Chicken Tandoori on the Grill

This is one of those recipes I thought I’d posted a year or so ago – but hadn’t.

I’ve made this twice earlier this season, but the first time my grill didn’t get hot enough so I didn’t pursue the write-up further.   The second time was last weekend, but since I was in a hurry I didn’t 1) marinate it quite long enough and 2) didn’t remove the skin from the drumsticks.  It didn’t seem to me that that particular session was worthy of a write-up, or photography.  But the charcoal heat was intense enough, and the flavors came through.

So… I’m doing a third try this season!  (And this season is still mighty young!)

grilled, tandoori, chicken

Two tandoori thighs. Yum.

I seriously prefer dark meat to white meat, and especially so on the grill, where it is all-too-easy to dry the latter out beyond description.  (Okay, I can describe that; I’d just rather not…)  Since I simply just prefer the dark to begin with, for grilling I’ll just buy that, as long as I’m not also cooking for a white meat fanatic.

(If I’d be roasting a whole bird all together as a whole bird, I’d also buy that, and indeed at some point I’ll be experimenting with the “beer can chicken” where you grill the fowl over a can of beer (or root beer, or ginger beer, or soda water) — this is supposed to keep the fowl and its white meat moist.  Later! That one’s not tandoori!)

But, back to the tandoori chicken…

grill, tandoori, chicken

Tandoori chicken marinating

In India (and no doubt in quality Indian restaurants everywhere), “tandoori” refers to a way of cooking food in a high-heat tandoor oven.  Which most of us probably don’t have.  (However, it IS on my wish-list…)  A really hot outdoor charcoal grill, however, can get us pretty darn close to, ahem, ignition.  I have little experience with propane grilling in this regard, however, and unless you have experience with yours at really high heat, I recommend charcoal.

Prep time:  15-20 minutes active prep; marinate 8-24 hours.
Cook time: 20-30 minutes, grill temps vary.
Rest time:  Say, five minutes.
Serves:  a couple of pieces of chicken for everyone is minimal, but I’d have the option for more.   At worst, there’d always be leftovers.

Chicken Tandoori on the Charcoal Grill

* Chicken, usually still on the bone, but skin removed. Say, about 6 – 8 thighs, or whatever floats your boat.  (If your chicken was reared in a healthy, pastured environment, save the skin to fry and crisp up in a skillet — draining off the extra fat after cooking onto a paper towel or two — otherwise discard.  If you do fry and crisp it up, seasonings such as lemon pepper, garlic powder, or even a chili blend can be applied before crisping.  But, that’s a separate dish.)  If you don’t want the bother of removing the skin, go buy the boneless, skinless chicken pieces — although it is pretty easy to remove from the thighs (or breasts); drumsticks take a little bit more effort.
* Plain yogurt, preferably whole fat, have a cup to hand.  If you prefer a not-whole-fat source, make sure there are no added sugars or other extenders in there.  (Yogurt, depending on brand and source,  is a bit more forgiving for those who shop for lower fat products without extenders, than most  other dairy products, with the exception of mozzarella which seems to be free of extenders even when low-fat.)  I often source out goat yogurt when available.  A note which I’ve made before:  WHOLE milk is 3.5% fat.  1% milk is 1% fat.   It is NOT 1% of 3.5%.  Unless you are subsisting on dairy for the majority of your nutrition needs (please, don’t!), whole milk is generally going to be a LOT healthier for you, especially if you can’t avoid extenders.  Try to find a healthy source for your yogurt — I pretty much trust Stonyhill brand as a widespread example, at least in the US.  If you have an Indian grocery store nearby, you can always pick up some of their yogurt.
* Lemon juice from one whole lemon, but add about half for starters.  You can always add more in the tasting phase.
* Tandoori seasoning, a good heaping tablespoon.  I use Penzey’s blend.  This contains: Coriander, cumin, sweet paprika, garlic, ginger, cardamom and saffron.  I have in the past made my own blend, but today I had other things on my mind.
* Tumeric powder.  For some reason the Penzey’s blend doesn’t contain tumeric, but I find it essential, and yes, even good for you…  I added nearly a teaspoon.
* Optional 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Tandoori isn’t necessarily hot-spicy, but I like to add in a little kick.
* Ground pepper and sea salt.  (It doesn’t have to be sea salt, but after that rant on milk fats, I figure I better add in sea salt…)

PS:  this won’t yield that bright red coloration you see at many Indian restaurants here in North America.  The secret to that one is… food coloring.  Adding in a little more paprika will give the marinate more of a reddish tone, but it won’t be bright red.

