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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fish Tacos

We have several decent places to get fish tacos within walking distance of us (i.e. Baja Fresh and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill), but I decided to make them at home this weekend. The benefits? Controlling the amount of fat and using the freshest fish possible. The downside? Lots of steps and ingredients. Make these tacos on the weekend or your day off, folks!

Since I was going to the trouble of making homemade tacos, I decided to make these extra special with some grilled sweet corn (the first of the season), fresh cilantro and shredded napa cabbage on the side as fixings. Homemade tortillas would have been awesome, but I will save that challenge for some other time. I chose multi-grain tortillas as I'm not a huge fan of the corn ones.

The finished product was light and refreshing - full of fresh, crisp flavors like lime and cilantro balanced by the sour cream mixed with spicy and smokey chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. We used tilapia fillets - a light and flaky fish that will not overpower the other flavors in the taco. You could also use other white fleshed fish such as Mahi Mahi or Grouper (my favorite!). While this would be a great meal for grilling out, it is also grill-pan friendly for all you apartment dwellers.

First step is to get working on the grilled corn. My parents usually grill the ears in the husk, and then shuck the corn after grilling. I used another method that is a little easier for small stove-top grill pans - first soak the shucked ears of corn in a pot of cold water for about twenty minutes.

Chop up some onion and garlic. Place the ears on squares of aluminum foil, brush with olive oil, and then top with the onion and garlic (and some salt and pepper if you feel like it). Wrap the foil around the corn and twist the ends to secure the foil.

Place on a heated grill-pan and cook on medium-high heat for about twenty minutes, turning occasionally.

Set the corn aside and cool.

Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice (add a little zest if you want your fish to have extra lime flavor), and salt and paper in a small bowl. Pour the marinade over the tilapia fillets and let the fillets rest at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.

My chipotle cream sauce is just two teaspoons of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce mixed with 1/2 cup sour cream. You could also use Greek yogurt for the base if you have that on had (just add some reduced-fat mayo for tang).

Grill the fish using your Griddler or a grill pan. It will just take a few minutes per side. Set aside for a few minutes, so the fish can cool. Then, shred the fish with a fork.

Using a sharp knife, take the corn kernels off the cob by standing the cob upright and sliding your knife across it in a horizontal motion.

Chop up a little cabbage or lettuce for extra crunch. Make sure you have some cilantro leaves and lime wedges on the side as well!

If you feel like being extra fancy, warm up the tortillas in the microwave or over on the grill for a few seconds. Build your taco by slathering some chipotle cream on your tortilla, followed by cabbage, fish, corn and cilantro. Serve it up with a lime wedge for an added citrusy tang. Most of us could use more fish in our diet, so try this recipe the next time you have a craving for Mexican food! 

Fish Tacos
Serves 3-4
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave

  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 pound white flaky fish fillet (I used tilapia)
  • 2 small ears sweet corn (or 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed)
  • 1/2 white onion (if grilling corn)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (if grilling corn)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
  • Lime wedges for serving
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the fish fillets and let marinate for 20 minutes.

Remove the fish from the marinade and grill on a preheated grill or nonstick grill pan over a medium-high heat until cooked thorough, about 3 minutes per side. Set the fish aside on a plate for 5 minutes.

If grilling corn, remove the husk and then soak the ears in cold water for about twenty minutes. Meanwhile, chop onion and garlic. Place one ear on a sheet of aluminum foil and brush with olive oil. Top with half of the garlic and onion and then wrap in the foil, being sure to seal the edges. Repeat with the other ear of corn. Grill for about twenty minutes over medium-high heat, turning occasionally. (NOTE: You can skip this step entirely if you are just using frozen corn kernels).

In a small bowl combine the sour cream and chipotle pepper.

Heat the tortillas on the grill or grill pan for 30 seconds on each side.

Flake the fish with a fork. Top each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of the chipotle cream. Top with fish, cabbage, corn and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lighter Pulled-Pork Sandwiches

I adore a pulled-pork sandwich topped with creamy coleslaw. The best one I've ever had is from Corolla Village Barbecue on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's a tiny shack tucked away in the woods, but boy is it worth a stop. The smokey melt-in-your-mouth pork covered in tangy vinegar-based sauce tastes even divine sitting on a picnic table in a shade after a day at the beach. We also enjoy the pulled pork at Rocklands, our local barbecue place right here in Arlington.

Traditional pulled-pork sandwiches aren't too horrible for you, but pork shoulder can be high in fat, and I'm sure the sodium content is off the charts. I was a little skeptical about trying this lighter version but the recipe looked simple, and you can't really go wrong with shredded pork tenderloin.

Nick bought some jalapeno peppers to add to the coleslaw. I think this addition totally made the dish. It adds some heat and crunch to the coleslaw but is not overpowering because of the creamy mayo dressing. The pork is wonderfully tender, and the sauce has a light tang balanced by the sweetness of the brown sugar. The sauce has a bit more body than a traditional vinegar-based sauce which means it won't make your bun soggy.

