Mangrove Snapper Tostadas

Fast food Mexican food can be tasty but sometimes I don’t want to think about the 45% ‘real’ filling or wonder when the meat hose was last cleaned out. But tostadas can be fresh, light, and made with local ingredients. If you have good seafood available locally, fish tacos or tostadas can be a fast and delicious weeknight meal.

I first tasted really great fish tacos in Los Angeles where people go so far as to wait in line for half and hour for a hand-pressed tortilla  with perfectly fried fish and cabbage slaw on top. Those tacos are truly things of beauty.

For the home version, I thought it might be better to saute the fish in a pan with some breadcrumbs instead of deep-frying. It makes the dish lighter and the cleanup easier. I found a small fillet of mangrove snapper that had been caught that morning and I had some leftover tomatoes, onions, and poblano peppers from the farmers market as well as half a Florida avocado. I also keep tortillas in the freezer for nights like this.

This works with almost any light fish. I’ve done something similar with tilapia and flounder and the results are just as wonderful. Similarly, feel free to chop up whatever vegetables you have around and throw them in the salsa. It will all be good.

And when you sit down to enjoy your meal, possibly with a margarita or beer in hand, you can rejoice in the fact that you put a light and local Mexican meal on the table without ever using a meat hose.

Mangrove Snapper Tostadas (Farmers Market Bill $12/3 servings= $4/serving)

Salsa:

Dice up a medium onion, 2 poblano peppers, and two medium tomatoes

Season with salt and a squeeze of lime juice

Fish

Beat one egg into a bowl

In another bowl, add about a cup of panko bread crumbs

Add a pinch each of salt, pepper and chili powder to both the bread crumbs and the egg

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat

Dredge an 8-10 oz piece of snapper in the egg and then coat with breadcrumbs

Saute fish for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through (It’s fine if the fish falls apart or if you need to cut into it to check doneness)

Warm up 3 tortillas in microwave or oven

Break fish apart and top each tortilla with a couple pieces of fish and a hefty spoonful of salsa

I added avocado and bit of sour cream at the end and of course hot sauce would work well too

Pasta with Roasted Peppers and Local Pecans

Thanks to all who have submitted roasted red pepper ideas! It seems many of you like to eat them in pasta. Me too. One of my favorite recipes involves tossing the peppers with some pasta and toasted pine nuts. There are local pecans here in Florida so I thought I’d give those a try. So let’s get started: Step one. Toss peppers with pasta and toasted pecans. Step two. There isn’t a step two because that’s it. Once you’ve roasted the peppers at the beginning of the week, this can be a very fast weeknight meal. If you can get local pasta, even better. I’m doing mine with a local pasta called Peperonata Pasta.  If you can’t find local pasta, no worries. Enjoy the local peppers and thank your farmer next time you see him or her.

Spaghetti with Roasted Peppers and Pecans (serves 2)

Set salted water on stove to boil

In a small frying pan, toast  1/2 cup pecans nuts over medium heat until fragrant (watch carefully as they burn quickly!)

Add 2 tablespoons of  Olive oil and a clove or two of minced garlic

Add a ½ cup of roasted red peppers and sauté over medium heat until pasta is ready

Drain pasta and toss with peppers and pecans

I like this dish with some chopped fresh parsley or basil but you could just as as easily use tarragon, oregano, or whatever you have around

If you want to add chili flakes, sprinkle them on at the end

Roasted Red Peppers–No UPC Code Involved

 

The red peppers in Florida seem to sell themselves quite well. One can see their vibrant red color from as far away as the Java Dog Coffee Bus parked 50 feet away. They are of course delicious raw and to be honest, I’ve always preferred them that way and never bothered to try roasting them. But if it’s possible to make local red peppers any better than they already are, roasting is the way to do it. Even the fancy jarred roasted red peppers don’t come anywhere near the sweetness of these guys from Worden Farms and guest after guest of mine asked ‘What did you do to sweeten these?” Not much. Local red peppers are sweet to begin with and the oven gives then a helping hand.  Give this a try. You invest a few dollars and around a half an hour of time and you have a homemade condiment and side dish that can be used throughout the week to liven up your meals or just to eat as a snack. No jar to recycle either. Just peppers to eat.

Home Roasted Red Peppers

Preheat Oven to 450

Core and quarter 6 red peppers and put on cookie sheet

Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper

Roast for 20 minutes or until peppers start to blacken on the edges

Remove from cookie sheet, let cool and serve

I’d love to hear some ways that you guys like to use roasted red peppers. I have some ideas but I’d love to post some reader ideas as well.

Crostino #2 – Fava Bean

Fava beans got a nice bit of publicity when Hannibal Lector expressed affection for them in Silence of the Lambs. Well, sort of. I’m sure favas would have been happier had they not been mentioned in the same breath as human liver but still, good to be recognized. I suppose if an actor’s dream was to get on TV and then suddenly made his national debut on Cops during a crystal meth bust he would have mixed feeling as well. More exposure? Yes, but not the nicest kind.