Procedure:

Prep the marinate — mix everything together in a large bowl except the chicken.  Set aside.

Prep the chicken — take the skinless chicken and either slice slits in it with a paring knife in 4 or 5 locations, or use the tines of a fork to puncture it hither and yonder. Scrub  your hands clean… it’s raw chicken…

The marinate should have sat aside about 15 minutes, enough time for the flavors to have “married” a bit into the yogurt.  Taste the marinate — you may want to adjust levels of seasoning now.  (See why we washed our hands?  Grin.)

Once all that’s settled, add in your chicken, using your hands to rube the marinate into all pieces, and into those flavor-containing slits that you made in the pieces.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight, and come back 2 or 3 times to move the pieces around in the marinate (with a spoon or fork this time).

Get your grill (or tandoor, lucky you) ready however you usually do.  I use a charcoal chimney,   The trick with the charcoal chimney is getting the coals hot enough — I use a relatively inexpensive brand of hardwood lump charcoal, not the briquettes.  The briquettes are all evenly-sized, which makes it difficult to find the proper amount of air flow inside your chimney.  I focus on mid-sized bits of lump charcoal, as these are irregularly-sized, and provide enough, but not too much, air flow.  The really large pieces that come in my bag I intersperse in selectively (or sometimes break into two), or save for cooler cooking needs.

The charcoal chimney will take about 20-25 minutes to get the coals piping hot (on really windy days this will happen much faster, and the coals, in my experience, don’t get dinner quite as hot — so if I know that the night I want to grill is going to be windy, I typically make something else…)

When the coals are ready, pour the charcoal into the grill on one side.  Make sure you have your vents about halfway open (well, mine are frozen in place, cheap grill.  Fortunately they’re frozen into a useful place).  Have the chicken ready, and arrange it over the direct side of the grill.  Discard extra marinate.  Cover.

After about ten minutes, using grilling tongs, flip the pieces.  (There are no precise timings to give you for charcoal grilling, and it will also depend on the thickness of the chicken.  Even among chicken thighs, I’ve seen monstrous ones and teensie ones.  Thick pieces I’ll flip more than once.

After another ten minutes (or so), check for done-ness, using either a meat thermometer inserted not against the bone or if you feel confident about your done-ness skills, cut a piece open.  Note that grilling doesn’t cook every piece evenly the same, but dark meat is more forgiving than the white for overcooking.  You can always remove the center pieces and then move in the side pieces so they can continue cooking more intensely.  Or to keep warm, those fully-cooked center pieces can move off to the far indirect side of the grill.

Chacoal chimney, grill

“Come on baby light my fire…”

 

 

 

Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Poultry | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Gardening 2015 May Report

This is a food blog, so I’ll be mostly discussing in this post what I’m growing to eat this year, but not exclusively.  A few of my garden plants you really don’t want to eat, including the plant in the first photo in this post.  You see, I’ll be moving next year, and so growing veggies here is changing — I’m not going to be growing as many, and most will be in container pots.  Most of these photos were taken about ten days ago, and I’d intended this to be a May posting, but life got in the way.  All the photos were indeed taken this May.  Mostly ten days ago.

Hellebore:  A shade loving plant NOT FOR CONSUMPTION!

Hellebore: A shade loving plant NOT FOR CONSUMPTION!  Perennial.

I have a ton of shade here — very few places are sunny.  Right down by the road presumably gets a lot of sun, but I don’t really care to consume auto-exhaust laden zucchini.  There’s a place in the front yard where I and my old housemate set up a vegetable patch many years ago.  Unfortunately, a veggie patch in the front yard doesn’t really inspire “curb appeal”, especially since it was working less and less efficiently over the years (more shade as other things grew taller — this is a really atypical yard; I’m on a hillside and due-southwest the land drops off drastically, so down there it is trees, which do provide privacy, and erosion control).

