Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fish tacos, or a Very Stiven Wednesday

I had to dig deep into the archives to discover the last time that Meg's sister, Tessa, helped us out at a WeDine session, and it turns out it was April of 2008. (See here, for our delicious vegetarian pizza).

Wow! First of all, it's great to even have an archive of our good times cooking, interesting culinary creations and tasty recipes. Secondly, it's lovely to host recurring guests to share the fun with! Our second special guest was Meg's dad, Jim, who was very excited to be one of the rare guy visitors to WeDine.

Oh, and he brought the beer! He'll certainly be invited back!

The fish tacos were concocted from a number of recipes found in Martha's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, a great cookbook that was a present from my brother Ben last Chanukkah. That cookbook has brought us some great finds, including an awesome wiener schnitzel and this great duck with orange gastrique sauce.

This time, we deep-fried some fish (cod, but you could use any firm white fish) in a beer batter (Martha instructed us to use Negra Modelo for the batter, the dark beer featured above) and combined it with a delicious lemon-olive relish and thinly sliced radishes in a tortilla for an amazing fish taco. Martha's recipe (and Michelle and Alisha's skilled handling of the frying of the fish) made for a crispy, well-battered fish. It was just as good as any fish-and-chip take-away I've had!

Batter recipe

2 large eggs
1 cup Mexican dark lager, such as Negra Modelo
1 & 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp coarse salt

For the fish:

vegetable oil, for frying
2 pounds skinless firm white fish, such as cod, haddock, fluke, orange roughy or scrod, cut into 3" by 3/4" pieces

Martha notes that this is a good batter for smaller pieces of fish and chicken, shrimp and ... onion rings! Mmm, that sounds good. Also, the beer batter makes for a lighter, crisper texture than a batter made with buttermilk (and is better for those with dairy issues, too), and the flavour of the beer comes through.


Whisk the eggs and beer together, and the flour and salt together, and then whisk the wet ingredients into the dry. Batter should be fairly thick and creamy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (up to 2 hours).

Pour 3 inches of oil into a large pot, at least 6 quarts (and preferably cast iron, but alas, in our case, not to be) and heat to 375 degrees F (on a deep-fry or candy thermometre) over medium heat. Allow it to heat up slowly.

Coat fish in batter (tongs come in handy here) and lower into oil. Fry until crust is golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn once or twice to ensure even cooking, and remove to a lined baking sheet to drain. A slotted spoon or spider is useful here to remove fish and skim excess bits of batter from the oil.

Repeat until all fish is cooked!

Our next component was the lemon-olive relish. Ingredients included:

8 lemons
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
1/4 cup + 2 tbsps sugar
4 ounces nicoise olives, pitted and chopped


Dice one of the lemons into 1/2 inch pieces, leaving the skin on.
Supreme the other eight lemons, removing the skin and pith and segmenting them.
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, cook the onion and diced lemon about 4 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and cook until it melts, approximately 30 seconds. Cool five minutes, then scrape into a medium bowl and add the lemon segments and olive pieces. Season with salt and pepper, and and stir gently to combine. Let cool 30 minutes before serving. Makes 2 cups.

The lemon-olive relish turned out particularly well, it was a great combination of flavours, salty, sweet and sour.

Here is the final dish: we dressed the tacos with the relish and finely-sliced radishes, and together with the crispy texture of the battered fish pieces, it was a great taco.

Next to it you see our slaw. It was meant to be a green papaya slaw, but there was nary a papaya to be found in the supermarket, whereas mangoes always seem to be plentiful. So we made the slaw with:

2 tbsps fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsps peanut oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp + 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp tiny dried shrimp (we had none)

which we combined in a large bowl. Then we added:

1 peeled and very finely sliced shallot
1 fresh Thai chile, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 green papaya (we used not-too-ripe mango), julienned
1 peeled and julienned carrot

We let this stand for fifteen minutes and garnished with:

2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed

Martha instructs to "taste and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chile, so there is a proper balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet."

It turned out really well, and worked well with the tacos (which I think needed a pretty bold side-dish to stand up to them). All in all, a great fusion of many flavours.

Then we made Tessa and Jim watch America's Next Top Model.

Poor Stivens. What did they do to deserve that?

At least they had memories of a tasty WeDine to sustain them!

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Tonight's dinner: roast kale and sunchokes with tahini sauce

Now that it's Monday, I'm back on my post-Olympic detox. I've been serious about eating whole foods, keeping things simple, and now throwing in some super-foods whenever I can (after an interesting nutrition consultation with Adam Hart last week that yielded both good reminders and new ideas). Not much luck in extending this to the weekends yet, but I'm okay with that. For weeknights I'm working on remembering that I can keep things super simple: choose fresh ingredients that my body will like and that I love to eat, and prepare them simply, without too many additions.

That's certainly what I did tonight. During our usual cookie stop at Sprouts over lunch, I scoped what fresh stuff they had from the UBC Farm, and chose a handful of sunchokes and two bunches of kale. Score for not having to interrupt my bike ride home to stop at the grocery store! I figured those two things could become dinner, paired with some brown rice (fits the good for me + I love it criteria) and some kind of sauce.

