Tag Archives: cabbage

Sesame Crusted Fish Tacos with Avocado Salad and Slaw

So, here we have meal #2 from the Cuizoo Arsenal.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting one done per day, but I’ll try to keep these coming as frequently as possible.  I know I’ll be cooking tonight, but once the weekend hits, I don’t make any promises as cooking cuts into my drinking time.  I kid.  (I should mention though that one small bottle of white wine has lasted me *all* week, which is some sort of healthy living record for me.  And no, I haven’t switched to bourbon in an attempt to take it easy on wine.)

Today we are going to talk about tacos.  They are generally a huge kid favorite and when it comes to flexibility, anything in a wrap is about as good as it gets.  Let’s first discuss the shell.  I, for one, don’t really like grocery store taco shells because they just break and make a mess.  When I came across this lightly fried/soft shell method for tacos a while back, I began to enjoy them again.  Basically, you soften a corn tortilla in a bit of oil in a saute pan, fill it with toppings and cheese, fold it over, and let it crisp a bit before flipping it and then crisping the other side.  What you end up with is a crispy (but not crunchy) taco shell with warm fillings and melted cheese.  It’s sort of a cross between a quesadilla and a taco.  This all being said, if you like regular taco shells or if you want to do soft tacos with flour tortillas, it’s totally up to you. One thing to add here is that you should always have some corn or flour tortillas in your freezer (and regular taco shells or tostado shells — which I do love — in your pantry).  It is a no-brainer of a meal.

Second, you need some protein.  Obviously, the choices are pretty obvious here.  A can or two of white or black beans heated up with some garlic and spices and mashed is fantastic in a taco (and about as fast as you can get for a dinner).  Grilled chicken or ground beef are the old stand-bys.  Sauteed veggies with cheese is great too.  You can also do a combination of several proteins and let everyone pick their favorites.  But it seems that the whole world is gaga over fish tacos right now (and I can’t say I blame them), so that’s what we did last night.  On the subject of the fish, I will add that the sesame crusted method I used makes a great and easy stand alone entree with a simple salad or vegetables. You can also add some bread crumbs to the sesame seeds if you like.

Third, you need some condiments.  The easy ones are salsa and sour cream.  Not much more difficult is making some basic guacamole.  When I do that, I simply mash one or two ripe avocados with a chopped garlic clove, salt and pepper, some cumin, and lime juice.  With last night’s meal, I had some tomatoes and cucumbers left over from the previous night, so I just chopped those up with the avocado for more of an avocado salad.  As the veggie or an additional condiment, I like to serve some form of cole slaw or salad greens with tacos because they are just as good inside the taco as on the outside. Find a good hot sauce for the grown-ups at the table and you are basically done.

Now, for variations that we love:  Spicy Mashed Black Beans with a Creamy Red Cabbage Slaw and Queso Fresco or Feta cheese — that is one of my favorites; Grilled BBQ Chicken (or leftover chicken) with Creamy Slaw and Cheddar Cheese; Steak with Caramelized Onions and a bit of Blue Cheese and Balsamic Greens; Fajita style with Grilled Chicken and Sauteed Red Peppers and Onions; or for a VERY quick dinner, just cheese and whatever else you may have leftover or in the freezer (guaranteed to be faster than any fast food).

As for the $15 limit, I might be slightly over because the fish itself was about $10.  But clearly you can make this meal just as easily with chicken or beans and cut that cost dramatically.  So, I’ll let it slide.

Sesame Crusted Fish Tacos with Avocado Salad and Slaw

Makes 8-10 tacos (enough for 4-6 people)

1 pound of mild white fish (I used cod)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (you can buy them pretoasted in Asian markets)
1 T butter
Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder
10 – 6 inch corn tortillas
4-6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Sour Cream
Salsa
Hot Sauce

Avocado Salad
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cucumber
10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes
Onion
Fresh cilantro from one bunch
1 garlic clove
1/2 of a lime
1/4 t cumin
Fresh cilantro
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Slaw
A small Napa or Chinese Cabbage (or any type of cabbage will work)
Fresh cilantro from one bunch
Olive Oil
1/2 of a lime
A bit of orange juice

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Melt 1 T butter and mix with sesame seeds.  Add to that 1/4 t salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to season (Chipotle Powder if you like it spicier).  Place fish on a parchment line baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, cut it into 3/4 inch slices, but leave whole filet in one piece (See pic above). Pat sesame seed mixture all over top.  Bake for 12-13 minutes until just opaque.

