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One of the great things about living in Southern California wasn’t just the delicious authentic Mexican food, it was the cheap delicious authentic Mexican food. Here in Massachusetts, we get to pay double for mediocre, non-authentic Mexican food.
Or, I could just learn how to make it at home!
Over the past two years, I’ve developed a modest arsenal of authentic Mexican recipes, including Pioneer Woman’s salsa. I’d never made fish tacos though. I don’t cook much with fish. I used to not like seafood much, but even now that I’ve grown out of my fish-aversion, I still don’t really think about it as a meal option. But when Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker raved about the fish taco recipe she snagged from Martha Stewart’s new Power Foods cookbook, I knew I had to try it. And I can say with confidence that fish will be making a more regular appearance on our dinner table now, because these fish tacos were awesome.
The recipe calls for skin-on striped bass or red snapper, but my grocery store didn’t carry either of those, so I used skinless tilapia, which worked out just fine. The recipe comes together fairly quickly, although there is half an hour to two hours of marinating time, which needs to be factored in. You rub the fish with a mixture of chili powder, oregano, salt, pepper, freshly minced cilantro and olive oil, and let it rest in the fridge while you prepare the accompaniments – lightly salt some shredded cabbage and set aside, and make a batch of pickled veggies. I wasn’t too sure about the pickles but they added a nice touch to the tacos.
These tacos are delicious and authentic. The fish is very flavorful, and when piled high with shredded cabbage, pickles, sour cream, and cilantro, the tacos are pretty irresistible. I definitely recommend using hot sauce, because the tacos won’t be spicy without it, and I thought they really came alive with a sprinkling of Tabasco.
Grilled Fish Tacos
Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Power Foods, via Brown Eyed Baker
Yield: Makes 12 tacos*
Prep: 20 minutes Inactive prep: 30 minutes to 2 hours Cook time: 8 to 12 minutes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 pounds skin-on** stripped bass or red snapper fillets, or skinless tilapia fillets
5 cups shredded cabbage (1/2 head)
Neutral-tasting oil, such as canola or safflower, for grill
Lime wedges, avocado, sour cream, and hot sauce, for serving
Quick pickled vegetables, optional (recipe follows)
- Stir together cumin, oregano, chili powder, and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix in the olive oil and cilantro.
- Use a sharp knife to make shallow slits about 1 1/2 inches apart into the fish skin (or the fish flesh, if skinless); rub both sides with spice mixture and set the filets in a large dish. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Toss together cabbage and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- Prepare pickled vegetables, if using.
- Heat grill or grill pan to high (if using charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill for just 2 to 3 seconds. Lightly oil grates or pan. (If using a grill pan indoors, be sure to turn on your stove’s ventilation fan – and possibly disable your smoke detector temporarily – because the fish will smoke quite a bit.)
- Place fish, skin side up, on grill. Cook, without moving fish, until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip, using two spatulas if necessary. Cook until fish flakes slightly when pressed in the center, 5 to 7 minutes more. (I found that my fish only needed a 3-4 minutes on each side.)
- Transfer fish to a serving platter; let cool slightly, then shred with a fork into bite-size pieces. Garnish platter with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs. Serve warm or at room temperature (within 1 hour). Allow guests to assemble their own tacos, layering fish with cabbage, avocado, sour cream, hot sauce, pickled vegetables, and other toppings, as desired.
Note: We fried our corn tortillas in canola oil, which isn’t exactly the authentic way to serve fish tacos, but we prefer them fried. If you want to have them fried, pour about a 1/4 inch of oil into a small frying pan and heat it up until a drop of water sizzles when dropped in (watch out for splattering oil), or when you dip an edge of a tortilla into the oil and the oil immediately starts boiling around it. Prick the tortillas in the middle with a fork to prevent them from puffing up, and fry quickly in the oil, keeping the tortilla submerged with tongs – it’ll take less than a minute.
Quick picked vegetables
I only had 1 jalapeno, so I quartered this recipe. I’ve included the quartered amounts in parenthesis, in case you don’t want to make a quart of pickles. A quarter recipe will yield 1 cup.
Yield: 1 quart
Prep time: 20 minutes
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar (5 oz)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons coarse salt (1/2 teaspoon)
3 cups cold water (3/4 cup)
4 carrots, peeled and diagonally sliced 3/4 inch thick (1 carrot)
2 small red onions, halved and sliced into 3/4 inch wedges (1/2 of a red onion)
4 jalapeno chiles, quartered lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed (1 jalapeno)
Combine vinegar, sugar, water, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Add carrots, onion and jalapeno, and reduce heat to medium-high. Simmer until carrots are just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let cool before covering and refrigerating. (Pickles will keep up to 2 weeks.)