I had bought a jar of tahini after learning how good sesame seeds are for me – helping me load up on iron and calcium, two things I often miss out on. So tahini dressing came to mind. There's a recipe for it in the cookbook of family faves Mom made me, many years ago now, which most often becomes the best part of homemade falafel, and occasionally a more general salad dressing.

I wondered if my usual tahini-lemon-garlic-cayenne combination was as far as it went, so did a bit of googling which brought up this Chocolate and Zucchini post for Simple Tahini Sauce I remember reading a while ago. Her recipe isn't much different from Mom's, but reminded me to add parsley, and to incorporate the water slowly for the best creamy texture, yum. I still snuck in some cayenne though. Delicious – the perfect combination of rich and earthy.

The sunchokes and the kale I roasted. The former with lemon wedges (based on this recipe for Roasted Sunchokes with Lemon but sliced 1/4" thick and roasted for about 10 minutes on each side) and the later with nothing but a generous drizzle of olive oil as in this Roasted Kale recipe. I'd heard about roasting kale before (my sister raved about it I'm pretty sure), turning it into snackable "chips" and totally wanted to try this. I love kale, but don't find it as effortless to cook tastily as the tenderer chard which I choose more often. Roasting was easy, and the results were both unusual and yummy. This will become my thing to do with kale I think. I could top so many things with these – crispy-tender dark green and oh-so-good-for-you.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Slow roasting for flavour: pulled pork sandwich

When I am trying out a new recipe, I like to understand how the recipe works – which ingredients are important, which aren't, how various cooks personalize their dishes – so I usually consult several recipes and read up on how different techniques work. In the end, I cobble together a few recipes and start a new food experiment. That is exactly what I did with this dish.

If you like a delicious, savoury, meaty sandwich, make this one. It takes a little lead time but boy is it worth it. Pulled pork has become one of my favourites: slow roasted pork shoulder mixed with homemade BBQ sauce, MmmmmMmmmm. There is great depth of flavour in this sandwich – sweet, savoury, tangy – I can see why people spend their lives perfecting BBQ.

I've been fairly consistent to my original cobble with only one or two small variations; this is my third or fourth time making it. I hope you will try it for yourself – if you have any suggestions or questions, get in touch.

You could use a bottled sauce to cut down the prep time, but this recipe is sooo tasty, sourced from a combo of Joy of Cooking, Memphis Blues, and several online recipes. There were many additional ingredients that could be added, like hickory smoke, molasses, and ketchup along with various ground spices. Some secret recipes have hundreds of ingredients, but I kept it fairly simple.

This recipe is really three smaller recipes joined together: one for BBQ Sauce, one for a Dry Rub, and one for Slow Roasted Pork. It makes 4–6 generous sandwiches, and is great for parties.

I make the BBQ sauce, marinate the roast the night before I want to serve it and put the slow cooker on in the morning to let it cook while I'm away at work.

Pulled Pork Roast

• 2 cups BBQ Sauce (prepare before hand, as it needs to simmer for 1 hour – recipe below)
Dry Rub (best to marinate the roast ahead of time – recipe below)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1/2 cup water or apple cider
• 1 pork roast (2–5lb, pork shoulder aka picnic, these cost around $5)

1. If not already marinated, apply dry rub to roast.
2. Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker, turn cooker on low setting.
3. Brown roast in a hot pan with a little oil (2 minutes each side).
4. Place roast into slow cooker on top of onion.
5. Deglaze pan with water or apple cider, add this liquid to the slow cooker.
6. Add BBQ sauce to slow cooker.
7. Put lid on and cook on low for 8-10 hours (this has the better results than a higher setting for shorter time).
8. When cooking has finished, remove the roast to a bowl for shredding, take 2 forks and use them to pull apart the roast into small strands.
9. Add any liquid/mixture from the slow cooker to the bowl and mix well.
10. Serve on kaiser buns (I like their lightness or choose your own but remember the pork is the star of this meal), with your favourite side (mine is coleslaw) and beverage (cider).

BBQ Sauce
Makes two cups (always easier to make a big batch and save it)

• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon olive/vegetable oil
• salt & pepper to taste
• 8 tablespoons crushed tomatoes (about half a 16oz can)
• 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 2 tablespoon white vinegar
• 2 tablespoon soy sauce
• 2 tablespoon honey
• 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 3-4 dash of Louisiana-style hot sauce
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1/4 cup water or Jack Daniel's

1. Combine oil and butter in a pan over medium heat.
2. Add onions with a little salt & pepper.
3. When onions are softened, add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add all remaining ingredients and stir together.
5. Simmer mixture over low heat for 1 hour, stir regularly. Adjust the flavour to your taste.
6. If saving for later, allow to cool for 1 hour before refrigerating (may be kept for up to 1 month in an air tight container, if you can hold out that long).

This would actually be great for burgers and chicken wings.

Dry Rub
This quantity was enough for 2 roasts – stored in the fridge in an air tight container.

1 tbsp brown sugar (dark)
3 tbsp black pepper
3 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp dried oregano
3 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp celery salt
pinch cayenne

1. Mix all ingredients.
2. Apply to meat – this is best applied and left to marinate in the fridge overnight.

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