Another perennial not for (human) consumption, but deer like it — if it is put in easy-access.  This particular coleus has survived for years, because it is out-of-the-way on the driveway!  (Mind you, it this were a tulip, there’d be no holding them deer back!)

coleus, garden

Happy coleus doing it’s May thing.

So, this year I ripped out the veggie patch, moved the rich topsoil — it was a three-inch “raised bed” — to fill in holes in the yard, and to fertilize up my container pots.  I’m waiting for the grass I’ve sown there to take off.  Next rain, perhaps.  (Note:  it has!)

Anyhow, where the veggie patch was, along the edges, some mustard green seeds from the previous year have re-seeded themselves.  A few have also ended up growing in places where I tossed the topsoil!  They are all being harvested this week and next week (June) for salads.

 

mustard greens, garden

Mustard greens captured through a macro lens. They definitely like to re-seed.

I also have a rock garden, which has long been a home for herbs.  This remains.  More, below.

Brussels sprouts share a container pot.    (Who’da thunk?  Me, who loathed those things for years and decades — I now love ’em if properly cooked; plus anything that grows on stalks like those guys grow have simply got to be cool just to look at!)

brussels sprouts, garden

Brussels sprouts sharing a container pot.

Collard greens have their own special place on my front door stoop, three pots.

Collard greens, garden

The guy in the middle pot is indeed growing — just more slowly!

 

A friend recently gave me some lemon grass to root — since this is a perennial, this moves with me.  At the other end of the planter, I put in some grape hibiscus, because it is also perennial, and except when it is flowering, looks kinda ugly with regards to “curb appeal”.   Looks like grass growing where it is not welcome.  Much of the rest has been ripped up.  I might as well keep what I like, right?  It multiplies.  (I didn’t photograph the remains of the grape hibiscus.)  But yes, some guest petunias are along for the ride this summer.

lemon grass, garden

Lemon grass taking root. With proper care it is a perennial.

My newest veggie acquisition is red Russian kale.  The three that I planted in this planter were so thankful that they outpaced the other three within 24 hours.  (I planted the other three 24 hours later in the Rock Garden.  They’ll catch up.)

russian kale, gardenrussian kale, gardenrussian kale, garden

I’ve also a planter which I’ve seeded with microgreens (using fresh organic soil, so I’d know what things came up are actually things I want to eat).  Most people do these plantings indoors in a south-facing window, but I really didn’t want the south-facing window to be mistaken for a litter box by any errant felines who live here!  These are just about ready for harvest, and I can keep this going all summer long since I have enough seeds.

microgreens, gardening

A few microgreens via the macrolens

The rock garden is also something my old housemate and I created years ago.  Most of it is semi-shaded but the front parts are good for strawberries, cucumbers, and lots of herbs.  I have irises in there, which do their thing before too much shade hits the area up. Unfortunately Pachysandra is attempting to overrun the space, and that’s one of my duties for later today (written back in May, and partial extraction has been completed).  Returning from previous years are the strawberries (which I never get to eat more than one or two from), the oregano (yum) and the woodruff.  Also, feverfew, which is an herb indicated for migraines.  Annual herbs that went in so far include parsley, sage, rosemary, and …. uh, I haven’t gotten the thyme yet!  I do hope to add basil, as per usual.

Below, in order:  Sage, oregano (coming back from last year, and from many earlier years), and rosemary.

sage, gardenoregano, gardenrosemary, garden

woodruff, garden

Woodruff is a small perennial shade-loving plant handy in semi-wooded areas. From this one can make May wine.  Someday I’ll figure that out!

Other than edibles, the only annuals I am planting this year are bellflower (I just couldn’t resist its cheer) and some petunias (ditto).  I need color to flesh out my life.

petunias, garden

Petunias in a planter with wooden ducklings my parents gave me at least 20 years ago.  Mama duck long ago rotted away. 

