Breaded Fish Tacos

As much as I’m wanting it to be Fall, it is not. As much as I wish we were sipping hot drinks in our comfy sweaters and listening to rain fall outside, we are not. As much as I wish there were a chill in the air, there most definitely isn’t.

I put my fall decor up in my house, but it is still very Summery. So while we wait for chili season to come, we can still enjoy some more warm weather-friendly cuisine, like these fish tacos.

Living in SoCal, fish tacos have been a staple of Mexican cuisine. There is some debate on whether they orginated in San Felipe or Ensenada, Mexico, but there is total agreement on the deliciousness of these exports.

There are probably a hundred ways to make fish tacos, but here’s one way I came up with:

Breaded Fish Tacos

1 pound halibut or other sturdy white fish, cut into 1″ strips
1 lime juiced and zested
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup milk
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp or so of each should be fine)
1/4 cup dried coconut, ground up finely
olive oil
1/4 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
1 avocado
coleslaw of your choice (I really like the mango jicama slaw from Trader Joe’s for this)
Small flour tortillas (soft taco size)

Cut the fish and pat to dry.

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In a shallow dish, add the milk, garlic, & lime juice; mix. In a second shallow dish, add the breadcrumbs, lime zest, ground coconut, salt & pepper.

Dip the fish into the milk, then the breadcrumbs until coated.

Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium high heat and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through.

In a bowl, mix together the greek yogurt and avocado with about 1tsp salt.

Toast up your tortillas over the stove flame until slightly charred. Add your fish, avocado yogurt “cream”, and coleslaw. Enjoy!

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Grilled Salmon Tacos

I love salmon. It is sooooo good for you. And I love tacos. I really love tacos. So when the idea to put them together came up in a clean eating challenge I was doing, I was 100% ON BOARD! And I was not at all disappointed.  

Salmon is really easy to prepare, but until recently, I’d been doing wrong, so wrong, for a long time. I always tried to get the skin off the back before I cooked it. It worked ok, I guess, but I always lost some meat to the cause and it was just a pain in the ass. So, the last time I made salmon, I just threw it right on the grill, skin and all. And you know what happened? I’m sure you do because I’m guessing I’m the only one who didn’t know this would happen. The skin just peeled right off when it was done cooking. Easy peasy. I felt like such an idiot for doing it the hard way this whole time. Well, never again, I tell you. NEVER again. Which is good because I make salmon a lot.

Grilled Salmon Tacos

1/3 cup olive oil

juice of one lime

1 teaspoon chili powder

¾ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

Dash of salt and pepper

1ish pounds salmon

Corn tortillas

Guacamole for serving

Cheese for serving

Coleslaw for serving

In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and s&p. Rub on salmon and grill for about 5-7 minutes per side (depending on thickness). You can let this be a marinade if you want, but don’t let it sit too long or the citrus and the salt will start to “cook” the fish and that won’t be good.

When the salmon is done, remove it from the grill and take off the skin. I scrape off most of that grey stuff under the skin as well. I think it’s ok to eat, but since I don’t even know what it is, I take it off. Roughly chop up the salmon.

Serve in a warm corn tortilla with some guacamole and this AMAZING mango jicama slaw I found at Trader Joe’s. 


Or whatever other taco toppings you like.

 

That’s not all! I had lots of leftover salmon, so I reheated it and mixed it in with some brown rice and pesto with that slaw on the side. SO GOOD! I’m going to start making that as the main meal, not just leftovers!

Pumpkin Polenta with Seared Scallops and Sage Brown Butter 

Sometimes, when I make dinner and I’m trying something new, I make sure we have eggs or cereal on standby in case it doesn’t turn out so great. It’s happened before and I’m sure it’ll happen many times again. So goes the way of things for a curious foodie.

This dish was one of those times. I feel like I see polenta everywhere and everyone I know seems to love it. Until now, I had never had it nor attempted to make it. I know it’s a pretty healthy component to a meal, so I wanted to give a try to see if it was something we could add to our dinner repertoire. And guess what? It was actually really good!

Polenta is made from ground cornmeal. It is gluten-free (if that’s your thing), a whole grain, low in calories, and full of vitamins A and C. It is a healthy/smart carb source. And, most important, it’s yummy.

I feel like I should mention, though, that it is a bit on the bland side, so adding flavors is a MUST. I wouldn’t just whip up a batch and eat it as is. It needs cheese and butter. I know that doesn’t sound healthy, but if you make 80-90% of the meal healthy, you can splurge a little on cheese and butter. I do now have a bag of polenta so I am looking for more ways to use it. A friend of mine suggested making a batch and spreading it out on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until solid and then cut it out and grill it. She also mentioned it is delish topped with grilled veggies or even tomato sauce.

