Main Dishes

Pacific Halibut Foil Packets with Shiitakes & Snap Peas

Today is Earth Day! While I was brainstorming how Lemon & Mocha would celebrate Earth Day I determined that as delicious as cookies made to look like our green and blue planet might be they wouldn’t really capture the spirit of this environmental holiday. So, as cheesy as it sounds, I decided to make and share something that will have a minor impact on our environment. Certainly a very teeny minor impact, but an impact nonetheless.

It is rare that I cook fish in our house, mostly due to cost and Matt’s unfortunate high school homecoming incident with a salmon-scented outfit, but that’s a story for another day. Since I do not purchase much seafood I had never given the information about trying to purchase sustainable seafood much thought. When Matt and I were in Seattle last year we went on a food tour during which one segment the famous “fish guys” at Pike Place Market talked to the group about the importance of sustainable seafood.

Not all seafood is created equal. There are some seafood that are sourced from oceans or farms in a way that is negatively impacting the ecosystem and is not a viable long-term method for obtaining that seafood. By contrast, seafood that has been deemed sustainable is coming from sources that are not harming the seafood’s environment and they have the ability to maintain or even increase production of the seafood.

Would I want to live in a world where I couldn’t have a fresh rainbow roll, grilled salmon or shrimp scampi? No thank you! Not to mention the disastrous effect it could have on the surrounding ecosystems if more seafood were to become extinct. Now I’m not suggesting we all write letters to unsustainable fish farms and boycott restaurants that aren’t serving sustainable seafood. But if, as consumers, we all made some easy swaps during our weekly grocery trips from an overfished seafood to a good sustainable option then our individual very teeny minor impacts would grow into much stronger impacts.

You can discover what are the best sustainable seafood options for your region using these handy printable sustainable guides published by Seafood Watch.

Pacific Halibut Foil Packets with Shiitakes & Snap Peas
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 4-ounce skinless pacific halibut fillets, or whatever light fish is sustainable for your region
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 6 thin lemon slices
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, strings removed and sliced on the diagonal about three or four times each.
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Tear off two large pieces of tin foil that will easily encase each fillet of fish. If you aren’t using non-stick foil, lightly spray the foil with cooking spray before laying down the piece of fish. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of butter onto each fillet then top each fillet with three slices of lemon. Turn in the sides of the foil then close the top before tightly sealing it into a little foil packet. Place the foil packets on a baking dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
  3. Meanwhile heat the remaining two tablespoons of butter over medium heat, swirling frequently, until it turns golden brown in color, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add the sliced peas, as well as 1 tablespoon of water, and cook for about 4 minutes. The peas should be bright green.
  5. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, then add the toasted sesame seeds.
  6. To serve, lay the halibut fillets on a serving dish or individual plates, top with some of the liquid from the foil packet, then top with the shiitake and pea stir-fry.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking.

Pumpkin Risotto with Roast Asparagus

As excited as I am for the light and fresh ingredients of spring, I will definitely miss the cozy meals and rich flavors of winter. I decided to create a dish that would be a farewell to winter, as well as a welcoming hello to spring, if it ever decides to show itself up here in New England.

This pumpkin risotto with roast asparagus is creamy, robust and bright. The pumpkin flavor makes an appearance without overpowering the dish and the crisp asparagus complements the texture of the risotto. Now I’m about to get all product placement on you, but you’re used to my obsessive ravings by now. It is duly noted and acknowledged that I have an outrageous infatuation with food that has blessed me the ability to spout for hours about the topic. It is not limited to ingredients and meals, but also extends to restaurants, cooking methods, food science and news, appliances, food trucks, tableware and the occasional Costco sample discussion.

One of my absolute favorite appliances, courtesy of my stepmom, is my Breville Risotto Plus. What is this contraption you ask? Well the real question is, what isn’t it? Well actually it’s not a lot of things because an appliance can only be so many things out of the realm of all things, so lets stick to the original question.

This beauty is a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute-er and a risotto maker. You can cook brown rice while your broccoli is steaming. You can saute onions and garlic for a slow cooker meal without getting a second pan dirty. You can make risotto without constantly adding liquid and stirring. I’ll let that soak in for a second.

So Risotto Plus or no Risotto Plus, you should make this creamy risotto today and experience the flavors of winter and spring coming together.

