Sunday, April 19, 2009

Brain Food

Pretty much everybody who knows me knows that I have been studying for and taking the exams for my architectural registration since last August. I like to stick to a routine before each exam to help calm the nerves and get myself mentally prepared. One part of the routine is eating fish the night before. I took exam #6 (out of 7) last Tuesday so this week's menu starts off with a little "brain food".

This recipe called for Halibut but I can't find it fresh around here so I substituted Cod which was what looked best out of the fresh fish they had. This is light and mild in flavor and pretty quick, about 20 minutes total.

1. Poached Cod with Green Beans & Red Potatoes
Modified from Real Simple
makes four servings

1 lb red potatoes
2 1/2 t kosher salt
1 lb green beans, trimmed
3 T unsalted butter
2 T fresh chives, chopped
1/4 t black pepper
4 6 0z. pieces cod, or other white fish (one with a firmer flesh is best)
2 1/2 cups dry white wine

Scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Place in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 2". Add 2 t of the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just fork tender (a little shy), about 15 minutes. Add the green beans and cook 5 minutes more, until just tender. Meanwhile, season the fish with 1/4 t of the salt and 1/8 t of the pepper and place in a large skillet. Pour in just enough wine to reach halfway up the sides of the fish. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook 6-8 minutes, covered, until the fish is opaque. Meanwhile, when the potatoes and green beans are done drain them and set aside. In the same pot melt the butter over low heat with the chives, 1/4 t of the salt and and 1/8 t of the pepper. Quarter the potatoes and return to the pot with the green beans. Stir gently to combine. Serve with the fish and spoon any extra chive butter over the top.

Our good friend Steve made a special request last week for some Wonton Soup. He was here the first time I made it and liked it as much as we did! I told him I would happily make it if he would help me stuff the wontons. We set up a little assembly line and the numerous hands made very quick work of the tedious task (especially since we doubled the recipe!). Sometimes I like to have the kitchen all to myself and don't want to be bothered but other times it is really nice to have the company and the help! I have already posted about this so click the link below for the recipe.

This steak was delish, even after I burned it and had to scrape a little of the crust off! I had to make another substitution here. The recipe called for skirt steak but I guess my market doesn't carry it very often. The friendly butcher helped me pick out an alternate because I don't know much about the differences between cuts of beef. It was tasty and I didn't have to buy any more than we would eat for one meal.

3. Pecan Crusted Steak with Coleslaw
Modified from Fine Cooking
makes 4 servings

For the steak:
1/2 T olive oil
4 pieces tri-tip steak
kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup pecan pieces
2 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 t honey
1 1/2 t fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

Position an oven rack about 6" from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease the foil with oil. Arrange the steak on the baking sheet and season with the salt and pepper. Put the pecans, butter, honey, rosemary, 1 t salt and 1/4 t pepper in a food processor and pulse until well combined and the pecans are finely chopped. Broil the steak until lightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Flip it and broil until it's nearly cooked to your liking, about 3 minutes more for medium rare (I prefer mine a little more done and added about 2 more minutes). Spread the pecan mixture over the steak, pressing to help it adhere. Continued broiling until the pecan coating is toasted and fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Set the steak aside to rest for 5 minutes.

For the Coleslaw:
I used a pre-washed and sliced bag of coleslaw mix that had red and green cabbage and carrots. I added dried cranberries and a handful of pecans and dressed it with a store bought coleslaw dressing.

This is a super simple summery meal. We had company over on Saturday night and everyone was in the kitchen helping out with the preparation. I was excited about how easily our kitchen accommodated five people moving around and cooking, I never think of it as very large but it really is and more than that it is quite functional.

4. Chili-rubbed Pork Kebabs with Pineapple Salsa
from Real Simple
makes 4 servings

1 pineapple, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2" thick slices
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 t black pepper
2 T olive oil
1 3/4 t kosher salt
3 T chili powder
4 6-oz. boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1" cubes

Heat the grill to medium-high. Grill the pineapple slices for 2 minutes per side. Cut into a small dice, discarding the pieces of core. In a small bowl, combine the pineapple, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, pepper, 1 T olive oil and 3/4 t salt. Set aside. Combine the chili powder and 1 t salt in a large bowl. Add the pork and the remaining 1 T olive oil and toss to coat. Thread the pork onto skewers. Grill the kebabs, turning every 2 minutes, until cooked through, about 15 minutes total.

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