Fish Tacos from San Diego

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Robin and Maria’s beautiful backyard was the perfect setting for our San Diego family dinner

Tradition holds that when we visit Robin and Maria, our uncle and aunt on Alex’s side, we are treated to their fish taco special.  On my most recent visit to San Diego, Robin and Maria invited over my sister, her husband, his brother, and my training partner and her boyfriend.  We had quite the crew! We were lucky to have perfect San Diego February weather, and dined al fresco under the stars, palm trees and strings of lights, with a fire going to keep us warm.  Because I miss my San Diego family, I decided to recreate Maria’s recipe for Alex and me to enjoy in Chicago, and to share with all of you.

The staples of this recipe are the fish, rice and beans, but you can add any of your favorite vegetables as a side.  Alex and I enjoyed our tacos with roasted asparagus, and cucumber and tomato salad or a colorful cauliflower medley would pair with these tacos well.

Recipe

Fish tacos with rice and beans– serves 6

I like to use tilapia with this recipe because it is a light fish that takes on the full flavor of a marinade. Any white fish will do – the flakier the better! Dried beans work best with this recipe, if you have the time to prepare them. Maria cooks her beans all day in a slow cooker, at low heat. When I attempted to use the slow cooker, I plugged it into a faulty outlet, effectively just soaking my beans all day. I found out that soaking the beans works well too! So if you do not have a slow cooker, soak your beans all day in just enough water to cover their surface. Drain that water and bring beans to a boil in fresh water, covering beans with about an inch of water above their surface. When your beans reach a boil, simmer on low heat for at least an hour. Alternatively, this recipe will be just fine with canned beans, but using dried beans has many benefits, as outlined in an article from “the kitchn” (sic) called “How to Cook Beans on the Stove” that I saved for you below.  If you cook beans on the stove, you can reserve your nutritious bean water for later use.

Special note: this recipe has two steps, which are worth starting the night before or morning of your fish taco dinner. If you are short on time, you can use canned beans and shorten your marinating time, but plan to allow fish to marinate for at least one hour.

You will need:

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  1. 1 ½ pounds white fish like tilapia
  2. 1-2 C Italian dressing
  3. 16 oz bag dried pinto beans
  4. ½ yellow onion
  5. 1 ½ C brown rice (or about ¼ C dry brown rice per person)
  6. 3 T salsa
  7. 1/2 T olive oil
  8. 12 small corn tortillas

Serve with sliced cabbage, Greek yogurt, salsa, and avocado slices or guacamole

Steps:

  1. Transfer fish to a large Tupperware container to marinade.  Cover fish in a layer of Italian dressing, sloshing gently to coat.  Refrigerate and marinate your fish overnight/all day, or for as long as you can.
  2. Combine beans with water to soak overnight/all day.
  3. When you are ready to prepare your fish taco meal, start by draining the beans that have been soaking.  Cover beans in fresh water, with about an inch of water above the bean surface.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for at least an hour.
  4. Next, combine water and rice in a 2-1 ratio.  Add salsa before bringing rice to a boil.  Simmer for at least twenty simmer, or as directed on rice package.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your taco toppings.  Chop cabbage and slice avocado and set aside.
  6. When your rice has about 10 minutes left to cook, heat a large pan on medium heat.  Add olive oil.  When oil begins to shimmer or smoke faintly, add fish filets in a single layer, without overlapping.  Let your fish cook for 4 to 5 minutes without nudging the filets at all.  You should start to see the edges of the filets become less translucent as the fish cooks.  Flip fish, and finish on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes (longer for thick filets).
  7. When your rice has absorbed all of the water, remove from heat, fluff and cover again for about 5 minutes.  Doing so will give your rice a chance to steam and will help you avoid sticky clumps of rice.
  8. Serve fish with two small corn tortillas per taco.  Top with Greek yogurt, salsa, cabbage and guacamole or fresh avocado slices.

 

Source: Christensen, Emma. “How To Cook Beans on the Stove – Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn.” The Kitchn. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

 

Butternut Squash Vegan “Quesadillas” and Colorful Cauliflower Sides

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Mixed greens with frisée, raspberries and raspberry vinaigrette.  Orange cauliflower, mashed.  Green cauliflower, roasted.  Black beans with sautéed onions.  Butternut squash mash.  Purple cauliflower, steamed.