Pumpkin Risotto with Roast Asparagus
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1¾ cups Aborio (risotto rice)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. reheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until hot. Add the shallots and crushed garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Stir in the white wine, cover and let simmer until the wine has mostly been absorbed, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of the hot vegetable stock and let simmer until the liquid is mostly absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat with the second and third cups of hot vegetable stock. When the third cup has been mostly, but not completely absorbed by the rice, stir in the pumpkin puree. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While the risotto is cooking, roast the asparagus. Remove the thick ends of the asparagus, cutting or snapping the bottom inch or two off each spear. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with the other tablespoon of olive, then season with salt, pepper, and the Italian seasoning. Roast until the asparagus are tender, yet still firm, about 10 minutes. Cut each spear into thirds or fourths, depending on the length, for serving.
  6. To serve, top each bowl of risotto with some cut asparagus spears and freshly grated Parmesan.
Notes
*If you are using the Breville Risotto Plus, follow these simple changes. Instead of sautéing the shallots and garlics in a large pot, sauté them in the Risotto Plus on the sauté setting. Then, don’t complete step 4. Instead, after the wine has been absorbed, stir in the vegetable stock, which does not have to be hot, and the pumpkin puree. Cover with the lid and turn the risotto setting on. When it switches to warm, about 20-30 minutes later, stir in the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste, then continue onto step 5.
*Use whatever white wine you have on hand for the recipe. I usually recommend to not use your best white wine, but still one that you wouldn’t mind drinking a glass of.

Recipe adapted from the manual for the Breville Risotto Plus.

Dredged Pork Cutlets with Mushrooms & Kale

Do you ever have yourself convinced something is in a certain spot, but then when it’s not there you find yourself going nuts tearing your house apart looking for it? This happened to me recently with a recipe. Actually with a recipe that was supposed to be shared today. A recipe that apparently doesn’t exist because I can’t find it ANYWHERE.

I love cooking new dishes and between magazines, cookbooks, recipes that have been given to me and online recipes I’ve saved I have more recipes than I could ever cook in my lifetime so it is not uncommon for me to go years in between cooking the same dish, even if it was a favorite at the time. About three years ago I distinctly remember making a stovetop pork and mushroom dish for Matt and I in our old apartment. I remember it being simple, quick and incredibly delicious. I remember it being from one of my favorite cookbooks.

Well after combing through all my cookbooks I owned three years ago, all my neatly organized and cataloged magazine recipes, my personal recipe binders and recipes I have saved online I have concluded that this mystery dish is a lost cause. I decided to create a new dish: pork and mushroom 2.0. Since I can’t remember any of the original ingredients other than pork and mushrooms who knows how similar it is to the mystery dish, but what matters is that it’s even more delicious than I remember.

The pork cutlets are lightly dredged in flour before being pan-fried with mushrooms, red wine vinegar and seasonings. Serve it over some wilted kale and top with a fried egg, because all meat tastes better with a little runny yolk sauce. As much as it’s driving me bonkers that I wasn’t able to find that recipe this pork and mushroom dish over kale is certainly a good distraction.

Dredged Pork Cutlets with Mushrooms & Kale
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 pound pork cutlets, ¼ inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons flour, plus more if needed
  • 12 ounces mushrooms
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt, pepper & garlic powder
Directions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Slowly add the kale using tongs to move around the kale as it cooks down to make room for more. Season with salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Let the kale saute, moving often with the tongs, until all the kale is moistened and a medium green color, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add ¼ cup water, cover and let cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Season the pork cutlets on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  3. Place the flour in a shallow bowl or plate then dredge the first pork cutlet in the flour until it's fully coated. Shake off the excess and set aside on a cutting board or plate. Repeat for the rest of the pork cutlets adding more flour if needed.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork cutlets a few minutes on each side, until they are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Remove the pork from the pan to let rest.
  5. Add the mushrooms to the pan along with the dried oregano and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms have started to brown add the red wine vinegar. Cook until the vinegar has reduced by half and the mushrooms are nice and tender.
  6. Place a serving of kale on each plate followed by some pork and red wine vinegar mushrooms. Serve as is or with a side of rice pilaf.
Notes
Top with an over-easy fried egg for a tasty variation.

 

Ratatouille Napoleon

I received several fantastic cookbooks around the holidays and I have been so over-the-top excited about each of them that I can’t believe I have waited this long to share them with you. I have spent the last couple months cooking away and trying different recipes from each of the cookbooks. But one of the ones I was most thrilled about diving into, The Southern Vegetarian, was one that began as a gift to someone else. I purchased this book for Christmas for my fellow foodie friend and once it arrived I determined that I needed my own copy right away.

Thankfully my parents got it for me for Christmas so I could start drooling over all the pages without dirtying someone else’s copy. This book proves, if you didn’t believe it already, that eating vegetarian can be exciting, surprising and absolutely drool-worthy delicious. Matt and I previously ate vegetarian about once a week, although it was mostly for cost-saving purposes.