*We made 4 tacos last night and it seemed like we barely made a dent in the pile of fish. This yield depends on how much fish you stuff into one taco, but I bet we’ll get more than 12 tacos out of it.
** I question the need for the skin. I didn’t have any trouble flipping the skinless tilapia fillets, and the only reason I can think of to keep the skin on is to hold the fish together. I’m not sure if the bass or snapper would behave as nicely if they were skinless, but I have a feeling that if all you can find is skinless fish, you don’t need to sweat it.
My parents came for a visit a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to bake a traditional layer cake for them. I decided I didn’t want to do chocolate or a plain white or yellow cake – too overdone, too boring, too much like birthday cake. I remembered that I had made perfect little carrot cupcakes in the summer and that I had been really impressed with how good that recipe was, so I wanted to make it in cake form. Luckily the recipe for the cupcakes is from Cook’s Illustrated, and the same recipe – adapted for a layer cake – was in my America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Yippee!
This cake is moist and flavorful and really, it’s just carrot cake perfection. I love that it doesn’t include any carrot cake oddities like raisins or crushed pineapple. It’s a simple, straightforward cake that is the perfect way to welcome spring. And it’s an easy recipe – the cookbook notes that it’s “great for beginners” but it’s still a recipe that will impress company.
Pro tip: America’s Test Kitchen recommends that you use the grater attachment in your food processor to grate the carrots. I agree! A pound of carrots would take a lot of time and effort to grate up by hand, and the food processor will buzz through them in no time. Plus, it’ll save you from the fear that you will end up grating your fingertips or knuckles on your box grater. Or is that just me?
Carrot Layer Cake
From America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Serves 8 to 10
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 pound (5 medium) carrots, peeled and grated
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars together by hand until the sugards are mostly dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Continue whisking while slowly drizzling in the oil, until thoroughly combined and emulsified. Whisk in the flour mixture until just incorporated, then stir in the carrots.
- Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Pour the battering the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway though baking.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting, about 2 hours.
Cream cheese frosting
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 – 6 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Whip the cream cheese and the butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla then 4 cups of sugar, one cup at a time. Add more sugar if necessary, to achieve the flavor and texture you like (I generally like to add more sugar so the frosting is less buttery). Use splashes of milk to loosen the frosting as necessary, adding only a teaspoon or so at time.
I’m trying to add more whole grains into our diet. James and I generally eat well, we eat a lot of whole foods and keep processed foods to a minimum. But I realized recently that while we get about our recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and definitely get enough dairy (we’re big milk drinkers), we weren’t coming close to the daily recommended amount of whole grain. So we’ve switched from regular “whole grain” cold cereal to Bob’s Red Mill whole grain hot cereals, which consist of ground up whole grains… and that’s it. No white flour, no sugar, no preservatives. I’m trying to have more whole grains as sides at dinner, like brown rice and quinoa. Now that I’m not working, I’m baking 100% whole wheat bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, which we use for sandwiches rather than store-bought bread.
And I’m sneaking whole wheat flour into more and more of our baked goods. I recently found white whole wheat flour in our grocery store and I’m in love. It has a more subtle flavor that regular whole wheat, and you really can’t detect it when you sub out half of the AP flour in a recipe for white whole wheat. So when I made these pancakes this morning, I used 1 cup white whole wheat and 1 cup AP flour, and they came out light and fluffy and delicious and James was surprised when I told him they were half whole wheat.
This weekend is the New Hampshire maple producers open house weekend, so James and I drove up yesterday to visit two sugar houses to see how they make maple syrup and to sample maple products. We first stopped at the Maple Butternut Farm in New Boston, and then we went to the Grant Family Pond View Maples in Weare.
Both are family-run operations – I suspect most if not all of the sugar houses in NH are family owned and operated. We drank little shots of pure maple syrup at both houses, and at the second one we also had maple hot dogs (cooked in maple water), maple chili, maple popcorn, and maple cotton candy. Yum yum!!
It was awesome to taste all that maple-y goodness and really interesting to meet the people to make the syrup and learn about how they do it. Of course we came home with a fair amount of maple products: A pint of maple syrup from each of the sugar houses, maple cream, maple butter, and maple sugar.
So of course this morning I had a big craving for pancakes! These babies hit the spot. Light and fluffy with a nice tang of buttermilk, and heartier than normal pancakes thanks to the whole wheat. Delicious! Especially topped with super yummy New Hampshire maple syrup.
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Family Baking Book
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 large egg
extra unsalted butter for the pan
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet and set on the oven rack.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a 4-cup measuring cup, measure out buttermilk and then add melted butter and egg (you can use a medium bowl for this, but using a 4 cup measure saves you from having to wash an extra bowl while giving you room to whisk). Whisk wet ingredients together and add them to the dry. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated, with a few lumps remaining. Do not over mix. The batter will be very thick.