On to the Rhododendron of Large Standing:

I am certain if I took the time, I could find you a photo of this rhodo doing what rhodos do best.  It would be a photo taken 4 or 5 years ago.  However, it was beginning to weaken over the last two or three years, and this last really harsh winter truly did it in.  I took the above photo after I cut out the most obviously bad/dead parts.  I should have taken a truly “before” shot. At any rate, this thing looked straggly, spindly, and a few other uncomplimentary words even here.  For some reason, the parts of it that spent most of the winter under snow cover turned out to survive the best.

I thought about ripping the thing out entirely, but between not having the upper body strength to rip out a 40-year-old planting (it was well-established when I moved here 23 years ago), nor having a back hoe available for cheap,  I opted to let the bottom parts survive.  This was a good idea.  Although this year it only produced one flower, it is also producing LOTS of new green.  I’m going to do the same thing, shortly, to a neighboring azaela which has overgrown its welcome, but I did let it bloom to see where I should best provide the crew cut.

rhododendron, garden

New growth on my truncated rhoto!

I put in a couple of perennials this year, one is McKay’s White Potentilla, which provides white flowers through much of the summer, and grows to 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide.  It should fill in some of the empty space by the original footprint of the truncated rhododendron. Care is supposed to be easy. It only cost $15.

white potentilla, garden

White Potentilla, just after planting.  The tag is not readable, alas.

PS: my favorite wild-growing weeds that can be used as edibles:  onion grass; garlic mustard (this one an invasive so don’t encourage it, but if you have it, eat it); young dandelion leaves.  There is also plantain and burdock root here in droves, but I have less skill with them.

And, at the very end of this post:  Lady’s mantle is considered an herb, but I don’t know if it is edible, or just pretty, or just something which upon when rain happens, water just beads up.  It is a perennial, low-lying, and can deal with a mild amount of shade.

ladys mantle, garden

Lady’s Mantle

Happy gardening!!!

 

 

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Bamboo Rice and Veggies

All right, to begin with, if you don’t have bamboo rice, use any variety of the regular Asian white rice. Bamboo rice is a specialty item which I picked up on a lark.  Not very much of it, either.  I wished to find out what was behind this “variety” before I committed to buying a lot.

bamboo rice, recipe

Bamboo rice with assorted veggies

It is pre-washed, so keep that in mind if using a rice cooker (as I did).  Rice cookers may have a setting for pre-washed, and a setting for non-pre-washed, as in my experience with Zorjirushi’s brand.

This  is a pleasantly green colored, short grained rice, somewhat sticky like sushi rice, but not entirely so, but it does have enough body.  I understand it is a white rice that is soaked before you buy it, in young bamboo greens, imparting the green color, and some additional flavor.  According to the people I bought this from (The Other Brother Darryl’s Seafood, Otis, Massachusetts) you mix 1 part rice with 1.25 parts water. I’ve seen other combos on line, but I decided to stick with my source for this ratio, this time around.  It worked.

I didn’t add a lot of seasonings to this, because I wanted not to lose the delicate flavor of the rice, especially since this is the first time I’ve tasted this (and no, bamboo rice is not cheap).

So anyhow, making this vegetarian rice dish:

Prep Time: 10 minutes prep… and most of the rest can be done while the rice cooks...
Cooking: rice cooks about 35-40 min during this time.  Veggies:  about 5-10 minutes while rice cooks.
Rest time:  not needed.
Serves:  2 main courses.  OR 4 sides.

Bamboo Rice and Veggies

* 120 ml (1/2 cup, or 4 ounces) green bamboo rice (or any Asian white rice — although use the ratio of liquid recommended for the variety you are cooking)
* 150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons, or five ounces) liquid (water — or perhaps one part water to one part low sodium boxed vegetable broth)
* 1 tablespoon oil or butter
— I used avocado oil, with a hint of toasted sesame oil.
* 5-6 white button mushrooms, sliced
* 1/3 to 1/2 bell pepper, color of your choice, slivered
* 5-6 ounces of mung bean sprouts,
* Ground pepper and sea salt to taste.  (Low sodium veggie broth already has salt, even if less than the alternative.  In most cases, you won’t need more.)
* Optional cilantro sprigs, chopped coarsely, for garnish

For the rice, I used the rice cooker, pre-washed setting, white rice setting — rice and liquid together and let her go!  Otherwise, use a stove top pot and cook, covered, stirring periodically, and ascertain no sticking towards the end.

