Saturday, January 30, 2010

When Life Gives You Snow...

Make a feast that makes you feel like you're in a place like this:
Since I had a snow day from the store, I was able to put in some QT with my houseguest and catch up on stuff around the apartment. I was really excited to cook for someone aside from just me so I asked her to pick a protein (I had sole, shrimp and salmon in the freezer) and a type of cuisine and I'd take it from there. Of course she had to go and pick 'tropical' - specifically jerk chicken - which I greeted with a 'WTF?' face. Thankfully she wasn't set on jerk chicken and we settled on a tropical dinner featuring sole.

I was psyched to go with a tropical theme, especially since there was a blanket of white outside! Unfortunately, tropical/Caribbean cuisine - NOT my forte. I knew I would make some Pigeon Peas and Rice, one of my favorite dishes from a trip to Grenada. I found a recipe for Peas and Rice last year and while it didn't satisfy my craving, it gave me a basic concept to work with. Threw in some other punches of flavor and voila!
Coconut Ginger Peas and Rice
1/2 onion, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
3 slices ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c basmati rice
1.5 c pigeon peas (canned)
1 c chicken broth
3/4 lite coconut milk
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute onion until translucent. Add tomato, ginger, salt, pepper and coriander and cook for 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat (approximately 1 minute) and pour in broth, milk, cilantro and peas and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook for 25 minutes.

Of course, I had to work on the protein of choice - sole. This one was a toughie. At first I was thinking I'd do a curry fish, but I didn't want it stewed. I wanted a seared fish. I scoured FoodGawker for some inspiration, but no such luck. Then all of a sudden (no clue where it came from) I shouted 'lemongrass!' And dinner was created.
Spicy Lemongrass Fish
2 sole fillets
2 tbsp lemongrass, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1/4 c lite coconut milk
pinch salt

Combine lemongrass, garlic, chili paste, coconut milk and salt in a shallow container big enough for the fish to sit comfortably in. Marinate fish for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a frying pan with a spritz of olive oil and cook fish for 2 minutes on each side.

To balance out the creaminess of the rice and the slightly spicy/creaminess of the fish, I thought a nice fruity and citrusy salsa was needed. Once I actually sat down to map out dinner, I kept complaining about how I should have grabbed some pineapple or peppers or something else to toss in. Instead, I learned how to make do with what I already had :)
Mango Citrus Salsa
1 ripe mango, diced
1/2 avocado, chopped
2 tbsp onion, minced
1 1/2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
juice of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/2 clementine
3 dashes hot sauce
salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

With the creamy/soft and acidic/clean tastes under control, I thought I should bring in something crispy. Enter the plantain. At first I was just going to bake them, but then I said eff it. Let's just fry those suckers. And fry them, we did.

Fried Plantains
1 green plantain, sliced into 1/4 inch disks
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Heat oil and fry plantains until golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with salt and pepper.
Overall, I must say I was VERY pleased with my experiment! I took a bite of each element on its own just to see how they turned out and OMG. I was amazed at how much flavor the fish had taken on and it wasn't at all overpowering. I definitely tasted the lemongrass and garlic combination and the heat was an afterthought. The texture of the fish was nice and buttery, which I may attribute to the coconut milk.

I was pretty concerned about how the rice would turn out since I really just threw in a ton of different ingredients. In the end, I had a wonderfully rich and fragrant rice dish with a subtle ginger flavor. Both the fish AND the rice went great with the sweet and tart mango salsa. I managed to score a perfectly ripe mango and who knew the clementine juice would work out so well? The avocado was a last minute addition since the bowl was looking pretty boring before I put it in the fridge and I'm really glad I tossed it in. Served on its own, I think the salsa would be great with chips!

That was not all I made this fine snowy day (like I'd just cook ONE thing ;p). For snacks/a doggie bag for friend that is headed back to the land of small/non-existent kitchens tomorrow, I made another batch of those spinach roll ups from last night (now in an all new clear format - yay for finding my memory card!)
and another version sort of inspired by a reuben, sort of inspired by a hot pocket ;p:
The filling consisted of deli ham, 2 slices of 2% swiss cheese, 2 tbsp whole grain mustard, 1/2 tsp mayonnaise, 1/4 tsp ketchup and a bit of relish.
This time I baked the ham one in a flaky crescent roll and it was quite delicious.

I'm still not into the sweetness in the Pillsbury dough, but until I can make my own, it'll do.

In keeping with the crescent rollness, I felt compelled to make a batch of Chocolate Rugelach. Not that I've ever made rugelach before, but I do have a soft spot for it...especially chocolate rugelach. MMM. I just love the bittersweet filling. YUUM!

I Googled for recipes and this one sounded the most promising: I was good and followed the directions (as I always do with baking...I just don't trust myself!). The dough was looking good in the fridge so we got to work on the chocolate filling. As friend got started grating the chocolate, I remember thinking 'wow, that's super powdery.' So, I had her chop it up instead. Hey, I like melty chocolate bits. I didn't realize it would make it hard to roll up :/

Here are the messy rolls ready to go in the oven:
And the rugelach cooling:
The flavors were exactly what I was looking for, though I remember always eating flakier rugelach, and the chocolate/cinnamon mixture was fantastic. However, next time I'd like to combine the sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder and grated chocolate and slowly mix in melted butter so a paste is formed. I think that's the sort of texture I'm looking for in the filling. Ah well, lesson learned!

Any fun creations this weekend?? I've got one BSI contender so far...anyone want to give her some competition? ;p


Travel Eat Love said...

Your fish looks like a restaurant meal, just beautiful!

Kelly said...

Wow, so weird- did you read my mind? I was just trying to picture if salmon and mango would go well together today and then BAM you make it haha. Glad to know it works and your meal looks amazing!

Quinn said...

I wish I could eat dinner at your house every night. Fish, coconut rice and mango salsa? Just about my three favorite things.

Karena said...

the fish and mango salsa were by far my favorite parts of the dish AND the easiest to make!

Olga said...

omg, mangoes and plantains? some of my favorite foods ever!