This is a good starter fish dish. I didn’t grow up in a house where seafood — outside fish sticks (oh how I love fish sticks; I know, culinary tragedy) — was a regular part of the menu, so I’ve never had experience with cooking and preparing fresh fish. Now, I know fish is good and good for you, and I live in a coastal, fish-wealthy area, so I know I should learn how to prepare the fruits de mer. I picked up The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook to help me along the journey. I decided to try an easy, few-ingredient recipe to start myself off. It was successful, I think, although I couldn’t quite believe it when it happened.

This is also a good dish to start with for people who are unsure whether they like fish, who think fish tastes too “fishy.” This didn’t taste “fishy” at all, since I got my fish at the seafood counter only an hour before I cooked it, and in the intervening time I kept it on ice in the coldest part of the refrigerator — I even had the seafood counter pack the filets in ice before I left the store. Subsequently, my fish had an amazing texture and a clean, fresh flavor.

Easy Baked Haddock
serves 4 (I got 2 filets, and got six servings out of this recipe)

2 lbs haddock filets*
1/2 c. freshly made bread crumbs
1 to 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, chives, or sweet marjoram, or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon**
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
freshly milled black pepper

*According to the head note on the recipe, you can also use cod, grouper, or salmon, just be sure to adjust the baking time as needed.
**I used fresh chives.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the fish filets in a large buttered baking dish. Blend together the bread crumbs, garlic, and herbs. Spread the surface of each filet with mayonnaise, and sprinkle with fresh pepper to taste and the bread crumb mixture. Bake for 8 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and cooked through (flakes easily) and the bread crumbs are lightly browned.

Reheats not too shabbily, in a microwave on half power.

Jim made a comment last night while we were washing up dishes that was along the lines of, “You’ve been trying a lot of new recipes since getting these new dishes” (Temp-Tations ovenware housewarming gift from Meghan and Margie!!). Well, part of that is because part of the housewarming package was a book of recipes specifically suited to the ovenware, and for the most part these recipes have few ingredients, no wildly exotic ingredients, and are pretty easy to make. The other part of it is that I find this ovenware just bakes better than the old Pyrex glass casseroles I took away to college as hand-me-downs. Now, if I were going to make a double batch of sweet and sour chicken wings again, I’d use the glass dishes in a pinch, since they are wider and shallower than the Temp-Tations ovenware. But for a meal, I find that this ovenware just cooks more evenly and reliably.

PS Did I tell you the dishes are blue?? BLUE!!

Anyway.

One easy recipe that’s quickly becoming a top recipe in our house is the baked ravioli from the companion recipe book. Being someone who almost never follows directions, I of course have altered the recipe from Day 1. I’ll give you the original recipe, then tell you what my alterations are.

Baked Ravioli with Broccoli and Black Olives
serves 6

1 bag (25 ounces) frozen cheese ravioli*
10-12 ounces frozen broccoli florets
1 jar (24-28 ounces) marinara sauce
3 Tbsp finely diced yellow bell pepper, optional**
1 can (2 ounces) sliced black olives, drained***
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 c. shredded Italian cheese blend
1 pinch Italian seasoning****

*Since I think cheese ravioli is a little boring — and just to get a little more vegetable in to the dish — I use frozen spinach & cheese ravioli. Both varieties can be found in your regular grocery store’s freezer case.
**I am not going to buy a whole pepper just to finely dice 3 Tbsp of it. I leave this out entirely. But if you had a pepper sitting around, then knock yourself out.
***Nope.
****Nope again.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place all the ingredients except the shredded cheese and the Italian seasoning (if you are using it) in to a 3 quart baking dish and toss to combine. Use a 3.5 quart or even a 4 quart dish if you like having more room to stir everything up. Top the whole thing with all of the Italian cheese blend. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is beginning to brown and the sauce is hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

This refrigerates and reheats like a dream, although you may be a little tired of baked ravioli by the end of the week if you are only cooking for 2 people + leftovers. This would be an excellent, inexpensive, filling main dish for a family supper. We had a bit of Caesar salad to go with it the first night and that might stretch the number of servings you can get out of it.

Some other variations we’ve thought of trying (and maybe will, someday):

-meat ravioli or meat sauce (meat is greatly loved in our house, but I’m also happy that this is a vegetarian dish that goes over well; but meat sauce is a definite possibility)
-baked ravioli with ground sausage, peppers, and onions (brown the sausage and soften the peppers and onions in a skillet on the stovetop before assembling; basically, make sure everything that needs cooking is cooked before going in the oven, and let the oven bake the ravioli and meld the flavors for you)
-instead of broccoli, using artichoke hearts, mushrooms, peppers, onions, corn, eggplant, zucchini…the vegetable substitutions are endless and could easily reflect what’s in season in your area or what’s on sale at the grocery store (or what’s been sitting forlornly in the back of your freezer for months)

Hello. The 1950s called. They said we can keep the casserole dishes. Yay!