Once the rice was cooked, I kept it covered (warmed)  in the rice cooker, and cooked the veggies as below. (Although you can cook the veggies towards the end of the rice cooking process, as well — I just happened to be otherwise engaged.)

In a skillet, heat up the cooking oil to medium high, add the mushrooms and allow them to cook for about five minutes, using a spatula to move them around.  I then added the bell pepper, but I do like mine more au dente than most people apparently do.  You could add yours after a couple of minutes of cooking the mushrooms, if you prefer.  Add in the ground pepper, and salt if you are using.

When the mushrooms and peppers are cooked to your liking,  add the mung sprouts and stir for another minute.

In your serving dish, lay out the rice, and top with the veggies.  Add the cilantro if you have it (as you may notice, I didn’t have any to hand, but it would have been a nice touch)!  I had this as a main course; it serves two this way.

The rice does have a nice delicate flavor that one source claims is something like the taste of green tea.  Similar, yes.  You definitely don’t want to overpower this with heavy spicing!

Other veggie options you could pick and choose from:  Snow peas.  Chopped baby bok choy.  Water chestnuts.  Baby corn.  Garden-fresh peas.  Sliced onions.  Thin-sliced shiitake mushrooms.  Shredded Napa cabbage… Enjoy!

bamboo rice, recipe

Bamboo rice in the raw

 

Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Mushrooms, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Mango Lassi

I love a good mango lassi, although I try to limit my consumption of this decidedly rich and carb-loaded beverage.  But it is indeed high in nutritive value, and hence filling.  I am given to understand that the lassi is any type of yogurt (or cream) based beverage originating in India or Pakistan; and that lassi had its origins in the Punjab region.  Some do not even contain fruit.  Indeed, there’s one native to India called “bhang lassi”, which probably soon may be sold in Colorado or Washington state, if it isn’t already…

Mango Lassi in the Garden.  I LOVE spring!

Mango Lassi in the Garden. I LOVE spring!  (PS, this is at least two servings here!)

At one point, I made a delicious shrimp and mango salad, but the last time I purchased regular mangos, they went from hard as rocks to rotten with no intermediate stage.  (They were hard as rocks when I was supposed to bring that salad to a pot luck  — I punted, and the shrimp and no-mango salad was serviceable but didn’t beg me to write it up.)

However, by the time I tried making pear and mango salsa, I’d discovered ataulfo mangos, these at Whole Foods.  They’re smaller, and yellow when ripe.  This is what I used below.

Prep time: 10 minutes.
Cook time: Zilch.
Rest time: Not needed.
Serves:   2 servings.

Mango Lassi

* 2 ataulfo mangos, ripe.  Or one large regular mango, ripe.  In any case, peeled and cored.  I use a spoon to scrape out any lingering pulp from the rind.  If you find other tasty mango types out there, experiment!
* good quality whole milk yogurt OR, for those lactose-intolerant: coconut yogurt.
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom.
* some recipes call for rose water.  Don’t have, didn’t use.
* cold water or milk.

Collect all your mango pulp and add half as much yogurt as mango.  In my case, it was nearly just over 8 ounces/250 ml of pulp (that handy-dandy cup for the immersion blender is great for measuring!) so I added 4 ounces/125 ml yogurt.

Add in the cardamom.

Blend, either using an immersion blender or a food processor.  If using the immersion blender, you may wish to find a larger, but also narrow, container.  I simply did it very carefully.

Gradually mix in a little water (or milk) by spoon to get the stuff to the consistency you like.  This will depend on preference, on ripeness (and type) of the mango, and the consistency of the yogurt you are using.

