Monday, March 23, 2009


Tequila-Lime Tilapia with Tomato Couscous and Spicy Mango Chutney

My roommate was nervous about her big presentation today, so last night I thought she could use some tequila. Drinking it straight was probably not a good idea, though, so I decided to make something extra-spiffy for dinner and opted for one of my favorite flavors; tequila-lime. I pan-seared some tilapia filets and served them with tomato couscous, mango chutney and steamed broccoli. I really wish I had taken a picture- the plate looked so pretty! Why don't I take pictures before I eat the pretty things? Maybe because they look too good...

The tequila-lime treatment should be familiar to anyone who has ever eaten at Applebee's or Chili's. As good as it always sounds, no restaurant has ever managed to make one with enough tequila OR enough lime for yours truly. I'm liberal with both, so this sauce has a great kick. You can make it spicy, too, but I kept it mild this time. It also works well with chicken and pork. I plan on dousing some shrimp in the leftover sauce later this week.

Ingredient of the Day: Ancho Chili Powder
Ancho chili powder is only mildly spicy but has a very distinct taste and a wonderfully rich smokiness. It will add depth and a Southwest flair to your more powerfully-flavored dishes and makes a good addition to barbecue rubs and sauces.

Tequila Lime Tilapia
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 tbsp Rose's lime juice
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp dried basil (or several shredded fresh leaves)
1 tsp dried parsley (or fresh)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
*1 tbsp fresh cilantro, shredded

4 tilapia filets (about 1 lb.)

In a non-stick pan on medium heat, sautee the garlic and shallot in the oil until lightly browned then add the chicken broth, lime juice and brown sugar (you can mix them all together beforehand if you like). Then add the tequila and stir. Once the alcohol has cooked off (taste it to find out), lower the heat and simmer the sauce until some of the liquid cooks off. Season with the ancho chili powder, basil and parsley. Add salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

I removed the pan from the heat and let a little bit of the sauce cool, then rubbed it on the tilapia filets before pan-searing them. Once they were cooked, I set them on the plate and spooned more sauce over them. This made sure the fish browned and didn't get stewed from having too much juice in the pan. *I topped mine with a healthy dose of fresh cilantro, but if you hate cilantro, by all means leave it out.

Tomato Couscous
2 cups water
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (the little squat cans)
1 cup couscous
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

I kept this simple because there were so many other flavors on the plate. Mix the water and tomato sauce and salt together and bring it to a boil. Add the couscous, stir well and lower the heat to its lowest setting. Let cook for 5 minutes, then check to see how much of the water has been absorbed. If the couscous looks cooked and the water has been absorbed, remove it from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and fluff with a fork before serving.

Spicy Mango Chutney
1 fresh mango, diced
2 tbsp red bell pepper, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp brown sugar*
1/2 tsp aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil

Simply chop and mix these ingredients together just before serving. *If you have an especially sweet, ripe mango, you might omit the sugar.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hot Soup, Cold Treat

Sambhar Squash Soup and Strawberry Ginger Mint Sorbet

Check it out- an actual photo I took of food I prepared! I really need to start taking pictures of stuff...

The weather has been blowing hot and cold all month long in DC, so I've been mixing it up a bit food-wise. The other day I put together a nice vegetable curry, and experimented with a soup to go with it. I've been making squash soups with frozen pureed squash for a while, but this time I added sambhar curry powder, and a minced preserved lemon. The effect was spicy and satisfying, and a definite hit with my roommate. Sambhar powder is typically used to season a thin lentil soup in Indian cuisine; it can be pretty strong, so you may want to check how much heat the brand you try is packing before you cook.

Today was a snow day, and since there wasn't enough ice outside, I had to throw some around in the house and make my first ever sorbet. We had a bag of strawberries, frozen at their peak after being picked on a local farm last summer, and with a few other simple ingredients they made a terrifically easy and flavorful dessert using only a blender and a Tupperware container. If you want to use heavy cream instead of the milk and soy creamer I happened to have, I'm sure it will come out awesome, too.

The other experiment of the day was my first attempt at pizza dough, but I won't post that unless it works out when I bake it tomorrow. You know- gotta make sure it doesn't explode in the oven, or crawl out of the fridge overnight.

Sambhar Squash Soup

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 package frozen pureed butternut squash
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp. sambhar curry powder
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. sugar
1 minced preserved lemon (See entry "Morocco Love")

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and sautee the onion until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock and the frozen squash. Cook until the squash thaws and the soup comes to a boil, then add the sambhar powder, lemon juice, sugar and minced lemon. You can also add salt and pepper to taste, if you like. Once the soup is boiling, lower it and simmer, stirring until flavors are incorporated. Serve with toasted naan. No, really- dipping toasted Indian bread in this made it even better.

Strawberry Ginger Mint Sorbet
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 1/2 cups milk*
1/2 cup soy creamer
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients together in a blender. Pour into a 1 quart container and stick it in the freezer. After 1 hour, stir or shake it to break up any ice crystals. I'm not sure if the soy creamer affected the texture, but the batch I made came out creamy and never turned rock-solid or developed large ice crystals. It may have been the fact that I started with frozen strawberries. Either way, it's fresh and delicious, and will taste even better in a month like July.