Sausage-Rice Casserole
from Better Homes & Garden Hometown Potluck Favorites
serves 6*

1 lb. uncooked sweet (mild) or hot Italian sausage (or sausage links with the casings removed)
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 1/2 c. cooked white rice
1 4-oz. can green chiles, drained
1 4-oz. can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 10 3/4-oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 c. milk
3/4 c. (3 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook sausage and onion in a skillet on the stovetop until sausage is brown. Stir it to break up big pieces. Drain off excess fat.

In a very large bowl, stir together the rice, chiles, and mushrooms; add the soup, milk, and cheddar cheese; then add the sausage-onion mixture. Stir thoroughly. Tip in to a 2- or 2.5-quart rectangular baking dish. Bake uncovered in your preheated oven for 50 minutes or until heated through.

You can also make this in advance, up to 24 hours according to the recipe book, and store it covered in the fridge til you are ready to cook. Just bake for 65 to 70 minutes if baking straight from the fridge, or until heated through.

How easy is that??

It’s simple, it’s filling, it’s not too expensive if you think about it (just the sausage, really), and I feel that it will reheat spectacularly. It could even do a great impression of a hot, cheesy, creamy, filling dish at a brunch. I used sweet Italian sausage, so the only heat really came from the green chiles and that is not an overpowering or off-putting heat. It was actually quite pleasant with a green salad on the side.

*Why do we love the Hometown Potluck Favorites cookbook? Because it provides the recipe in small and large serving sizes so we can adjust it for family dinners or family reunions, as necessary.

For 12 servings:

2 lbs. sausage
1 c. chopped onion
5 cups cooked white rice
2 4-oz. cans of green chiles, drained
2 4-oz. cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
2 10 3/4-oz. cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. (6 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Follow all the same preparatory steps, but divide the mixture evenly between 2 2- or 2.5-quart baking dishes. Bake both dishes 50 minutes at 350, or cover, refrigerate up to 24 hours, and bake at 350 for 65 to 70 minutes, just as you would for the 6-serving recipe.

What do you do when you have so much leftover mashed potato that you’re pretty sure you’re set til Judgement Day?

You make crab cakes, that’s what you do.

The obvious answer to my leftovers dilemma was shepherd’s pie, but I was looking for something new but simple. I scoured the internet looking for a crab or fish cakes recipe that involved cold homemade mashed potato as a main binding ingredient, in order to make a dent in the extra that we made the night before. I came up with many recipes with various types and amounts of fish (usually flaky white fish such as cod or bass) or crab for protein, and various proportions of fish-to-potato, although the most common proportion I found was equal parts protein to potato. The crab cake recipe I eventually went with is simple, straightforward, and if you have the mashed potato you probably have all the ingredients on hand except for the crab, unless you either have a very well-stocked pantry or have planned well in advance for this dish (which is what I will do the next time around).

UK-Style Crab Cakes (Croquettes)

8 oz mixed crabmeat
8 oz cooked mashed potato*
2 oz (1/4 c.) plain dry bread crumbs
1 oz oatmeal, NOT instant
2 beaten eggs, separated
1/2 small onion, finely minced
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper**
salt and pepper
flour
oil for frying***

*We theorize that thicker mashed potato is better than mash that has been thinned out too much by milk, cream, or butter; it should be a better binder for the cakes. Ours didn’t hold up to a lot of handling or keep their shape particularly well. Jim likes thinner mash so he got a little carried away when he was making them. Next time we’ll plan ahead by either making thicker potatoes, or by setting aside potato for this recipe before continuing to make regular, creamier mash.
**Not having cayenne pepper on hand, I substituted a bit of chile powder and a fair amount of paprika.
***We used grapeseed oil as suggested by Nigella for the goujons of sole, as it has a high smoke point and can be gotten up to a good temperature for pan-frying without burning. Also, grapeseed oil has an almost non-taste and makes for light, non-greasy frying with extreme crunchy texture.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the crabmeat, mash, parsley, onion, lemon juice, cayenne (or other spices), and salt and pepper to taste. Add one of the beaten eggs and mix well until the ingredients are bound.

I find that it helped at this point to refrigerate the mixture for a while to help it firm up. Give it another good mix before shaping the cakes.

Meanwhile, mix the bread crumbs and oatmeal in one shallow bowl or dish (seasoned with some freshly ground black pepper if you like), and have the second beaten egg in another shallow bowl or dish. We had a good assembly line set up on the countertop: the bowl of crab mixture, the egg, the bread crumbs/oatmeal mixture, then a clean plate for placing the formed cakes.

Flour your hands and make 8 or 9 crab cakes from the mixture. Dip each cake in the beaten egg, then in the bread crumbs/oatmeal mix, then arrange on the clean plate. I found that again I benefitted from putting the plate of formed cakes in the freezer for a few minutes while the oil heated up, to firm them up.

Heat the oil and gently fry the crab cakes, turning once, until they are brown on both sides.

