good and hot, add the cod and sear for 1 minute on each side.

After the brief pan searing of the cod, transfer it to a shallow, oven proof dish and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is just cooked through and flakes easy. My cooking time was closer to 25 minutes but you should check it at 20 to avoid overcooking.

Pesto for roast cod, made with parsley, mint, garlic and lemon.


As the cod is roasting, combine the herbs, garlic and lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I simply combined the chopped herbs with the other ingredients in a bowl. But you could also puree in a food processor to achieve a finer consistency.

When the cod is done, plate portions of it topped with a bit of the pesto, and pass extra pesto at the table. My 8 year old liked the cod itself, the first time trying it, but after trying the pesto he opted for a bit of soy sauce to flavor his fish. More pesto for me! I served this with some leftover pasta and spring vegetables from the night before.

Roast Cod with Herb Pesto served with a side of pasta and vegetables.


Note on the cod: The original recipe calls for 4 to 6 portions of cod fillet. I got a little over 1/2 pound for two of us (my 8 year old who has a pretty good appetite and I), and that was a good amount. I'd say figure 4 to 6 ounces per person. The pesto is enough for at least a pound of fish, I'd say, based on the amount extra we had to put to other uses.

Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of the book. As always, the opinions presented are entirely my own

Saturday, April 05, 2014

11 Wines to Try and Foods to Serve with Them

Amphora Zinfandel in a lineup of wines to try. Cooking Chat post. #wine
All of these were good, but only the Amphora Zin made this list!
It's been a busy stretch, and I didn't get a chance to post my favorite wines from February. Though it's been hectic, I have still managed to find time to enjoy a number of good wines. In fact, I have 11 I'd like to share with you, plucking out favorites from February and March. I had this post ready to go with ten wines, a nice round number, but came across a photo of another one I thought I should share. Hope you don't mind the extra bottle!

This list isn't totally comprehensive. I definitely enjoyed some great wine during the past two months not covered in this roundup. For instance, one meeting during this period entailed sharing a bottle of 1998 Turley Zinfandel. But alas, I didn't get the particulars of the vineyard down on that one, so will keep it off the official list here. As I was pulling this post together, I noticed that most of the wines I was suggesting go particularly well with certain dishes, so will mention the food pairings and link to recipe posts where applicable. In a number of cases, I simply noted or recalled that the wine was very good, without further notes. Consider this more a wine shopping list rather than a detailed critique. If you do try one of these, I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well as tips on your recent wine finds.
2009 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore. Cooking Chat #wine pick.

2009 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore We had a wine club gathering focused on Super Tuscans back in February. There was a great lineup, described more in this post along with my Tuscan Beef Stew recipe, but for this roundup I'll just mention this bottle. I picked it as my favorite during a blind tasting we did, to later realize it was a $200 bottle! If you've got income your looking to dispose on a great bottle of wine, this could be a good choice. If you're a bit more on the frugal side, read on!

2008 Il Novecento Riserva #Chianti black cherry fruit, nice smooth finish, good match for our Tuscan Beef Stew. Certainly would be a good match for Italian classics like spaghetti and meatballs, too, or this Super-Tasty Meat Sauce.

2010 Breca Old Vines Garnacha. Cooking Chat #wine pick.

2010 Breca Old Vines Garnacha I was encouraged to age this bottle for awhile when I got it a year ago. I did manage to do so for awhile, but when Open That Bottle Night rolled around in late February, it seemed like a good time to try it. I got forest floor on the nose, taste of cassis and blackberry. Benefited from about half an our of decanting. Parker gives it 94 points, but it can be had for under $20. Definitely a good deal! And after trying several Chiantis with the Tuscan Beef Stew I made, it was fun to mix it up a bit with the leftover stew.

2007 Finca La Estacada Another good value from Spain, for under $20. This is a blend with 50% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Syrah. I get violet on the nose, black pepper and cherry taste. Writing this up reminds me to pick up another bottle of this one!
2009 Familia Mayol Quatro Primos. via Cooking Chat "Eleven Wines to Try"


2009 Familia Mayol Quatro Primos Malbec is the lead grape in the blend from Argentina, but it also features Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda and Syrah. This has aged enough to take the edge of the tannins, rendering a complex, well-structured wine. Stood up nicely to our Roasted Sirloin with Chimichurri Sauce.

2008 Amphora Zinfandel from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. This big, robust red was paired with pork tenderloin at our Almost Spring Tasting event, and worked quite well.

Warre's Otima 10 year Old Tawny I don't know much about port, but I could still appreciate that this was a very good bottle! Friends brought this over for our Almost Spring Tasting, and this went wonderfully at the end of the evening.

$15 AND UNDER: A number of the wines above are pretty affordable, but I'm especially interested in finding and sharing very good wines that come in at or under $15. Here are my recent favorite finds in this category.
Kung Fu Girl Riesling

2012 Kung Fu Girl Riesling This Riesling from Washington State features nice apple fruit, bit of sweetness but not too much. Riesling is a great, versatile food wine, but it's especially good with spicy food and Asian cuisine.

2011 Tenuta di Gracciano Della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano. Go ahead, try and say that 5 times fast! This was suggested to me as a great wine for pizza and it didn't disappoint. This one has more finesse than one would expect from a $15 bottle, but still has a touch of that rustic Italian red taste that goes well with pizza. 
Lava Beneventano Aglianico. A Cooking Chat everyday #wine favorite!

Lava Beneventano Aglianico Of all the wines in this post, this is the one you'll find poured most often at our house. You can't do much better for around $12 per bottle. Lush fruit, smooth finish, drinks like something twice the price. Great with pizza. Gets its name from the volcanic soil its grown in, from Italy's Campania region. This one and the Grillo below are the most recent vintages available, I think it's the 2012 and 2013 respectively, but I didn't get that down in my notes.

Fondo Antico Grillo Parlante, made from the Sicilian white grape Grillo, has a nice fresh crispness that worked well with the raw shaved asparagus dish I like to serve. I also got a bit of salinity in this--perhaps from the vineyard's proximity to the sea?