If you wish, you can pour some over crushed ice just prior to serving.  Sprinkle a dusting of ground cardamom on top if you wish.  Store any extra in the fridge for up to a day.  (Don’t drink it all at once!  At least, not often!)

mango lassi, indian, recipe

Chopped up mango, waiting.

I cannot vouch for the flavor of coconut yogurt, having never tasted it.

Some restaurants add sugar.  But, hey… mangos are plenty sweet enough just as they are!

This lil guy was sitting near the mango cup in the last photo.  Grabbed the macro, and shot him!

This lil guy was sitting near the mango cup in the last photo. Grabbed the macro, and shot him!  No, he is NOT destined to be a menu item in my home! 

Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Arrachera Mex-Tex Beef

Think of this as the meat you put into your fajitas, although you can do other things with your preparation.  Arracheras are nearly always made from skirt steak, and it is marinated up to three days before grilling, although 24 hours is fine, too.

I did make this preparation for the actual date of Cinco de Mayo, but didn’t have time to post back then, so here we have it, now.  Rather than serving it as fajitas, I opted to pan fry up in a skillet with onions and bell peppers, omitting the fajita bread entirely.

arracheras, tex-mex, peppers, recipe

2 servings of arracheras and peppers

According to the below-linked web site, “Arrachera beef is a savory Mexican specialty that may have originated with vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) driving their herds to south Texas in the 1930’s.  Tex-Mex cooks eventually reinterpreted arrachera beef, or ‘arracheras’ as the beef fajitas found frequently on menus in U.S. restaurants.”   Back in the day, skirt steak and a lot of the offal were what the Mexican hands were given to eat.

I didn’t have any skirt steak from my beef CSA share to hand, so I picked up a strip from my Whole Foods — a little fattier than I’d have preferred, but then again maybe this was why this was the last piece available.  Do cut off any excess fat pads, although thin bits of fat are fine.  Those vaqueros were dining on animals constantly on the roam!

 Prep Time:  20 minutes for the hands on part; marinate at least 24 hours.
Cook time:  Maybe 10 minutes
.
Rest time:  5 minutes.
Serves 3.  Yes, some came to lunch with me that week!

Arrachera Tex-Mex Beef with Peppers and Onion

For the meat and marinate:

* 1 pound skirt steak, trimmed of any large fat pads.  Slice into three segments for ease of grilling or pan-frying. 
* 2 medium garlic cloves, minced.
* 1/8 cup cheap tequila.  
* 2 teaspoons avocado or olive oil
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* Ground sea salt and ground pepper to taste — say, about 1/4 teaspoon of the former, and 1/3rd teaspoon of the latter.

For the veggies:

* 1/4 to 1/2 yellow or white onion, sliced into thick slivers.
* 2 bell peppers of different colors, de-seeded and sliced into slivers.
* up to one optional jalapeno, de-seeded and minced.
* 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced.
*  1/4 teaspoon ground cumin.
* salt and pepper to taste.

arracheras veg-

To make:

Add all the marinate ingredients to the beef, and mix well.  Store in the fridge for 1 or 2 days, turning to mix four or five times during the marination process.

arracheras, tex-mex, skirt steak, recipe

One pound, marinating.

Put the prepped veggie portion into a skillet, and start cooking that on your range or in your outdoor grill.  Indirect or medium heat is best.  Then, while that is going on:

Grill (regular grill or George Foreman), or pan fry the meat.  Considering the crevices that the skirt steak has, the marinate will reach all portions of the steak.  3-6 minutes per side, depending on your grill’s heat, the thickness of your skirt steak, and the done-ness level you prefer.  On an outdoor grill, sear for a minute or two over high heat, then move to indirect heat for the rest of the cooking.  On the range, start with medium high heat, sear both sides, then reduce heat to medium.

Rest the meat for a minimum of five minutes; reduce the heat anywhere in their cooking process for the veggies if necessary, to keep them from becoming mushy (unless you like mushy, which some folk do).

Slice the steak thinly on a bias against the grain, toss into the skillet with the veggies, mix around just long enough for the components to mingle, and serve.