I used Bob’s Mill polenta, which is not an “instant polenta” so I don’t know about those measurements, but what for what I used it was a ratio of 1 cup polenta to 4 cups of water and it ends up making about 3 cups prepared polenta.


This dish is a bit of a twist on the southern classic shrimp and grits because grits are very similar to polenta. I love using the scallops, but they are a bit pricey, so this isn’t something we can have often, unfortunately.

Pumpkin Polenta with Seared Scallops and Sage Brown Butter

Polenta

½ can pumpkin puree (15 oz can)

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper

8 scallops, cleaned and dried

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Garlic powder

½ stick unsalted butter

Sage

For the polenta: Make it according to package directions, then add the cheese, butter, pumpkin, and salt and pepper to taste.


For the scallops: make sure they are clean and dry (so they sear) and season with a little salt and pepper and garlic powder. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat up the olive oil (just enough to coat the pan) and saute your scallops until opaque. About 5 minutes per side.

 

For the sage brown butter: remove the scallops from the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Add the butter and sage. I used dried sage because my store was out of the fresh and I didn’t feel like driving around looking for it. Use minced fresh sage, if you have it. Let the butter melt and cook in the pan. It will start to brown pretty quickly, so don’t walk away. Turn the heat off when it is browned.


Put a scoop of the pumpkin polenta on a plate, top with the scallops, and pour some of the butter sauce over the whole thing.

Enjoy! 

Send any polenta ideas my way, please! 

Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Garlic Shrimp

I have one regret about this dish, you guys. I only wish I had actually timed myself making it because I’m pretty sure the whole thing only took me maybe 20 minutes. It came together so quickly, I was genuinely curious how long it actually was. 

A ridiculously delicious 20-minute meal? That’s healthy too? This is the goal, am I right? If only my kids were as into it as my hubby and I were, but hey, I’m picking my battles today and they are fine with their chicken nuggets for today. More for me! :0)

Anyway, back to the recipe, which is even easier if you use store bought pesto. Which is totally cool. 

Or you can be super cool and use my spinach basil pesto that I love so much :0) 

This is so simple I’m not even going to write out a recipe. I’ll just give you the steps and you can make it to your tastes. 

Start with your Shrimp. In a bowl, add your peeled and deveined shrimp. I used half a pound of 16/20 count and it fed two of us. Add a couple cloves of minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt, and a sprinkle of lemon pepper. Let it sit while you prep your zucchini. 


Using a spiralizer, make your zucchini noodles. You can also use a vegetable peeler if you don’t have a spiralizer. Or you can use regular pasta. 


In a skillet over medium high heat, add a little bit of olive oil and sauté your garlic shrimp. It just takes a few minutes on each side, until pink and cooked through. Remove from the skillet.


In the same skillet, with all the yummy bits and now-flavored oil from the Shrimp, add your noodles and cook until soft, but still a bit al dente. 


When the noodles are ready, turn off the heat and add a scoop of your pesto. Toss with the zoodles until coated.


Plate your pesto zoodles with the Shrimp and enjoy! 

You could probably make this easily with chicken instead of Shrimp if you wanted. Or another kind of fish. You could also leave it as is and keep it vegetarian.

Grilled Salmon with Drunken Zucchini Noodles

We don’t generally eat a lot of fish around our house. There’s not really any particular reason for it, except that I’m always afraid I’m going to overcook it and it doesn’t really make for good leftovers (which is something I like to consider when making my meals).

When we do eat fish, the one we eat most often is salmon. It is definitely a favorite around here. Not only is it tasty, it is really REALLY good for you. A few years back a co-worker of mine passed on this recipe for the best salmon marinade and now it’s all I use. I’ve used it on other fish too and it’s so good. I’ve actually even used the same ingredients to make salmon burgers. It is really very all-purpose, but it is just plain ol’ delicious. My kids even like it and that’s saying something!

I tend to just eyeball it at this point since I’ve made it so often, but the actual recipe follows:
2 tablespoons dijon mustard

3 tablespoons soy sauce

6 tablespoons olive oil

minced garlic

In a ziplock bag, add your salmon filet(s). I had 3 filets about 3oz each. Mix together all the ingredients and pour into the bag. Or you can do what I did and put each ingredient into the bag and then mix it in there so you don’t have to wash another dish.


Let it sit while you bring your grill up to temperature. When the grill is ready, just cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until done. You can also make this under the broiler, but I like the flavor grilling it gives the salmon.

For this particular dinner, I pulled out my new Spiralizer and made some yummy zucchini noodles. It took me a couple tries to figure out the best way to use the machine, but once I got it, it was actually really easy and now I can’t wait to see what else I can spiralize!! This recipe is actually a lightened up version of some noodles I found on another blog (sorry, I forgot to write it down!). It was really good and had a lot of flavor. Plus, it was really healthy!