After the holidays were over, a scale had been purchased and we both had picked our jaws up from the floor (ok, it wasn’t that bad, but still a minor reality check moment), we decided to increase our vegetarianism for health concerns as well. Reduce your grocery bill and slim down? No, I’m not talking about starvation, I’m talking about eating (partly) vegetarian!

This ratatouille napoleon is an easy and delicious multifaceted meal that will undoubtedly impress your family and friends. The layering of the crunchy phyllo dough, hearty sautéed vegetables, savory olive tapenade, refreshing ricotta and slightly sweet balsamic reduction will perform a cohesive symphony of flavors on your taste buds. So veggie lovers and meat snarfers alike: make this dish, eat it, repeat, but don’t forget to share.

Ratatouille Napoleon
 
Yield: 6 stacks
Ingredients
for the napoleon
  • 2 cups peeled and diced eggplant
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 5 ounces crimini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 sheets phyllo dough
  • ¼ cup olive tapenade, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ¼ cup reduced fat ricotta cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper
for the balsamic reduction
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet then spread the eggplant, peppers, onions and mushrooms in an even layer. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat then lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for 16 minutes then remove from the oven.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Carefully lay a sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Top with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat the process until all 8 phyllo sheets have been laid on top of one another. Using a pizza cutter, cut the phyllo stack into 12 equal squares.
  5. Place half the squares on the baking sheet. Use a medium ice cream scoop to place ¼ cup of the vegetable mixture on half of the phyllo squares. Bake the squares for 18 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  6. Repeat with the remainder of the squares.
  7. Spread olive tapenade on each of the un-topped squares.
  8. To serve, scoop a spoonful of the ricotta onto a plate then layer a tapenade square followed by ratatouille square. Follow with a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.
for the balsamic reduction
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it has been reduced to a couple tablespoons.

Recipe adapted from The Southern Vegetarian.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

I often get inspired by dishes I have out at restaurants. Sometimes it is because the dish was so fantastic that I dream about it day and night. I develop an obsessive nonstop craving for it and must recreate it myself to satisfy this craving. Sometimes the dish wasn’t all that great, but in theory it sounded amazing. That is when I know I must recreate it to help the dish live up to its potential. The later was the case with this salad. A spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts. The minute I saw it written on the menu my mouth started watering.

I have an affinity for goat cheese with its creamy texture and tangy taste so the thought of adding a crispy exterior had me over the moon with delight. Then adding pears for sweetness balanced by the toasted walnuts for crunch and an earthiness? Genius workings of a perfect salad in my eyes. But then it came to the table and the first bite was a serious letdown. The dressing was bland and the fried goat cheese was overpowered by breading. I knew the salad was meant to be amazing so a week later I set out to help it reach its full potential.

This spinach salad with fried goat cheese, pears and toasted walnuts with a pomegranate molasses vinaigrette exceeds expectations beyond what my wildest dreams had imagined. The fried goat cheese has a very light yet crunchy exterior which pairs perfectly with the refreshing spinach, pears and toasted walnuts, but what really makes this salad sing is the pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Sweet and tangy this dressing packs a punch and is anything but bland. You only need a small amount so make sure you don’t overdress the spinach.

Typically, a salad is the last meal choice on my list, but that week I ate this salad every day, oftentimes for lunch and dinner. Now if that testament isn’t enough to get you to make this salad right this minute, then I’m not sure what is.

Spinach Salad with Fried Goat Cheese, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and a Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup dressing
Ingredients
for the fried goat cheese
  • 8 ounces goat cheese or goat cheese with honey
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
for the dressing
  • ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
for the salad
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 pears
Directions
for the fried goat cheese
  1. Place a small cooling rack over a baking sheet small enough to fit in your fridge then set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the goat cheese into ½” thick slices. The best way to cleanly cut goat cheese is with a small piece of dental floss.
  4. Carefully dip each slice of goat cheese into the egg white mixture then the breadcrumbs before placing on the cooling rack. After all the pieces have been dipped let them chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  5. When the goat cheese rounds have chilled, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. Cook 2-3 minutes per side then remove from the heat.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, mustard and honey until combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
for the salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Thinly slice the pears.
  3. Toss the spinach with some of the salad dressing. Divide dressed spinach onto 4 plates then top each plate with the ¼ of the toasted walnuts, ½ of the sliced pears and 2 pieces of warm fried goat cheese.

Vinaigrette from Bobby Flay.
Fried goat cheese from Ina Garten.