- Heat a skillet or griddle pan over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Test with a few drops of water sprinkled on the surface – the pan is ready when the water immediately dances across the surface. Brush the pan with some butter. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop the batter onto the skillet and cook until large bubbles begin to appear, about 2 minutes.
- Flip the pancakes and continue to cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer pancakes to wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with butter as needed. Serve with maple syrup!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wasn’t planning on making anything special for today, since my husband’s birthday was the day before yesterday so we have plenty of cake and dinner leftovers. But then I remembered my friend K sent me this recipe last year and I still hadn’t tried it and I love Irish soda bread but hardly ever have it. Plus, this recipe comes from K’s Northern Irish friend’s mother. An authentic, straight-from-Ireland recipe? Sold!
This is a quick bread, so it came together… quickly. Whisk together dry ingredients, add raisins, mix together wet ingredients, add those to the dry, plop it in a loaf pan, scoot it into the oven, and you’re done. Most Irish soda breads I’ve seen are round, not loaf-shaped, but I’m sure you could make this in a round cake pan, you’d probably just have to adjust the baking time.
This is a delicious bread! Soft, almost spongy in texture (in a good way!), moist and slightly sweet. I imagine there are about as many Irish soda bread recipes out there as there are Irish families. I’m used to a drier, more crumbly kind of soda bread. I like both kinds, actually. The recipe calls for 3 cups of all-purpose flour but I used 2 cups AP and 1 cup of white whole wheat flour – I don’t think you can detect that there’s whole wheat in it.
Irish Soda Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups AP and 1 cup white whole wheat)
2/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cups golden raisins (half a box) or regular raisins if you prefer
2 large eggs
2 cups of buttermilk (not too fresh, it gets better as it approaches the expiration date)
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a large loaf pan (mine is about 10 x 5 and fit perfectly).
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add the raisins and mix well. Combine the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter in a small bowl – mix well with the whisk.
- Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until just moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX – it will not taste as good and lose its texture.
- Dump into prepared pan and bake for about an hour. (Mine took 55 minutes.) Test for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from pan and cool on rack.
Serve warm or cold with some good butter.
I’ve proclaimed myself as a lover of homemade granola around these parts before, so I’ll keep this brief. I love granola. My dad has been baking up the same homemade granola recipe for as long as I can remember, but I like to mix things up and try different recipes and combinations of fruits and nuts.
This recipe comes from Martha Stewart, but she calls it honey-pecan granola. Well, I didn’t have any pecans (I’m not big fan) and I like my granola to include at least a little fruit, so this is my riff on her recipe. This is more delicately flavored than my maple granola recipe, and I kept it simple with limiting my fruits to coconut and golden raisins. It’s yummy with milk or sprinkled on top of yogurt. Feel free to adjust the fruits and nuts in this recipe to suit your taste!
Nutty Honey Granola with Golden Raisins
Adapted from Martha Stewart
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped nuts ( I used a combination of walnuts, almonds, and cashews)
1/4 cup flax seed meal (optional)
1/4 cup wheat bran (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup honey (I prefer clover, Martha recommends something stronger-tasting like orange blossom)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup golden raisins
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the raisins and mix well. Spread granola onto baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until oats and coconut are lightly golden, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool completely on sheet and then mix in the raisins. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.
I recently discovered the wonder that is bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I never used to cook with them because the boneless, skinless variety is easier and I guess marginally healthier for you. Now I’m cooking with them all the time because cooking the chicken on the bone results in a moister, more flavorful meat. And I’d argue that if you don’t actually eat the skin, the chicken on the bone isn’t much different in terms of fat and calories than the boneless variety.
Plus, the bone-in variety is cheaper than boneless chicken breasts, so what’s not to love?
This recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, and like every recipe I’ve ever tried from that magazine, it’s a good one. The
magicians chefs at Everyday Food always surprise me with the deliciousness they can whip up with so few ingredients. This is one of those “that’s all there is??” recipes: breadcrumbs + parmesan cheese + fresh parsley + lemon = magic. This is an extremely tasty and simple way to have chicken – so simple that if you make it a few times you probably wouldn’t even need to look at the recipe again – but it’s nice enough to serve to company.
Parmesan-stuffed Chicken Breasts
From Everyday Food
Serves 4 (if you can tell by my photos, the breasts I used were massive and James and I split them to get 8 servings)
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (use fresh for best results!)
Grated zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 bone-in chicken breast halves (about 3 lbs)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, mix parsley, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and zest. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
- Divide parsley mixture into 4 mounds. Carefully loosen chicken skin with fingers; tuck parsley mixture under skin. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in a 9×13-inch roasting pan.
- Bake until skin is crispy, chicken is cooked through, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.