1 large zucchini

Half a leek, chopped

1-2 cloves minced garlic, depending on how garlicky you like it

Olive oil

¼ cup vodka (optional, I suppose. You could use white wine if you want, or even chicken broth. The alcohol will cook off.)

Juice of one lemon

Zest of the same lemon

Salt and pepper

¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Spiralize your zucchini. If you don’t have a spiralizer or you don’t like zucchini or whatever, you can always just make up a batch of spaghetti and then make the sauce the same way.

 

In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, leeks, garlic and zoodles. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Let cook until the zoodles begin to soften.

 

Add vodka and lemon juice. Let it cook a little longer until the liquid is reduced and the alcohol is cooked out. The zoodles should be soft, but not mushy.

 

Turn off the heat and add the yogurt. This is important to do off the heat so the yogurt doesn’t separate and get gross.


Top with lemon zest and serve.

Spicy Shrimp and Ham Pasta

Whenever I have a really good meal somewhere, I like to try to recreate it at home. Eating out can get expensive, so sometimes it’s nice to be able to satisfy a craving for something you had out without having to spend the extra cash.  

Also, you get to stay home and eat it in your sweats and watch TV, so just go ahead and add that to plus column too.   

I especially like to try to recreate yummy dishes we have on vacation. This is a fun way to relive those moments when you were blissfully away, not ruled by the clock or responsibilities. If the recreation is successful, you just have to try not to book the next flight out at the dinner table. 

If you remember, on the last night of our vacation a couple weeks ago, we ate at a restaurant called Saints & Sinners and I had this amazing shrimp and tasso pasta. Channing Tatum apparently owns the restaurant, and while I doubt he had much to do with the creation of this dish, I will give him a shout out for hiring the chef who did because it was one of my absolute favorite meals of the whole trip. I was so full but I couldn’t stop myself from eating it because it tasted so good. I didn’t want to waste a single bite. (PS I did my best, but my husband ended up finishing up the last few bites.) I knew as soon as I took my first bite, I was going to have to figure out how to make this at home.

When I got home, I started researching two components of this dish: 1. how to make the rosé sauce, and 2. Where to get tasso. 

Tasso is a smoked ham found most specifically in south Louisiana cuisine. It’s actually made from the pork shoulder (ham is from the hind leg), which is cured and then covered in a spicy rub and smoked. It can be eaten alone, but it is usually used for the delicious flavor that it adds to other dishes, like pasta, seafood, and jambalaya. 

Tasso is such a specialty item, I wasn’t even sure where I could get it. It wasn’t at the regular grocery store, but I figured a place like Bristol Farms or Whole Foods might have it. Nope. I looked on the website for a butcher called Huntington Meats at the LA Farmer’s Market. This place is really pretty amazing for all the different meats they have. They have it all from beef and chicken to pheasant and alligator. According to their website, they do in fact carry tasso ham. The only problem is that it really isn’t all that convenient for me to go there. It’s not that it’s far, but it is a bit out of my way. Maybe if I was making this dish for a dinner party with, say, Channing & Jenna Dewan Tatum, or something, I would take the extra step and head over there, but since it was just for us, I went a different, easier route and just got regular ham and added the spicy seasoning separate. Plus, if I want to make this more often, I’m definitely not going to Fairfax every time I want tasso. 

I was actually really pleased with how this dish turned out. I’m going to tell you how I made it and then give you a few notes at the end for what I would different next time. And there will absolutely be a next time. 

Copycat Shrimp and Tasso Ham Pasta 

For the sauce:

Olive oil (just a couple tablespoons)

½ an onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon dried thyme

½ tablespoon dried oregano

½ tablespoon Cajun/creole seasoning

Pinch of red pepper flakes

7 oz can of tomato sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup white wine

¾ cup heavy cream 

For the ham:

Olive oil (just for a light saute)

2 smoked ham steaks, diced small 

For the shrimp:

Olive oil (just for a light saute)

Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed

Cajun/creole seasoning 

1 pound Rotini pasta, cooked to package directions

¼ to ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese  

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In a large skillet, saute your ham in some olive oil until warmed through and slightly browned on the outside. Set aside on a paper towel to drain. I used these Farmer John smoked ham steaks from the store since I didn’t have tasso and I think it worked great.   

  
In the same skillet, make the sauce. Add a little bit more olive oil if you feel like you need it. Add your onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, Cajun/creole seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft and fragrant. 

  
  
Add the tomato sauce, sugar, and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the heavy cream.

