With the meat shortage making it more challenging to plan meals around beef, pork, and chicken, pescatarian and vegetarian recipes will help see us through on Meatless Monday and beyond! Click to skip to the recipe
With a nod towards Meatless Mondays, on the heels of Cinco de Mayo, and with heartfelt concern for our meat supply chain, I decided to make a pescatarian recipe for dinner this week: Fish Tacos! In a word they were delicious and in a second word… this dish is thought-provoking!
We live in a beef crazed society. Meat and poultry are the menu planner’s mantra. Wendy’s made national news this week when they ran short of meat for their Triple-Decker cheeseburger. This led to protests and calls for, “Where’s the beef?!”
This could spark a whole new movement in preparing satisfying pescatarian and vegetarian recipes that will appease our need for meat and potatoes.
Since we’ve been staying at home, our consumption of fast food burgers has declined precipitously. Hubby’s down more than a few pounds in just a couple of weeks!
His recent bloodwork showed a definite improvement from past years and it got me thinking: Could this upturn in his health have something to do with fast-food distancing?
If this is my new working theory, in how many weekly meals can I substitute fish or veggies for beef, pork, or chicken? With the meat shortage increasing steadily and meat, pork, and chicken being rationed in grocery stores around the country, finding meat alternatives in the midst of the shortage is my new challenge.
I think this might be a prudent time to visit no meat main courses, which is why I started with fish. This recipe is based on my Grilled Guac recipe from my cookbook, “Sunday Best Dishes”. That recipe grills all the veggies before you mush them into guac.
I used that same technique to grill everything from the fish to the lettuce for these tacos and the grilling gave a smokey, lusty taste to the tacos. I used a grill pan indoors and the whole meal took about a millisecond to prepare.
No ground beef, pork, or chicken required to make a satisfying meal!
You can easily share your meatless main meals with all the readers here. We’re all into experimentation these days!
Grilled Fish Tacos
I made these for hubby and me, and two large, open-face tacos were plenty. You can adjust the recipe to feed more, by just increasing the ingredients. I found blood oranges at the market and prepared the marinade with this juice, but good old lemons or limes will do just fine.
2 (6 to 8-ounce) sea bass fillets (substitute with and white, flaky fish)
1 blood orange (substitute with lime or lemon)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 3 tablespoons
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup prepared salsa
Juice of ½ lime, about 1 tablespoon (reserve the other half for seasoning the taco)
2 to 4 dashes hot pepper sauce
1 avocado, cut in half, pit removed
1 tomato, cut in half
½ romaine lettuce head
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half, seeded, and deveined
2 green onions
2 (8 or 10-inch tortillas)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Place the fish into a dish. Squeeze the juice from the blood orange over the fish. Add the garlic and olive oil. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Turn the fillets in the marinade to coat and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, salsa, lime juice, and as much hot pepper sauce as you like. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle some additional olive oil onto the pan. Place the fish, flesh side down onto the grill pan. Place the avocado, cut side down onto the grill pan. Do the same with the tomato, lettuce, jalapenos, and green onion.
Grill the veggies, turning once just until you get a nice char on each piece. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the veggies to a cutting board.
Grill the fish, turning once until it is nicely marked on both sides and cooked to medium-rare in the center. This will take a total of about 8 minutes per inch of thickness of the fillets.
Transfer the fish to your cutting board. Place the tortillas onto the grill pan and grill for several seconds, turn and grill for several seconds more. The tortilla should be warm and pliable. Transfer each tortilla to a plate.
Chop the lettuce. Place half of the lettuce onto each tortilla. Cut the fish into chunks and place on top of the lettuce. Do the same with the tomato, avocado, jalapeno, and onions. Top the taco with a generous dollop of sauce. Garnish with cilantro and an extra squeeze of lime juice.
Comfort food is just what we need, whether we are in self-isolation, quarantine, or shelter-in-place. My Tomato Soup recipe hits the spot and offers a savory solution to navigating “the new normal”. Click to skip to the recipe!
We’re about to start the process of opening our county after eight weeks of social distancing. In a way, we’ve grown accustomed to staying at home.
Shelter-in-place has been weird. But what is even weirder is how quickly we’ve become used to it.
Waking up alone or with your kids or with your significant other and your kids and your significant other and maybe your mother…. and having nowhere to go. No plans on the horizon. No reason to get spiffed-up. No goals, no pat on the back for a job well done. It’s been lonely, challenging, and life-changing.
And now, just like that we’re supposed to go back to a new norm.
When I canvas my friends, I hear apprehension. While we’re home and quarantined, we’re safe from the silent enemy. But now, venturing out, facemasks in place, we fight a new challenge: how to exist in a society where the virus hides around every corner. It is a crazy, insecure feeling; one that we must overcome in order to go on.