Rested and sliced.  Note that the top segment is medium rare, but the bottom (thinner) segment is medium  well.  Both were cooked for the same time.

Rested and sliced. Note that the top segment is medium rare, but the bottom (thinner) segment is medium well. Both were cooked for the same time.

Options:  Serve with salsa, such as my pear and mango salsa, and/or with guacamole, sour cream, actual fajita bread, slices of avocado, chunks of tomatillo…

If you’d rather not use tequila, use a Mexican beer.  Or, try a mixture of Worcester sauce cut in half with water (in this latter case, omit any added salt to the marinate).  The tastes will be different, but arracheras is not defined by this ingredient.

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Meats, South of the Border | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

For Cinco de Mayo: Fish Tacos in Lettuce Shell; Vegetarian Tacos in Lettuce Shell

Here we have recipes for both vegetarian and fish tacos, served in lettuce.

I’ve cut down on my home consumption of starches such as wheat or corn, and I’ve upped the outright veggies in my life.  Hence, a swap for lettuce over those small soft tortillas, which are typical for fish tacos.

I also avoid tilapia, which in most cases is way over-farmed, and so I experimented with medallions of monkfish or filet of trout — the latter is also farmed, but usually done more responsibly.  Out at a restaurant recently, I ordered an awesome red snapper fish taco (in a soft corn tortilla shell), so red snapper works, too.

lettuce tacos, recipe, fish, monkfish, mexican

Monkfish tacos with salsa and cilantro

For breakfast the next morning I went vegetarian and had avocado and halved grape tomatoes in my “tacos”.  Check the bottom recipe.

Prep time: about 10 minutes
Cook time:  about 7-8 minutes for monkfish, 5 for thin filets of fish
Rest time:  Nada
Serves:  as an appetizer, each person will want two or three. The monkfish made six “tacos”.  I ate all six for dinner with nothing else.

For Fish (monkfish or for thin fillets of fish):

* 0.4 ounces of fish (monkfish medallions are made by slicing the tail into about 1/2 inch steaks — I discuss fillets of fish below)
* 1/2 teaspoon avocado oil (or olive oil)
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder (or a hotter or more mild Mexican ground pepper at your discretion)
* Ground pepper to taste.
* Lettuce leaves – I used crispy butter lettuce, but even crisper might be iceberg or green cabbage.  The butter lettuce leaves however seem to me about the right size for a fish taco.
* Salsa – I used the pear and mango salsa posted about yesterday.  About a tablespoon per “taco”
* Optional – 1 to 2 slices of fresh avocado per “taco”
*  Optional – cilantro for garnish.

Pan fry the fish in the avocado oil (perhaps use olive oil if you don’t have avocado) on medium heat, with the cumin, chipotle, and ground pepper, flipping a few times until done, about 7-8 minutes.

Arrange the lettuce leaves, top with the warm fish (2-3 medallions each) and the optional avocado, layer the salsa over, perhaps about a tablespoon each.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.  Pick up the leaf with goodies inside, fold over and eat with your hands.

If doing trout or other filleted fish:  slice into smaller segments, and pan fry with all the other ingredients, about 2-3 minutes a side for thin fish (total about 5 minutes).

vegan, avocado, tomato, lettuce taco, mexican, tex-mex recipe

vegetarian lettuce tacos with avo and tomato, and salsa

Prep time: about 10 minutes
Cook time:  No cooking.
Rest time:  Nada
Serves:  as an appetizer, each person will want two or three. I ate three for breakfast accompanied by one hard-boiled egg on the side.

For Vegetarian:  Skip the fish and use:

* Grape tomatoes, sliced in half, two halves per leaf.
* Avocado: Two thin slices per leaf.
* Arrange on leaf:
* Sprinkle lightly with about 1/16 teaspoon cumin and 1/16 teaspoon chipotle or ancho chili powder (or less).  Smoked paprika is also an option.
* Top with about a tablespoon salsa for each leaf, followed by an optional garnish of cilantro.

recipe, vegan, lettuce taco

Close-up, before addition of salsa and cilantro

PS, yes they are a little messy to eat (eat them over a plate, using fingers to grab them), but most tacos are, anyway.