2.  While the fish is baking, mix avocado salad.  Halve, peel, and remove pit from avocado.  Chop it into a medium-sized dice and place in bowl.  Halve the cucumber lengthwise, remove seeds with a spoon, and chop into a medium-sized dice.  Quarter the cherry or grape tomatoes. Finely chop a small piece of onion to make about 2 T.  Chop about 1 T of cilantro.  Finely chop the clove of garlic.  Mix all of the above in the bowl.   Add the juice of 1/2 of a lime and a drizzle of olive oil.  Season with 1/4 t of salt, pepper, 1/4 t of cumin, and a bit of Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder.   Set aside.

3.  Prepare the slaw.  Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core.  Thinly slice 1/2 of the cabbage and place in a bowl (reserve other half for a different use).  Chop about 1/4 cup of cilantro and add to cabbage.  Drizzle with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of 1/2 lime, and a bit of orange juice to taste.  Season with 1/2 t of salt and pepper.  Play with the dressing if needed, adding more citrus, salt, or olive oil if necessary. Set aside.

4.  To prepare the tacos:  heat a bit of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Take one corn tortilla and place it flat into the pan, spinning it a bit to coat it with olive oil.  After about 10-20 seconds, it should be flexible (if it’s not, your shells may crack).  Add one or two slices of the baked fish and about 1 T of shredded cheese.  Gently fold the taco in half and hold with a spatula for a few seconds to make sure it stays folded.  Repeat with another taco (I usually do two at a time).  When the tacos are lightly golden on one side, flip and cook on the other side.  Remove to an oven safe platter and place in oven to stay warm.  Repeat with remaining tacos.

5.  To serve, put a bit of the avocado salad inside the taco and serve with slaw, sour cream, salsa, and hot sauce.  The slaw is also good inside the taco as a condiment.

Fried Brown Rice with Edamame (With Bonus Leftover Idea)

I have been making fried rice for years.  I have analyzed the techniques of the master chefs (you know, at Benihana) and come to the conclusion that the best fried rice recipe has no real recipe at all.  The whole point is to use the ingredients that you have on hand.  This is a brilliant meal when you have lots of things in small amounts —  a carrot, an onion, an egg, leftover broccoli, or pretty much any little thing you want to use up.  Except of course, maybe that old container of cottage cheese.  No, that won’t work.

However, almost anything else is fair game.  I have marked this recipe vegetarian because that’s how I made it last night, but it is also great with meat in it if you are so inclined.  Chicken, pork, or ham are all great in it. I have done versions with leftover barbecued pork rib meat, leftover corn cut off the cob, and a bit of hoisin sauce to make a “summer barbecue fried rice.”

The key is to cook your rice up as far in advance as possible to let it cool so it is firm and not sticky.  Think ahead — maybe make some rice as a side dish on a Monday and make a double batch, use half that night and fry the remainder on Wednesday.  Last night, however, I didn’t figure out what we were having until 4:48 PM (like most nights).  If you find yourself in that position (especially with brown rice b/c it takes 50 minutes to cook), try this:  cook the brown rice completely, fluff it, remove from heat and let it steam dry without the lid for 5-10 minutes, and then spread it on a cookie sheet and park it in the fridge.  Mine was cool and not sticky after about 15 minutes.  That had us eating by 6:30 (with two glasses of wine to slow me down).  You can also certainly use white rice as it takes less than half the time to cook — but brown rice is obviously much healthier because it includes the bran portion which gives you more fiber and more vitamins and minerals.

Fried Brown Rice with Edamame (Serves 4 as a main dish with leftovers)

2 cups of long grain brown rice (I used Organic Brown Basmati)
1 T chopped ginger
1 T chopped garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 package frozen edamame
Other veggies or meats (or eggs) or your choosing
Olive or vegetable oil for cooking
Sesame Oil for flavoring
Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper

  1. Cook two cups brown rice according to package directions.  (Usually takes about 50 minutes)
  2. While rice is cooking, cook one package of frozen edamame (soybeans) for about 5 minutes.  I used frozen edamame from my CSA last year, so this is a guess, but it probably amounted to about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shelled edamame.  Shell the edamame and set aside.
  3. Chop one onion, a couple of carrots, a tablespoon of fresh garlic, and a tablespoon of fresh ginger.  Prepare any other veggies or add-ins at this point.  (Ideas:  green onions, corn, broccoli, leftover meat or shrimp, one or two eggs, peppers, cilantro, etc.)
  4. When rice is done, fluff, and remove from heat and steam dry without lid on for 5-10 minutes.  Spread on cookie sheet and put in fridge to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  5. While rice is cooling, get out a big wok or saute pan and heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.
  6. Quickly saute garlic and ginger (about 30 seconds) and then add in carrots and slow cooking vegetables. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until carrots begin to soften.
  7. Add onion and quick cooking veggies (like peppers) and stir fry all for a few minutes until onion begins to get translucent.
  8. If you want to add eggs, whisk one or two eggs in a bowl.  Spread veggies to side of pan and pour in eggs to scramble them.  It doesn’t matter if the veggies get mixed into it.
  9. Get cooled rice from the fridge and add to wok or pan.  Stir well so all veggies, eggs, etc. are incorporated.  If you are using stainless steel or cast iron pans, the rice will probably stick — but it’s really no big deal.
  10. Start seasoning with soy sauce (do about two tablespoons at first and then add more to taste), salt and pepper (won’t need too much salt b/c of the soy), and a bit of sesame oil.
  11. Add edamame and any other “barely cook” veggies (like green onions, corn, cilantro or other herbs) and any precooked meat or shrimp if you are using it.  Stir it all until well mixed and keep tasting and seasoning until it’s good!
  12. For the grown-ups, it’s great served with Asian Hot Sauce (like Sriracha or the Rooster) or Chile Garlic Sauce.