 

 

“Eat your colors” – Michael Pollan, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”

Having devoured the “Omnivore’s Dilemma” on my recent travels, I stopped by Read It and Eat, my favorite cookbook bookstore in Chicago, in search of any other books by author Michael Pollan.  In “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Pollan challenged readers by exposing the relationship between the food industry and the foods they consume; “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” turns the truths that Pollan exposes in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” into digestible advice.  Pollan’s notions have become more visible in mainstream culture.  At one San Diego restaurant, True Foods, a Pollan quotation is chalked on the wall above the bar: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” (from “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” which I will be reading next).

Last year, I began talking regularly with Georgie Fear, registered dietitian and sports dietetics specialist.  The most fun thing that Georgie has taught me is to include more vegetables in my meals!  I had to get creative to prevent roasted asparagus-induced boredom, and I’ll endeavor to share some of my favorite vegetable recipes with you in the form of “Intimidating Vegetable” posts.

On my last night in San Diego, I cooked dinner in Jess’s mother’s kitchen one last time.  I made a vegan meal for us, including half a dozen produce varietals.  I used a recipe for butternut squash “quesadillas” and black beans that I picked up when I trained in Seattle last March and stayed with Katherine Robinson.  With this final dinner, I made use of the rest of our produce from when Jess took me to the PB Farmers Market.

Recipe

Butternut Squash “Quesadillas” – serves 4

Butternut squash is so flavorful that you do not even need to add cheese to your tortilla!

You will need: IMG_2218

  1. 1 large butternut squash, chopped (see below)
  2. 1 1/2 T olive oil
  3. salt
  4. pepper
  5. 14.5 oz can black beans
  6. 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  7. 4 tortillas
  8. 1 avocado, sliced
  9. your favorite salsa for serving

Steps:

  1. Microwave your butternut squash for 2-3 minutes, with the skin on.  This will make it much easier to remove the skin. Allow several minutes for squash to cool before handling. When squash has cooled, chop into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Add butternut squash chunks and ½ cup of water, cover.
  4. Cook for 5-8 minutes or until squash begins to soften.
  5. Meanwhile, add 1/2 T olive oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add chopped onions and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the onions begin to turn translucent.  Add black beans and stir to heat.
  6. Mash the squash with the back of your spoon, until about half of the chunks are completely smooth. You will want to retain some squash-chunk texture to enjoy in your tortilla.
  7. Remove squash and beans from heat.
  8. Serve with tortillas and avocado slices, with beans and salsa on the side.

 

Recipe

Colorful Cauliflower Sides – serves 3-4

The cauliflower at the farmers market was so vibrant that we could not choose just one variety! I had three cauliflower heads, and wanted to retain their original flavors for accurate comparison, so I decided to keep my preparation simple. I roasted the green cauliflower, steamed the purple and mashed the orange. The orange cauliflower claimed to taste cheesy, and is otherwise known as cheddar cauliflower, so I knew I would not need to add much to make a satisfying mashed-potato alternative.

You will need:

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  1. 1 head of green cauliflower
  2. 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  3. ½ T olive oil
  4. 3 t black pepper
  5. 1 head of purple cauliflower
  6. 1 t salt
  7. 1 head of orange cauliflower

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Chop green cauliflower heads. Chop garlic clove into large chunks.
  3. Arrange cauliflower and garlic in a single layer on a baking sheet, coating with olive oil and 1 t black pepper.
  4. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops of the cauliflower pieces have begun to brown.
  5. Meanwhile, chop both the purple and orange cauliflower heads.
  6. Arrange orange and purple cauliflower into two separate pots on the stove, set to steam for 5 to 7 minutes. Check tenderness. When the purple cauliflower is tender, remove from heat and sprinkle with ½ t salt and 1 t black pepper.
  7. Steam orange cauliflower for a few additional minutes, until it is soft enough to mash with a spoon. For a smoother consistency, like mashed potatoes, transfer cauliflower to a food processor and blend for a minute before adding spices and butter, if desired. For this recipe, mash cauliflower with a spoon and then add ½ t salt and 1 t black pepper.

 

Pollan, Michael. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.