Personally, I am going to rely on my comforts as I dip my toe in the new norm. My hand sanitizer is stashed in my glove box. I’ve ordered designer face masks (of course I did….). I wash my hands constantly and stay six feet away from people that I encounter. I even follow the arrows in the grocery store!
But when it comes time to enter the phase that allows us to gather in small groups, my plan is to gather. I plan to gather just a few friends for a glass of wine to start and then maybe a shared snack or lunch and then maybe a social-distance approved supper outdoors with a couple of pals.
Yes, there is some apprehension, but it is time!
Perhaps it’s time to make your plan. There’s a lot to think about, whether you’re going back to work or considering shopping at the corner boutique.
Is it time to get your nails done, or does anxiety put the plan off for another week? Is it time to invite your baby best bud for a playdate? Is it time to let him go to his friend’s house? No matter how or when you plan to embrace the new norm, it’s time to make a plan. What I always do when I face the road ahead is to take some time to think and strategize.
And while I fashion a plan, I like to surround myself with comfort food.
It kinda makes things less scary. The whole activity of cooking that food relaxes me. So, while you’re mulling over your plan for your new norm, why not take a tip from my playbook and whip up a pot of comforting soup. Tomato Basil Bisque is my go-to soup because it pushes all the comfort buttons. It is creamy, flavorful, tummy-filling and the perfect bowl to sneak in a fistful of crumbled crackers. Just the dish needed before you walk out the door for the first time.
Swallow your anxiety, take your time and step forward….Safely!
Tomato Soup With Jalapeno, and a Hint of Fennel
Adding just a bit of jalapeno adds a little heat to tomato soup. But the addition of fennel takes this soup to a spiced-up, licoricey lip-smackin’ treat!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced into small cubes
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ cup dry sherry
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 ounces tomato paste, about ½ cup
1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ large fennel bulb, optional
½ cup half and half
¼ cup sour cream
Pour olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot over medium-high heat. Place the onions and pepper into the pot and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Pour in the sherry and simmer until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Place the fennel bulb into the soup. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and simmer the soup for 20 minutes allowing the flavors to blend.
Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the fennel bulb. Stir in the half and half and sour cream.
Serve the soup with crushed crackers, another dollop of sour cream, and the tops from the fennel.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it (or most truthfully read it) a hundred times over the last few days: “I’ve run out of ideas of things to cook”! Yes, we’re in the seventh (or is it eighth) week of staying at home, and most of our cooking repertoires have gone south. I get it. How many ways can you make chicken?
Well, if you are like me, it also might be time for a little lightening up of the old menu. I’m not sure when I made the switch from eating nothing white (bread, potatoes, rice) to how many ways can I make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch? When did those Thanksgiving side dishes make it to my dinner table every night? Have I really come up with a dozen different varieties of breakfast sandwiches? Since when did 4 o’clock become wine and cheese time?
In order to scale (not that one – I have avoided that measurement) back, I’ve played around with a couple of yummy, but less heavy meals to make. I think you might enjoy a couple of these:
Mama’s Chef Salad. This is a perfect way to use up all the veggies and meats you have in the fridge.
Fill a HUGE salad bowl with lettuces, sliced carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. Top these with ham and turkey, any cheese you like, and even a hard boiled egg or two. Now, here’s the great part…
Stick that bowl in your fridge and tomorrow, when you reach for the sandwich bread, luncheon meat and chips, reach instead for a BIG BOWL of salad.
You can use any dressing. Mine is a simple combo of 1 small shallot (about 2 tablespoons), 1 teaspoon of Dijon-style mustard, the juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons), ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar, any chopped fresh herb you have and ½ cup olive oil. Whisk together the first five ingredients and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Store the dressing in an airtight container, and it’s ready to pour on your salad when you’re ready to eat!
Eggplant Rollatini. You’ll love learning to roll this way during the quarantine!
Heat your oven to 375°. Cut the stem from the top of an eggplant. Cut ¼-inch slices from the top to the bottom (long slices not circles). Drizzle some olive oil into a sheet pan.
Lay the eggplant slices into the pan, and turn to coat the with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Bake the eggplant until the slices are pliable, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool to room temperature. Sauté some spinach leaves with chopped onion in a skillet until the spinach wilts down. For one eggplant you need about 4 to 5 handfuls of spinach, which is about half of a large bag. When the spinach has wilted, place it in a colander to drain the excess liquid.
Place an 8-ounce container of ricotta cheese in a bowl. Transfer the spinach mixture to a chopping board and use a knife to chop, chop, chop. Transfer the chopped spinach to the bowl. Add about ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Use a spoon to mix the filling together.