Serve hot with a green salad or other sides. We had a Caesar salad. I also made Jamie Oliver’s marie rose sauce (from his recipe for prawns with old-school marie rose, which I made back in August) as a condiment, with the addition of a few drops of Tabasco — not too much since I didn’t want to overpower the flavor of the crab cakes, but just enough to add a bit of zing — for a twist.

These reheat fantastically for the next day’s lunch at one minute in the microwave.


























photo by Rachel

I can’t even remember how I found this recipe, but you can find it on the web here (elly says opa!), and here (Pink Bites). This is a really easy recipe, and I bet you already have most of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry. I went with the original Pink Bites recipe, reproduced here below.

makes 2 or more servings*

1 lb of flank steak, thinly sliced crosswise (or stir-fry-cut beef)
1/4 cup of cornstarch
3 teaspoons of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger (about 1/2 inch piece)
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic (about 2 -3 large cloves)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes**
3 large green onions, sliced crosswise into thirds

* We got 4 dinner-sized servings from this recipe when paired with generous spoons of steamed white rice.
**I only used 1/4 teaspoon because we (read: I) don’t really like super-spicy foods.

 

Pat the steak pieces and make sure they’re dry; then, toss the steak and cornstarch together.  Be sure all pieces are fully coated, but shake off excess corn starch. Mix together the soy sayce, water, brown sugar and red pepper flakes.

Heat half the oil in a wok at medium-high heat and add the ginger and garlic.  Once fragrant (30 seconds or so), add the soy sauce mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl.

Turn the heat up on the wok and add the remaining oil. Add the beef and cook, stirring until just browned. Pour the sauce back in and let it cook with the meat. Let the sauce thicken to your liking, and then add the green onions in just before plating.

 

This is EASY, this is DELICIOUS, this is everything good about weeknight meals you could ever want. Make it and just tell me it isn’t a fantastic meal — and cheaper than going out for Chinese!

Unfortunately, my local grocery store is unenlightened and does not sell sole, filets or otherwise. I had to ask the seafood person what type of fish could be substituted that had a similar taste and texture, and they suggested flounder. So I’m having to use flounder where Nigella recommends lemon sole. I need to find a better seafood counter.

This was my first time using both panko bread crumbs and grapeseed oil and frying anything, so this was a brand-new adventure. Grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point than either vegetable or olive oils, so I decided to invest in a bottle and do this the right way. We love fish & chips and if I can find a good, healthy way to make our own, we’re all better off! Also, Ina Garten has a recipe for authentic fried fish I’d love to build the confidence to try it. So grapeseed oil it is. It heated cleanly and had what I can only call an “efficient” bubble.

The combination of corn starch, egg, and panko bread crumbs was like cement on my fingers, so after dredging and breading each goujon I had to rinse my fingers under some running water.

From Nigella Express.

For the goujons:
2 filets of lemon sole (we used flounder)
corn starch
2 eggs
panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper

For the dill mayo:
1 cup mayonnaise
lime juice
chopped dill

 

In 3 separate bowls, place the corn starch, the 2 eggs, slightly beaten, and the panko. Cut each filet in half, then diagonally in to quarters; you should get 8 roughly-the-same-sized pieces of fish out of each filet. Dredge each goujon in corn starch, then the beaten eggs, then the panko. Place on a cooling rack to rest while you finish dredging the rest of the goujons.

Heat about 1 cup of grapeseed or peanut oil in a skillet (use more or less oil as necessary for the size of your pan). When the oil is hot (I tested the oil by tossing a few panko crumbs in and seeing whether they sizzled or sank), carefully place the breaded goujons in the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd, work in batches as necessary. Using my fairly large skillet I still had to due two batches. Cook each goujons about 2 minutes per side, and keep an eye on them to be sure you don’t overbrown them. They should be ready to flip when the underside is a nice golden brown with a crisp. When the goujons are done, transfer to a plate covered in paper towel to drain and cool a little.

Mix the mayo, lime juice, and dill together as a dip for the goujons. Enjoy while they’re still hot!

Ham Steaks with Parsley
from Nigella Express

2 tsp garlic oil
2 ham steaks, about 7 ounces or so each
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
freshly ground pepper
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley

 

In a skillet large enough for both steaks, heat the garlic oil. When the oil is hot, add the ham steaks and cook for about 3 minutes per side. Remove to two warmed plates. While the ham was cooking, I did the next step ahead.

Take the pan off the heat. Whisk the vinegar with the water, pepper, and honey. Throw into the still-hot pan with most of the chopped parsley and swirl and stir and scrape to mix. I let it bubble and thicken a little but don’t take your eyes off it! It might smell too strongly of the vinegar to you, as it did to me, but the flavor is not overpowering-vinegary, the honey goes a long way to balancing it out. Pour the sauce over the ham steaks.

Nigella recommends serving with peas, which we did, and Jim commented that the sauce makes an excellent sauce for the peas. I loved it with the ham, and thought it had a somewhat honey-ham or pineappley scent. Could be served with any vegetable or even ham’s perennial accompaniment in my family, mashed potatoes.

Insanely express recipe. When Nigella says “express,” she means it.