Monday, March 16, 2009

Kitchen Adventures

In the style of the Steadfast Warrior I am going to share some of my favorite recipes... No, there won't be any family secrets revealed (Auntie S's ribs will never be a feature, I swear. Nor will the perogy dough or almond roca.), but just some of my own creations that have turned out well.

To kick things off, I'm going to give a run down of last night's dinner. On the menu was pan-fried lemon pepper tilapia, tomato basil risotto, and no-so-greek salad. I'm happy to say that all of theses dishes turned out fabulously and have been added to the keep pile.

My one disclaimer... I don't measure much when I'm cooking. (Baking is another story) All amounts are approximate. Do what you feel is right.

Not - So - Greek Salad
This recipe is my version of a Greek salad, minus the things that my beloved and I dislike (neither of us are fans of olives, and I don't like raw onion). I have been experimenting with the dressing for a long time, but finally figured out what was missing.
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 english cucumber
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 - 1 cup crumbled feta
  • black pepper to taste
Dice the tomatoes. You can seed them if you want, but I like the seeds. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and chop into half-moons. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, and feta in a medium bowl. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a separate dish and whisk until emulsified. Pour dressing over the veggies and feta, and stir gently. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings, unless I decide to eat the leftovers for breakfast like I did today. BTW, for a less tangy dressing, just cut back on the lemon juice a bit.

Tomato Basil Risotto
For a lot of years I didn't attempt risotto because I had always heard it was so finicky to make. I finally bit the bullet a few months ago, and have found that it's really not all that hard, just labour intensive... but sooooo worth it! The following recipe is based on a basic risotto recipe I found, with my own alterations.
  • one large can diced stewed tomatoes
  • chicken stock (enough to bring the tomatoes to 4 cups)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small diced onion
  • 1 cup arborio rice (make it a generous cup)
  • 1 tbsp dried basil (fresh would be better if you can get it)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Feta cheese (depending on what you are serving it with)
In a small saucepan, combine the tomatoes, stock and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, heat olive oil and melt butter. Saute the onion for a minute or two, just until tender (not brown). Add rice to the pan, stirring to coat in the oil/butter. Cook rice, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes. Add tomato mixture to the rice one ladle-full at a time. Keep stirring while the liquid is absorbed into the rice. You may need to increase the temperature so that the liquid bubbles when added to the rice. When each ladle-full of tomato mix is absorbed, keep adding the liquid until it is all combined, stirring constantly. Once all liquid is absorbed, reduce to medium low heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring very often. When rice is al dente and creamy in texture, add basil and cheese. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Makes 3 very generous servings.

Lemon Pepper Pan-Fried Tilapia
This recipe is easy to make for 2 or for a crowd. Just increase the flour mix as needed. Tilapia cooks fast, so keep an eye on it.
  • one tilapia filet per person
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2-3 tsp lemon-pepper sodium free spice mix (like Mrs. Dash)
  • Olive oil
Combine flour and lemon-pepper on a plate. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Lightly dredge filets in flour and lemon-pepper. When olive oil is hot, add filets to the pan. Do not over crowd the pan, cook in batches if you need to. Allow tilapia to cook on one side for 3-4 minutes, until golden. Flip carefully. The second side will take only 2 minutes or so. Serve with lemon wedges to sprinkle.

Next time, I will remember to take some pics to spice things up. :)

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