It’s a complete meal with whole grain and protein (even my vegetarian version), it’s cheap, it cleans out your refrigerator, and it’s easy.  What more can you ask for?

OK, so how about a bonus idea for leftovers?

Reheat some leftover fried rice, slice some cabbage (you know cabbage is one of my go-to veggies for family cooking), mix together with some olive oil and Sriracha Rooster Sauce for a fantastic Spicy Fried Rice Salad.

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Barbecued Chicken Tacos with Slaw

Some of my favorite meals are the leftover creations I enjoy at lunchtime.  In fact, leftovers are a staple and become the basis of almost every lunch that the kids and I eat.  That’s the beauty of cooking real food at dinner time — it generally always provides you with another meal.  And these meals are quick — the meat is already cooked, many of the veggies are prepped and washed — which leaves you only a few minutes away from a lunch (or a soccer night dinner) that’s ten times better than anything you can find in a restaurant.  For a heck of a lot less money, too.

So last night, we had a simple and delicious dinner of my husband’s “world famous” (he has deemed it so) barbecue chicken and cucumber salad.  We always try to grill a little extra meat to have for leftovers — in this case we had boneless chicken thighs with some awesome barbecue sauce that we found on vacation in South Carolina.  Also in the fridge were a wedge of purple cabbage from the other night, some corn tortillas, and some cheese.  So, my first grader got a nice chopped salad made of purple cabbage and barbecued chicken with some olive oil and spices on it.  (She also got a banana and a cookie).   My two year old only wanted the chicken and a rice cake.  That was easy.dsc_5598

I was left with one chicken thigh and my brain obsessing about barbecued chicken tacos with slaw.  You could just as easily make a chicken quesadilla or chicken soft taco with a flour tortilla. These kinds of things aren’t really recipes as much as methods — so get creative.  I should also add that a head of cabbage is on my farmer’s market or grocery store list every week.  It is perfect for quick family dinners because it’s easy to wash and prep (remove some of the outer leaves and give it a rinse, cut it into quarters, remove the core, and slice thinly), you don’t have to spin it dry like salad, a half of a head easily makes enough cole slaw for 4-6 people, and the remainder stores in the fridge very well for a long time.  Try it lightly sauteed with butter and a bit of beer or wine served with mashed potatoes — my kids love it.  And certainly feel free to use pre-sliced, bagged cole slaw mix if you like — but it is more expensive, much less flavorful — and I trust my own kitchen a lot more than the “salmonella spinach farms.” It takes all of five minutes to prep the whole head.

Barbecued Chicken Tacos with Slaw

  1. Make a quick slaw with sliced purple cabbage, a handful of chopped cilantro, some olive oil, salt and pepper, and lime juice.
  2. Slice leftover chicken and shred some cheddar cheese (or grab a bag of preshredded like I did).
  3. Heat a splash of oil in a saute pan over medium heat and place one small corn tortilla in the oil.  Spin it around a bit until it softens (so you can bend it without it breaking — important for corn tortillas, flour ones aren’t as fragile).  Quickly add sliced chicken, a bit of slaw, and some cheese and fold the tortilla in half.  When lightly brown on one side, flip and brown the other side.  Remove to a paper towel to soak up any extra oil and repeat with remaining ingredients until you’re done!
  4. Serve with additional slaw and sour cream, guacamole, or salsa if you like.

*If you or your kids have access to a microwave at school/work, this would make a great lunch with a flour tortilla heated for a bit just to melt the cheese.  Wrap it in parchment paper to keep it safe for microwaving (plastic wraps and containers leach chemicals into your food in the microwave and obviously foil causes a little fireworks show — something the lunch lady might not be so pleased about).