Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pescado Veracruz

The picture does not do this recipe justice at all. I love this recipe -- it's not like any fish dish I've seen or had in a restaurant. It really does come to life when it's baking in the oven and you can smell the fragrance of the dish. Your mouth will dance the salsa with one bite. This dish is a must try -- it's simple, easy, and you can't mess it up.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Cooking Time: 50 minutes

-2 pounds fish fillets (I recommend rock cod, catfish, snapper)
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
-3 T olive oil
-1 cup chopped onion
-1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
-1 T chili powder (if you using the real deal, I would halve the amount)
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-1/4 tsp ground cumin
-1/4 tsp ground coriander
-3 cups diced tomatoes
-1 T honey
-1 cup pitted olives, chopped

Arrange fish in an oiled baking dish. Where the fish gets skinny, you can tuck under and make a thicker piece for even cooking. Salt it slightly and sprinkle with a few teaspoons of the lemon juice. Chill.

Saute onions, garlic, chili powder, ground cloves, cumin, and coriander in the olive oil until the onions are translucent, taking care not to burn the spices. Add the tomatoes, honey, olives, and the remaining lemon juice and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the fish, top it with chopped parsley, and bake at 350 degree until it's tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I generally don't like brussel sprouts. Growing up, I dreaded seeing things come on to the kitchen table. My cooking buddy has a way with these things, using them in Indian cooking. We needed a vegetable supplement for our fish dish and thought the baby brussel sprouts we purchased would be a nice touch. The recipe comes from Ina Garten on the Food Network, and is so quick and easy to put together, though it does take about 35 minutes to roast in the oven.

-1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
-3 tablespoons good olive oil
-3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.


Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Sprinkle with more kosher salt, and serve immediately.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Basic Sweet Buttercream Frosting


-1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

-2 cups sifted powdered sugar

-2 tablespoons milk

-1 teaspoon vanilla


Beat butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Note: To make the frosting chocolate, substitute 1/4 cup cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the sugar.

Yields enough to frost 12 cupcakes generously. Leftover frosting will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

*The key to a quality buttercream frosting is to beat the living day lights out of all the ingredients. The recipe calls for 5 minutes, and I would do it for more. And don't freak out like I did when you taste the frosting. A few hours after preparing it, the vanilla had infused the butter, and it tasted just great on the cupcake.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Vanilla Cupcake with Buttercream Frosting

I love cupcakes, just love them. Adore them, in fact. They are the perfect size and shape, and are fun to eat! When using wholesome and natural ingredients, they come to life in your mouth because they are less sickly sweet than what comes from the store or box.

I've been inspired to make cupcakes because our local newspaper has done a feature of cupcakes every year for the last two years. The recipes the wrote about were simple and easy, I thought let's give it a whirl. It is so worth it -- these cupcakes taste amazing.

So I bought two amazing Wilton Ultra-Bake muffin pans, which I highly recommend for their incredible baking ability and non-stick feature without being Teflon and got to baking. I decided to go for a simple cupcake that everyone could enjoy so I went with Vanilla cupcakes and a buttercream frosting. Buttercream frostings are so out of style, mainly because I think people do not know how to make them appropriately. Instead of being light and fluffy (as fluffy as butter can get that is) they're heavy and dense but a few tips will straighten that out.

The recipes below are great because you get a wonderful, light cupcake that is not too sweet. The buttercream frosting and cake go together and melt in your mouth as they should.

Cupcake Basics by Amanda Gold (applies to all cupcakes)

Here are a few basic steps for making cupcakes. If you can make one kind, you can make 'em all.

Plan ahead. It's important to let the butter and eggs come to room temperature before you begin.

Sift together or combine all of the dry ingredients in the recipe. Set aside.

Measure and combine liquids, like milk, buttermilk or water, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until creamy. Then add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. The lighter the batter, the lighter the cupcake.

Add the eggs one at a time, and continue to beat until they're fully incorporated and the batter is creamy.

Add dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients. This usually takes 3 to 4 additions. It's important to begin and end with flour, which prevents the batter from getting lumpy.

Add any final flavorings, like citrus zest or mashed banana.

Scoop into cupcake liners and bake, keeping an eye on them. Cupcakes dry out easily, and some will bake faster than others, depending on the temperature of your oven and whether the cupcakes are in the front or back.

Basic Vanilla Cupcakes

From Chronicle columnist Flo Braker.

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt

-2 teaspoons vanilla

-1/2 cup whole milk

-1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

-1 cup sugar
-2 large eggs at room temperature


Adjust rack to lower third of oven; preheat the oven to 375°. Place paper cupcake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of waxed paper. Stir the vanilla into the milk.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar in a slow, steady stream, beating until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until the batter is light and creamy, and scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl after each addition. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the liquid ingredients in 4 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top of the muffins springs back when lightly touched, and a wooden toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out free of uncooked batter.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields 12 cupcakes

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kale with Olives

This recipe is so simple yet so very tasty. I got a bunch of kale in our bi-weekly vegetable fruit box and made this as a side dish to my cooking buddy's tortilla Espanola dish (which was quite tasty as well).

Makes 2 to 3 servings
Time: 20 minutes, most of which is passive

- 1 bunch of kale
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 to 4 tbsp olive olive
- 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- 1 lemon quartered
- salt to taste

- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt (1/4 tsp for every quart is what the recipe says; I just dump some in). Place kale in pot, lower heat to simmer, and cook kale uncovered for 12-15 minutes. Drain kale and press out excess water with the back of spoon. While is doing it's thing in the water, in a large bowl, add oil, olive oil, and olives. When finished draining kale, add to bowl, mix together and serve with a lemon wedge, which is supposed to enhance the flavor.

I used 2 tbsp olive oil and found that even the lower amount, was too much. Start with less, and add more as necessary. Slightly oily but still very good.

This recipe comes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.