I do not think of cannibalism when I think of favas. What I do think of though is one of the richest and deepest tasting vegetables I have ever eaten. I don’t see them as often on menus because they are quite labor intensive but it’s worth it. The prep is similar to the fresh peas in the Pea and Asparagus Salad but there is one additional step and the cooking time is a tad longer. Give this a try. I find this puree to be as rich as many meat dishes and it’s ideal for a vegetarian with a hearty appetite.

Fava Bean Puree Crostino

Farmer’s Market bill $6 /2 servings = $3/serving

Take 2 pounds of Favas out of their pods (I say pods instead of shells because the shells are actually something different) This step is not hard and you can put kids or friends to work doing it while you help or watch them and smirk.

While you’re shelling, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil

Place shelled favas in water and reduce heat to a low simmer

Simmer for 15 minutes (I’ve lost track before and they are more than fine when slightly over or undercooked so no worries)

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and keep nearby

Drain favas and shock in ice water bath for 3 minutes

To remove the shells, squeeze the shell gently and the fava bean should pop out

Mash fava beans with a fork along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a serious pinch of salt and some black pepper

Toast 4 slices of good bread and top with a dash of olive oil and a tiny bit of salt

Spoon fava mixture onto bread and finish with a pinch of red chili flakes

Anthony Hopkins was so good in Silence that it may be hard to undo your previous fava bean associations but this hearty dish may be a step in the right direction.

Crostino #1- Fresh Chickpeas with Smoked Paprika

Almost all foods are better served on toasted bread. Perhaps not ice cream, fruit or fried rice, but almost everything else. Crostini also give you the safety net so if a topping doesn’t work out, you can at least be happy that you got to eat some good bread. These crostini, however, work out very well and are a great way to use awesome seasonal foods.

I don’t think I had ever seen fresh chickpeas anywhere. Not even on TV. They come in little shells that are not hard to remove. I now recognize them and I look out for them because they are easy to make and apparently extremely good for you. I add some smoked paprika at the end which is a good spice to have around if you want to play with Spanish flavors in your cooking. I just dust them with the paprika at the end. What struck me most about these chickpeas was how pure their flavor seemed to be. Canned chickpeas often have lots of water in them and these do not. They were also picked a couple days before I used them.

I’d love to hear other folks’ favorite crostini and bruschetta recipes using local ingredients. The possibilities are endless and they can even serve as a light lunch or dinner with a salad. I’ll post another one in a few days.

Chickpea Crostini w/ Smoked Paprika

Farmers Market bill $3 / 2 servings = $1.50 per serving

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil

Shell chickpeas and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until fairly tender (you’re going to cook them again so no need to cook them all the way through)

While chickpeas are simmering, drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat

Add one clove of chopped or pressed garlic and saute for 2 minutes

With a slotted spoon transfer chickpeas to skillet and increase heat to medium high and saute for 3 minutes

Toast 4 slices of crusty bread from a local bakery and drizzle the top with olive oil and a pinch of salt

Spoon chickpea mixture onto each slice and dust tops with smoked paprika

If you like this spicier, you could add some cayenne or chili flakes.

As you serve this, think of what kinds of crostini you might serve the next night and make a note of it.

Easy Peasy (and Asparagusy)

Easy Peasy (and Easy Asparagusy)

$12 at Farmers Market/4 Servings = $3/serving

I remember hating peas when I was little. Canned peas are often bad
and every time I see a small child grimacing when a bowl of mushy peas
is put before him, I want to say “Yes child. Your reaction is
appropriate. The food in front of you does not taste very good.”

Fresh peas in season are another food all together.  Truth be told, I
usually eat them faster than I can shell them and no cooking actually
takes place (just a lot of putting shells in compost and peas in my
belly). But just as overcooked peas can be unpleasant, raw peas are
not for everyone either. It’s time to blanche. No, I don’t mean it’s
time to do a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire or The Golden Girls
(though both might be fun). I mean it’s time to boil the peas very
briefly and then shock them in cold water.

When I first started cooking, I remember reading Cooking for Dummies
and learning that chefs blanch and cold water shock vegetables all the
time and that while it doesn’t take much time or skill, it improves
the quality of veggie dishes immensely. Sweet, fresh peas take very
well to blanching as do fresh asparagus spears. Since both tend to
appear around the same time at the market every year, why not combine
them into what might be the freshest salad or side dish you’ve ever
had? Start to finish should be no more than 15 minutes.

You’re eating vegetables so fresh and lightly cooked that they may
have some serious crunch to them and that’s ok. This dish is spring.
It can’t be canned.

Salad of Blanched Peas and Asparagus

Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to a boil

While water comes up to a boil, shell 2 pounds of peas

Break the tough ends off  a pound of asparagus spears  (it should
break naturally at the right place) and rinse

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces and put in bowl with peas

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside

When water comes to boil, add peas and asparagus

After 2 minutes (maybe 2 and a half for thicker asparagus), drain in a
colander and immediately plunge into ice water

Let veggies sit in ice water for 1 minute and then drain again

Toss veggies in bowl with around 6 tablespoons of the best olive oil
you can find and the juice of half a lemon

Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary

I add a few shavings of the trusty local pecorino that keeps for
around 4 months in the fridge but you could use Parmesan, a crumbly
blue, some leftover almonds, or nothing at all. See what you have
around and use it up. It will be good.

JeremyEG