First step is to make the barbecue sauce base. I used Dijon mustard, but you could also use spicy brown mustard if you have that on hand. Season it well with salt and pepper.

Bring the sauce to a boil. 

Add in the chunks of pork tenderloin.

Cover and simmer over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, make the dressing for the coleslaw. Whisk the mixture together until smooth.

Add in the shredded cabbage (use the pre-shredded bagged coleslaw mix to save time) and the jalapenos. Mix it together with the dressing. Add more cabbage if you think you have too much dressing. Refrigerate the slaw to let the flavors meld. 

The pork will probably be ready to remove from the sauce once you are finished with the coleslaw. 

Simmer the sauce over medium heat until reduced. Mine was pretty thick by the time I turned off the heat. 

Shred the pork (I used my fingers) and then add it to the sauce. 

Take the slaw out of the fridge and begin to assemble your sandwiches. 

Serve the pork with some roasted sweet potato wedges to make it a hearty and healthy meal (great for the weekend when you have some extra time to make lunch or dinner). I think this sandwich might just hold me over until we head out to the Banks this summer. Thankfully it won't do too much damage to my waist line!

Lighter Pulled-Pork Sandwiches
Adapted from Everyday Food Light
Serves 4


  • 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about one pound), cut into four pieces
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds (I used herbes de provence)
  • 1/4 small head green cabbage, shredded (or you could use the bagged coleslaw mix to save time)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 whole wheat rolls, split

In a medium saucepan, stir together tomatoes, sugar, garlic, mustard, chili flakes, and 1/2 cup water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; add pork, cover and simmer until tender, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate to cool. Continue to simmer sauce (uncovered) over medium heat until reduced by half, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon vinegar, seeds or herbs, jalapeno, and remaining 1 tablespoon water; season with salt and pepper. Add cabbage, and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Shred pork with fingers or two forks, and return to sauce; stir in remaining teaspoon vinegar. Serve pork on rolls, topped with cabbage mixture.

Per Serving: 369 calories; 11.2 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat); 30.2 grams protein; 38.2 carbohydrates; 6.7 grams fiber.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Key Lime Pie Macaroons

I absolutely fell in love with Smitten Kitchen's raspberry coconut macaroon recipe about a month ago. I made them for my sister's bridal shower and have been dreaming up variations on the recipe ever since. My dad, a true macaroon lover, declared that these luscious treats were as close to macaroon perfection as we'll get this side of heaven. High praise, indeed.

SK's recipe has you process the sweetened flaked coconut in the food processor several times before shaping the cookie into a ball and baking it. The processed coconut provides a light and fluffy texture that even non-coconut lovers will find hard to resist. If you don't have a food processor, you could probably use a blender instead. However, I suggest you go out and buy one now because they are so versatile and fun to use! Even Nick has fun using ours.

Key Lime Pie Macaroons came to mind since lime and coconut pair so well together. I created the crust by dipping the macaroons in white chocolate and then in crushed graham crackers before the chocolate had set. My macaroons had a more delicate lime flavor, but you could use more zest and juice if you want to kick them up a notch. Make these for dessert after a dinner of Kathy's Waikiki Meatballs, and you'll find yourself with a case of island fever!

First step is to process the sweetened flaked coconut for about a minute.

Add the sugar and process again.

Then, add in the lime juice, salt, almond extract and egg whites. Process yet again!

Add in the lime zest and pulse a few times to incorporate.

I highly recommend you get a mini ice cream scoop or melon baller to make the macaroons. It makes the macaroons more uniform in size, and you won't get your fingers all sticky. Use parchment paper or Silpat-lined baking sheets.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Let them cool slightly and then you can dip them in the white chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. I just bought some white chocolate chips and microwaved them for about 45 seconds. After stirring the heated chips, I microwaved them for another 15 seconds or so until completely melted. Dip immediately in finely crushed graham cracker crumbs, and then let them set on wax paper.

These cookies will remind you of those coconut lime patties sold at the airport gift stores in Florida - yum!

Key Lime Pie Macaroons
Makes 40-50 small cookies

  • 1 14-ounce bag sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Juice of half a large lime (add more juice if you feel the mixture could handle more liquid)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted (I melted my chips in the microwave. Microwave the chips for about 45 seconds, stir and reheat for 15 seconds, stir again. Keep up with the process until the chips are entirely melted. Be careful not to burn the chips.)
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a food processor, blend the coconut for a minute. Add sugar, blend another minute. Add egg whites, lime juice, salt, almond extract and blend for another minute. Add lime zest and pulse machine a few times to incorporate.

With a tablespoon measure or small cookie scoop, scoop batter into 1-inch mounds. You can arrange the cookies fairly close together as they don’t spread, just puff a bit.

Bake cookies for 25 to 30 minutes, until they look a little toasted on top. Let them rest on the tray for 10 minutes after baking and then place them on a cooling rack for another 10-15 minutes. Once cool and firm, dip them in the melted white chocolate followed by the graham cracker crumbs.