  
Add your cooked pasta, the reserved ham, and some parmesan cheese to the sauce and mix together. Let them hang out and the flavors get all yummy while you make the shrimp. 

  
In another skillet, add some olive oil and your shrimp. Sprinkle with more Cajun seasoning. Flip when one side is pink and cook until done. 

Taste the pasta and add salt to your preference and finish with more Cajun seasoning if you want. I did both. 

  
Serve and enjoy! 

Here are a few notes for next time: 

· I would either use chicken broth instead of the white wine or do half of each because I felt the wine was a bit of a stronger flavor in the dish than I wanted. It was still good, I just wish the flavor had stayed in the background more.

· Either double the amount of ham or make less pasta.

· I added Cajun seasoning 3 times: once at the beginning of the sauce, once at the end, and to the shrimp. I never thought it was enough as I was adding it, but then I ate it and it definitely had a kick! If you like things spicy, season away, but if you want it a bit milder, just add it at the beginning of the sauce and then taste it to see if you want more or not.

· I was looking at the picture I took at the restaurant and there is a lemon twist on top. I don’t know if that was strictly for garnish or if they somehow incorporated lemon in theirs. I didn’t taste it in theirs and I didn’t include it in mine.

· I think the salting at the end was a really good idea. There are so many flavors going on in this dish, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. This allows you to salt to your preference.

· Let me explain why I didn’t mix the shrimp into the pasta: one, if I take this to work for leftovers, I do not want to be the person who reheats seafood in the microwave and make the whole office smell like seafood. Also, I thought I had more shrimp in my freezer than I actually did. I only ended up making about 12 shrimp. I would absolutely make more next time. Or, like I said before, make less rotini.

 

The restaurant inspiration!

 
 

My own version! Looks pretty good, huh?

 

Paella (Spain)

Ah, Spain. España. Have you been there? I have not been to Spain, but it is definitely on my Travel Bucket List. The country is ancient and beautiful. I kinda *sorta* understand the language. The food looks amazing.

Since a trip to Spain is not in my near future, this dish is the closest I’ll get to it. Paella is widely considered the National Dish of Spain and originates from the Valencia region, along the Mediterranean coast. The main component of paella is rice, and you can make seafood paella, meat paella, mixed paella, vegetarian paella… you get the picture.

Around the 10th Century, the Spanish Moors began cultivating rice and the Valencian people would use that rice to make casseroles of rice, fish, and spices for family and religious feasts. By the 15th century, rice became a staple of Spanish cuisine. I read a quote from a Spanish food historian, Lourdes March, about paella that said, the dish “symbolizes the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries.”

I really loved that because that was sort of the whole point in my starting this blog. In a world that is as divided as today’s is, food is still so universal. Everyone loves food. Every culture has their own traditions. Most cultures even borrow from other cultures. We all sit down at the end of the day at the dinner table. The fact that paella has come to symbolize the unity of two cultures in Spain is beautiful.

From what research I’ve done, there are many ways to make this dish. You can even get a paella pan, but I just used a large skillet. This particular paella is shrimp and scallops because that’s what I had on hand, but I think doing a shrimp and chicken would be delicious.

A typical spice in paella is saffron. As you may know, this is the most expensive spice, by weight, in the world. The bonus is a little goes a long way. I found a small jar at Trader Joe’s that cost about $5 or $6, which is the cheapest I’ve seen for a jar. The one I saw at Pavilions was closer to $17.

The only problem I had with the recipe I used was that it made SO much rice! The rice to seafood ratio was so off. I would probably just make less rice next time. Otherwise, this recipe was delicious and I can’t wait to play around with this dish again and see what sort of delicious combinations I can come up with.

Shrimp and Scallop Paella

(recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking?)

¼ cup olive oil

4 shallots, minced (I used leeks because that’s what I had on hand)

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stem

2 bay leaves

2 pinches of saffron

3 cups long grain white rice

¾ cup white wine (I’m sure you could just use chicken broth)

2 tsp salt

6 cups chicken broth

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes because that’s what I had)

8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, split, and deveined

8 sea scallops, cleaned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

1 lemon juiced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large oven-proof skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the thyme and the bay leaves and cook for a minute or two. Add the saffron and the rice and stir for a couple minutes until the rice is coated with the olive oil.

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Add the wine, salt, and chicken stock, making sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. Raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once it comes to a steady simmer, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the tomatoes. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and add the shrimp and scallops. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 13 minutes until the seafood is cooked. This seemed like a very specific time, but I did exactly 13 minutes like the recipe called for and it came out perfect!

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Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and serve.

I had no expectations for this dish, but it turned out really good! I can see why Spain claims it as their national dish!

¡Buen Provecho!