Posted in Cooking, Seafood, South of the Border, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

For Cinco de Mayo: Pear/Mango Salsa, Mexican-Inspired

pears, mangos, cinco de mayo, salsa

All but the cilantro, ready for mixing, for Pear and Mango Salsa

Well, it is almost the fifth of May, and Mexican restaurants go crazy trying to bring in new customers for the night.  The one nearest me used to have yearly signs out reading, “One tequila/Two tequila/Three tequila/Floor”, and the like, all shaped like tombstones, promising debauchery, but in recent years these apparently have gotten politically incorrect.  (Or perhaps someone stole them.)

But as a Mexican friend pointed out to me, finding a good and authentic Mexican restaurant in New England is nearly impossible.  The one near me certainly is neither good nor authentic.  The closest that good ones get are essentially Southwest/TexMex cuisine, which is fine, but don’t begin to touch the wealth of cuisine that comes from Mexico.  Since I’ve never visited Mexico, I admit I’ll be diving into uncharted (by me) waters, and I won’t vouch for my authenticity.

And, by the way, Cinco de Mayo is an occasion not really celebrated with much fanfare down in Mexico.  I’ve got a couple other Cinco de Mayo posts planned, so I’ll talk about that, then.

I’ve been hankering to try some Mexican food (some will be admittedly less-than-genuine, but I’m at least hoping for a strongly positive “taste” factor) here, however, and so I’m going to start simple.  This will be a salsa.  I know, I know: neither mangoes nor pears are native to Mexico, but tomatoes are also not native to Italy, Spain or India.  And tomatoes have grown to be at home in each of those nations.

For me, some of this salsa (it yielded a LOT) will end up on tacos, which I will report on, tomorrow. Some will end up as salad toppings.  Other ideas:  make endive “boats” with it.  If you like those corn tostada/tortilla “cups”, try serving the salsa in those.  (I will eat those but I won’t buy them for home use.)  Or, use this to accent quesadillas.  Or, eat spoonfuls — but moderate jalapeno use if you need to.

Mango, Pear, Salsa, Cinco de Mayo

Salsa ready to go!

Prep Time:  20 minutes slicing and dicing
Cook Time:  nada
Rest time:  the longer this rests, the softer the ingredients get.  Your call
.
Serves:  Depends on how you plan to use the salsa, and how big your mango and pear are.  But, plenty

Pear/Mango Salsa, Mexican Inspired

1 large, juicy pear.  Hate to break it to you, but Bosc are not very enticingly meaty.  I used an Anjou pear, and I’d recommend this.  Remove skin if you prefer (I didn’t), and dice about 1/4 inch squares.  Remove bad spots, pit and ends.
1 mango.  Remove skin, ends, and pit, and any bad spots.  Dice about 1/4 inches.  My mango was a smallish yellow mango from Whole Foods.  (My regular mangoes went from way-unripe to over”done” without notice, so I didn’t use them.)
* Juice from 1 lime.  Include pulp if easy to get at.  My lime was very stingy about its juice – you can always use less juice if your lime is, well, juicy.  Your call.
* 1 inch of the tip end of a small jalapeno pepper, diced fine.  Depending on your heat tolerance include the interior ribs and the seeds, or leave them out.  In the jalapeno, the tip end seldom has many seeds, so I left a few of them in today.
* 1/4 small/medium red onion, peeled, sliced thin and then diced.
* pinch of salt
* Cilantro, lightly shredded, to top

Mix everything up, except the cilantro, which will be on top of any preferred method you have for serving this salsa.

Mango, Pear, Salsa, Cinco de Mayo

Yellow Mango (might be a “Gold Nugget”) and red Anjou Pear.  PS, behind them is a patch of onion grass.

The salsa, as noted, will soften the longer you let it sit in the fridge.  Again, this may be a positive or a negative, depending on the use you intend for it.

Oh, it’s really Spring around here:

I simply love the daffodils!!!

I simply love the daffodils!!!

 

Posted in Appetizers, Condiments, South of the Border, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments