Thursday, May 30, 2013

Grilled Tilapia with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

As the weather heats up and the summer months begin to approach, we find ourselves outside grilling more... just like most of you do.  These Tilapia filets are brushed with a bright and flavorful Lemon Basil Vinaigrette and treated to a dusting with bold citrus spices before hitting the grill for a light and healthy meal.  This vinaigrette would be suitable for the fish of your choice, or even grilled chicken.

Ingredients:  (for about 8 filets of Tilapia)

Vinaigrette -
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (~ 1 1/2 lemons)
  • 2 tsp capers, drained
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic (~ 1 rounded tsp)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh minced basil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Fish - 
  • 8 filets of Tilapia
  • Citrus seasoning blend of your choice 
    • we used two different kinds to try them out (separately, not mixed)
Garnish (optional)
  • Roasted grape tomatoes
    • 1 cup  grape tomatoes, EVOO, kosher salt and black pepper, dried basil
  • Fresh lemon slices
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced

Step-by-Step:
Roasted Tomatoes -
Start these first, as this takes the longest.  Slice the grape tomatoes in half.  With the cut side up, drizzle them with a little EVOO.
EVOO
Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and dried basil.  I never measure.  Just sprinkle a bit. 
kosher salt

black pepper
dried basil
Roast them in a shallow baking pan at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  They will start dehydrating a bit as they roast.  Cover to keep warm and set aside when they are done.  When you get them in the oven, start on the vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette -
Please note that if you have a little one helping you, YOU will probably want to handle the microplane zester to zest your lemon yourself.  For those of you who have never "zested" before, be careful to ONLY get the colored portion of the fruit.  Do NOT get any of the white pith underneath - as it is bitter.  The zest contains all the fragrant and oils of the peeling.
1 tsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)






This is the heart of the recipe, so here we go.  First zest, then squeeze your lemons as prep before you begin.  Mix together the EVOO, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.   Set aside about 1/3 of this vinaigrette to use on the cooked fish.  We will use the bulk of it to season the raw filets.
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (~ 1 1/2 lemons)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh minced basil
  • 2 tsp capers, drained
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic (~ 1 rounded tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
So now, the lovely Lily will demonstrate the making of a vinaigrette!  After zesting, there are lemons to squeeze, and oil to be measured out.  Then just mix it all together.




Whisk together and adjust seasonings as you desire.
Fish - 
If using frozen filets, thaw first.  Spray aluminum foil with a bit of cooking spray so the fish won't stick.  You will be setting the fish on them.  Brush the fish with the vinaigrette designated for the raw filets.  Season the fish filets generously with seasoning blend of your choice.
Brush the fish with the vinaigrette designated for the raw filets.
Feiny's Citrus BBQ Rub or Seasoning blend of your choice
Season the fish filets generously with seasoning blend of your choice.  (we also tried Lime Mojito rub by McCormick)

Set the fish on the foil "trays."

Grill the fish on the foil "trays" at about 325-350 F for around 10-12 minutes.  It's hard to say exactly since each batch of fish you get will be different thicknesses.  The fish will start to flake easily with a fork when they are cooked.  At the end, brush the fish with the reserved vinaigrette prior to serving.  Garnish with the roasted tomatoes, a slice of lemon, and some fresh basil ribbons. 
Did you enjoy this recipe?  Please hop over to my Recipe Index, where you will find tons more ideas of things to cook with/for your family, including a page of Kid Friendly recipes, and one designated for those of you In a Hurry!  But whatever you cook, please let the kiddos help.  It's great teaching and quality time together.  It introduces them to a lot of new things, and they are probably more likely to try things that they have helped to prepare.

Here are a few recipes to pique your curiosity.  No particular theme or order.. let's just spin the wheel!






Written Method:
Roasted Tomatoes -

Start these first, as this takes the longest.  Slice the grape tomatoes in half.  With the cut side up, drizzle them with a little EVOO.  Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and dried basil.  I never measure.  Just sprinkle a bit.  Roast them in a shallow baking pan at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  They will start dehydrating a bit as they roast.  Cover to keep warm and set aside when they are done.  When you get them in the oven, start on the vinaigrette.

Vinaigrette - 
Mix together the EVOO, lemon zest, lemon juice, capers, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.   Set aside about 1/3 of this vinaigrette to use on the cooked fish.  Use the bulk of it to season the raw filets.

Fish - 
If using frozen filets, thaw first.  Spray aluminum foil with a bit of cooking spray, and set the fish on them.  Brush the fish with the vinaigrette designated for the raw filets.  Season the fish filets generously with seasoning blend of your choice.  Grill the fish on the foil "trays" at about 325-350 F for around 10-12 minutes.  It's hard to say exactly since each batch of fish you get will be different thicknesses.  The fish will start to flake easily with a fork when they are cooked.  At the end, brush the fish with the reserved vinaigrette prior to serving.  Garnish with the roasted tomatoes, a slice of lemon, and some fresh basil ribbons.

Behind the scenes....
With our fish, we had grilled sweet corn, and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan.   In case you are wondering, yes, I do let my kids use knives.  Big ones.  Sharp ones.  It's the way my mom always taught us.  The sharp knives require much less pressure and are less dangerous than dull ones.  They learn knife skills under my supervision.  That way, the "almighty knife" is much less of a mystery to them that they will be tempted to "play" with when my back is turned.

Notice how fancy it is when we cook together? LOL...  We have grape Kool-Aid in a Hello Kitty water bottle.  And of course I usually have a pad of paper and pen on hand for any recipe notes that I take. Because as you can see, my attention is divided somewhat!  Canon's job was to quarter the sprouts after I halved them (because the whole ones can be tricky when they are trying to roll away).  Lily's job was to arrange them, cut side up, so we could drizzle a sauce EVOO/balsamic dressing over them.

It may seem to you that it takes longer to cook when the little ones are helping.  It may.  But there are way more benefits to this than drawbacks.  The alternative is.... I could go and park them in front of the TV or computer.  They get plenty of that, though!  This is our time to share our day, and just spend time cooking up memories together.  When they grow up, THIS is what I want them to remember... not what toys they had, or what video games they played.  I want them to remember cooking together.  And I want them to teach their kids the same.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Apple Praline Bundt Cake

I adapted this recipe a bit from my husband's Great Grandmother's recipe.  He said he grew up with his mother making it, but wasn't exactly sure where it came from.  I had to trace it back just a bit, but it was worth it!  I hope that she would have been proud.  I am certainly humbled to have been entrusted with this old family recipe.  The things that I changed were to cut some of the fat and calories a bit from the original recipe, and maybe some touches just to make it "my own," but I tried to keep to the authentic spirit of the dish.  These are things that I encourage all of my readers to do, as the process of "making something your own" is one of the true beauties of cooking in your own kitchen. 

There may seem like a lot of steps, but this made-from-scratch dump cake is very easy.  Just follow along with me step-by-step, and YOUR house can be smelling like apples and warm spices soon!


Ingredients:

Cake -
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon apple sauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 3 cups cake flour (you could use all purpose)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
  • 2 Tbsp praline syrup (optional)  

Praline Glaze - 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Garnish
  • glazed pecans (yep.  I purchased them in a bag.)
  • mint leaves (straight from the garden)

Step-by-Step:

First, decide on the type of apples you will use.  Some apples are best for eating "in hand," while others hold up better to the heat of cooking.  It may depend on what area you live in, and the time of year, so ask your grocer to recommend some best for cooking.  I had two kinds that I was considering.  Honeycrisp, which is one of our favorites, and Granny Smith.  I ultimately decided on the Granny Smith apples for this - they are really crisp, produce a nice amount of juice, and do not turn to mush when you cook them.  
Prepare the bundt pan with cooking spray and then granulated sugar (or flour).  Shake it around until all the surfaces and crevices are filled.
Mix together the sugars, oil, and applesauce. 
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup canola oil
Tip - If you have no applesauce, you can use a full 1 1/2 cups canola oil.  But using the applesauce cuts the fat and calories while still giving us a tender, moist cake.
3/4 cup cinnamon apple sauce
Mix until well combined.  I just used my hand mixer for this since there isn't a lot of "beating" that happens in this recipe.

Add the eggs and beat well. 
3 large eggs
I toasted the chopped pecans for about 8 minutes in a 375 degree oven, shaking them around every couple of minutes.  You will start to smell them when they start toasting.  Set them aside to cool.
Mix the dry ingredients together, then add them to the wet egg mixture.  
3 cups cake flour (you could use all purpose if that's all you have)

1 tsp baking soda


1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg


Stir well to combine.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
Mix well.
Fold in vanilla, apples, and toasted pecans.  Batter will be fairly stiff.   The juice from the apples will thin it out as it bakes. 
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

3 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
Fold.  Do not beat!
Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, and bake at 350 F* for 75 minutes or until a long wooden pick come out clean from the middle.  (You can use a range of 325 - 350 degrees for 60 - 90 minutes.)


Allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto a cooking rack.  You will see the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the pan.  If desired, brush a praline flavored syrup (or a simple syrup) over the warm cake so it will soak in, and keep everything nice and moist.
Tip - Praline syrup can be found in any gourmet coffee shop, or the area of your supermarket that has flavored syrups.  You can also just make a simple syrup by dissolving equal parts sugar and water and boiling it down a few minutes.  I like the Praline syrup because it tastes like sweet Southern pecans and goes well with the flavor profile of this cake.
 
2 Tbsp praline syrup (optional) 
Praline Glaze - 
While the cake is cooling, make the praline glaze.  Stir together brown sugar, butter, and milk into a heavy saucepan.  
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter (4 Tbsp)
1/4 cup milk
Bring to a full boil and then cook about 2 minutes, stirring continually. 
Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and confectioners sugar. 
1 tsp vanilla


1 cup powdered sugar
Pour over cake immediately before it "sets up." 
Garnish the praline glaze with glazed pecans while its still "wet" so they will stick.
Tell me this isn't gorgeous!!  Moist tender spiced cake, juicy and slightly sweet/tart apples, creamy praline glaze, and those candied glazed pecans?  All you need now is a good cup of coffee and you are set!  Those old ladies were rocking this recipe before I was even born!  Nice!!

Enjoy this recipe?  There are tons more recipes like this for you to choose from.  Just pop on over to my Recipe Index for delicious dishes to choose from for your family!  

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Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Creamy Tomato Soup - excellent for a dark, rainy evening... with a good grilled cheese sandwich!  Freezes great!  Awesome for pot luck or family gatherings.
Beer Battered Asparagus with Lemon Herbed Dipping Sauce - a fun appetizer just for the heck of it!  Sometimes you want something fun and different, but still easy.

Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas - for nights when you are super busy, don't necessarily have time to man the grill, but still want big flavors waiting for you!

Eggplant Parmigiana with Italian Sausage Marinara - for when you are entertaining someone special and really want your love to show!

Butter-Pecan Sweet Potatoes - good old down-home love on a plate!
Southern-Style Cornbread Dressing - Yes, you can make it just like the "elders" of your family did, back in the day!   Remember  - step-by-step is all it takes!

Apple Praline Bundt Cake - Written Method:
Prepare the bundt pan with cooking spray and then granulated sugar (or flour).  Start toasting the pecans.  I put them in the oven for about 8 minutes on 375 degrees.  You need to shake them around every couple of minutes.  Mix together the sugars, oil, and applesauce.  Add eggs and beat well.  Mix the dry ingredients together, then add them to the wet egg mixture.   Fold in vanilla, apples, and toasted pecans.  Batter will be fairly stiff.   The juice from the apples with thin it out as it bakes.  Bake at 350* for 75 minutes or until a long wooden pick come out clean from the middle.  Allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto a cooking rack.  If desired, brush a praline flavored syrup (or a simple syrup) over the warm cake so it will soak in and keep everything nice and moist.

While the cake is cooling, make the praline glaze.  Stir together brown sugar, butter, and milk into a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a full boil and cook about 2 minutes, stirring continually.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and confectioners sugar.  Pour over cake immediately before it "sets up."  Garnish the praline glaze with glazed pecans while its still "wet" so they will stick.

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