Place a ladle full or two of marinara sauce (the jar kind will do just fine) in the bottom of a baking dish. Slather the filling onto the eggplant slices and then roll them up! Place the rolled eggplant into the dish. Cover the rollatini with more marinara sauce and more cheese. Bake at 375° until the cheese melts, and the rollatini are warmed through, about 20 minutes.
Artichokes in a White Wine Sauce. Email me if you need more instructions on this one. It can get a little thorny!
Trim 2 whole artichokes by cutting off the top third, peeling the stem and snipping the thorny part from the leaves.
Place the artichokes into a pan with water and bring to a boil. You needn’t cover the chokes with water, just about halfway up will do fine. Add 1 lemon, sliced in half. Cover the pan with a lid and boil the artichokes for 20 minutes.
Remove the lid and make sure you still have plenty of boiling water in the pan. Continue cooking until a fork is easily inserted into the bottom of the artichoke, about 20 minutes more depending on the size of your artichoke.
Remove the artichokes from the water and cool slightly. Cut each one in half from top to stem. Remove the thorny choke from the center of the artichoke. Cut the halves in half again.
Place 4 tablespoons butter into a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 shallot, finely diced. When the butter is melted pour in ½ cup white wine. When the wine reduces by half, pour in ½ cup chicken stock.
Add in the juice of 1 lemon and season with salt and pepper. Place the artichokes in the pan and bathe them in the sauce.
As spring slowly begins to surround our stay-at home lives, we find ourselves searching for something different to do. A little change of pace. A supper to look forward to.
I have a plan based on my new favorite corner pub, the end of my driveway! Driveway drinks is my new normal during cocktail hour… but that’s another (socially distancing story).
For now, I’m thinking about setting up the ultimate picnic, and have the perfect recipes in mind.
What makes this supper special is that you can prepare it in advance (like even the day before). It tastes better served at room temperature than it does right out of the fridge. And, you can leisurely enjoy the meal. There’s no rush. If you are a grazer like me, eating this supper will take up some valuable time during these very long days.
For my supper, I’ll include three dishes
The first is a caprese salad. This dish is simply arranged by layering slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. Drizzle the dish with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. But, here’s the secret. Make this salad several hours before serving and DO NOT REFRIGERATE it. The salt and olive oil will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.
The second dish is a riff on Niçoise salad, but in place of tuna, I substitute salmon that has been simply roasted with a rub of brown sugar, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I include olives, hard boiled eggs, simply sautéed green beans, roasted baby potatoes and a white balsamic vinaigrette.
The third dish is one of my very favorites! Based on the Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato, cold poached veal with a tuna and caper sauce, I substitute chicken for the veal. The chicken is poached in wine and broth.
The liquid is flavored with onion, lemon and celery, but you can add whatever you like. Parsley, fennel and radishes are excellent additions. The trick is that the chicken is moist and retains that moisture by covering it with the very flavorful sauce. Again, although you refrigerate the dish to marry the flavors, the chicken is best eaten at room temperature.
So, set up your picnic table, lay out your platters, pour a glass of something FUN and leisurely enjoy the first picnic supper of the season.
Let’s look forward to many more to come….. together!
In a Rich Tuna Sauce
serves 6 to 8
2 large (or 4 medium) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 small white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 small lemon, sliced
2 to 3 stalks celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
For tuna sauce:
1 (7-ounce) can tuna packed in oil
4 to 5 anchovies
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup mayonnaise
Place the chicken breasts into a pot. Pour in the wine and chicken broth. Add the onion, sliced lemon and celery. Add the salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer (some steady bubbles but not a mad bubbling volcano). Cook the chicken in the poaching liquid until it is just cooked through, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. About 165° is perfect. Remove the pot from the heat and keep the chicken in the poaching liquid,
Place the tuna, anchovies, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice into the bowl of a processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer the tuna mixture to a bowl. Fold in the mayonnaise. Remove one breast from the poaching liquid and place onto your cutting board. Cut the breast (across the grain) into ½-inch medallions. Fan these out onto your serving platter. Continue with the remaining chicken. Smooth the tuna sauce over the chicken. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or up to several hours) so that the sauce seeps into the chicken.
To serve, remove the platter from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Garnish with slices of lemon, capers and fresh parsley.
As I look around me and watch the posts on social media during this COVID-19 crisis, I see many of us are stressed by the reality of social distancing and self-quarantining of families. Restaurants are closed and grocery store shelves are picked clean. You can’t give your grandma a hug, and it’s hard to plan any social event in the future. The situation is entirely unnerving.
S-T-R-E-S-S! Perhaps we can put this into perspective!
Being a Floridian for most of my life, I’ve weathered plenty of tropical storms and several full-blown hurricanes. When we lost power, there was no electricity, no refrigeration, no lights, no television, no phone chargers and no air conditioning.
Before the storm hits, you fill up tubs and pots with water, because you will lose water after the storm. That means no flushing of toilets, no hot showers. Grocery store shelves are bare before the storm, and often shut down for days after the storm. Gas stations can’t pump gas because they have no electricity. Truck drivers can’t drive product to the stores, because they can’t get gas. The longest stretch I’ve experienced during a storm’s aftermath is two and a half weeks. But many have experienced longer.
So, I look at this crisis with my glass half full vision. Yes, I’m quarantined, staying home for (at least) two weeks. But I have running water, an electric stove and fridge, air conditioning, gas in my car and open grocery stores that are constantly re-stocking their shelves. Not too bad. But I do admit, I miss comfortably being in a room with my pals and sharing a meal.
More than this, the unfamiliarity with this crisis adds a different kind of stress. To reduce it, I thought I might give you a couple of basic ideas for food you can cook at home.
Yes, I totally encourage all of us supporting our local restaurants and ordering meals for pick up or delivery. But, let’s balance this with cooking at home. You’re probably stuck in the house with kids that are driving you crazy by now. Our kids are used to being entertained, and they are looking to you to entertain them.
Instead, let’s work together to teach them the skill of cooking for themselves.
After all, they will all go off on their own one day, and this just may be a skill worth learning.
Let’s start with a chicken! One of the first items you might want to tackle is cooking chicken soup. Not only is it easy, but you have the benefit of having soup on hand, in case you or your family members come down with the virus.
Soup is nourishing, tastes great when you’re sick, and helps to keep you hydrated.
Another plus when cooking a chicken is, you can use leftover meat for other dishes. This soup recipe is just an idea of what’s possible…but really, you can USE ANY COMBO of veggies and spices!
Rinse and pat dry your chicken… any chicken. You can use a whole chicken, which is best, or chicken pieces, which are also good. Try to use chicken pieces with skin on and bone in. These pieces will end up moist, and the broth will collect the nutrients from these parts.
Place the chicken in a deep pot. Cover with water. Boom! That’s it!!!!
You can add stuff to the pot. Good add-ins are onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, turmeric and herbs like parsley. Basically, investigate your vegetable drawer and grab hold of the least fresh things you can find. You don’t have to cut them, peel them or dice them. Just throw them in the pot!
Now you’re ready to bring the water to a boil over medium high heat, reducing the heat to medium-low, or just hot enough to simmer what will become the broth.
You can cover the pot with a lid and simmer away. If you uncover the pot, and the liquid has evaporated significantly, add more water.
I usually simmer the soup for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken, or if I’m using chicken pieces. The broth is ready when the chicken is cooked through.
Use a meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the chicken to determine when it is cooked through. You can simmer for longer than this. There are no set rules!
Here’s the FUN part. Use a BIG colander to strain the broth into a large bowl. Transfer the HOT chicken to your cutting board and let it cool. You can discard your add-ins at this point!
To turn your broth into soup, I dice up onion, celery and carrot. Using that same soup pot, cook the diced veggies in some olive oil until they are soft. At this point you can add rice if you like.
Pour the strained broth back into the pot. This is the time to season the broth with salt and pepper.
Remove the skin and bones from the chicken. You can dice up some of the chicken and put it back into the soup.
Store the remaining chicken in a resealable plastic bag. I normally dice up the dark meat from the thighs, legs and wings for the soup, and reserve the breast meat for other dishes.
Simmer the soup and continue to season it as you wish. When the rice is cooked (you could substitute with noodles for chicken noodle soup), the soup is ready to eat or store. Store the soup in jars. Cool the soup to room temperature before you put it in the fridge or freezer.
Now, for my Bubba Gump moment…
Take that extra chicken and turn it into chicken and brie paninis, curried chicken and grape salad, chicken and mushroom quesadilla, chicken casserole, chicken Caesar salad, Buffalo chicken dip, barbecue chicken flatbread, chicken and veggie pot pies, chicken tacos, chicken wraps, pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken and black bean enchiladas, chicken and broccoli pasta, chicken lettuce wraps…… get the picture?
Until we get past this Cornavirus nightmare…
My next few posts will be dedicated to simple cooking of simple ingredients. If you have anything you want me to simplify, just let me know.
I wish you good health, and a swift passing of this crisis. But, more than this, I wish you joy in the moment. Finding the joy amid stressful times is hard… but, I know we can do it!