FRIDAY FISH: Cheesy Crab Spread

Both my mother-in-law, Lorna Morgan, and my good friends Sue Hall and Audie Dunham are known to occasionally have popcorn and wine for dinner. After all, why not? Popcorn is healthy and full of fiber; wine is made from fruit, isn’t it? (Wink, wink.) There’s no reason we can’t swap in snacks or appetizers for meals once in a while, but if you’re really hesitant, I’ll write you a note. The last Friday Fish of the season, Cheesy Crab Spread, is one of those dishes typically served before a meal (and it is an easy starter), but that also totally works instead of a meal —particularly if you serve it with some raw veggies along with some whole grain chips or crackers. Great on a day when there’s no time to cook or on a hot day when even the stove refuses to work. It mostly whirrs together in the food processor in just a minute or two (use an electric mixer or a wooden spoon if you like) and before you’ve poured your wine, dinner is ready to go. It’s also perfect to take to an Easter potluck or the first picnic of the year because it’s made ahead and travels well. Is it just me or is it always hard to think of an appetizer? Keep this one in your back pocket and you’ll know just where to look when you need one.

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FRIDAY FISH: Tuna-Asparagus Pasta Chowder

You adore clam chowder but your cupboard is full of tuna. It’s ok; I’ve got it covered. You can still have chowder–with tuna!! Does it work? Yes, yes; it totally does. And is it yummy? It definitely is. I thought about making chowder with canned tuna for a long time before I did it, but now that I have, it’s in my playbook for good. Tuna Chowder is easy, inexpensive, and even qualifies for what we’d call, “Cheap Eats.” This version adds some tiny ditalini pasta for fun and texture, but if you don’t like it, just add extra potatoes and you’ll be fine. Last time I cooked shrimp, I saved the shells in my freezer and was able to make a fast shrimp stock to bolster the flavor of the chowder. (Buying fish stock is above my pay grade at $3 a 15-ounce can. You can make it, though.) Vegetable broth is ok, too, and is better when spiked with a little clam juice, which is sold right near tuna at the store. Even chicken broth works in a pinch.

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FRIDAY FISH: Chili Fish Nuggets with Two Sauces (Air Fryer or Oven)

…a sweet whisper of chili in both the breading and the sauces

DONATE TO WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN HERE.

Looking for St. Patrick’s Day Ideas? Just click on “St. Patrick’s Day” in the categories section at right to find my favorites including Salmon on Caraway CabbageIrish Soda Bread with Potato SoupSalmon on ColcannonColcannon SoupTraditional Kerry Apple Cake, and more.

Palos Hills, courtesy Chicago Trib

If you’ve followed the blog for long (THANKS!), you’ll know that I’m a midwest girl. Born to southern parents who moved north for work during the depression and settled in Chicago, I grew up with nearly all of the basic northern Illinois culture. That meant lakes or even the Kankakee River on the weekend with the whole fam, a Polish for a special lunch out whenever I could and Italian Beef or thin crust pizza (yes, thin) the rest of the time, tobogganing at Palos Hills in the winter and riding the rollercoasters at Riverview in the summer, visiting Marshall Field’s at Christmas, shopping German bakeries for coffeecake and bread, vacationing in Wisconsin and Minnesota (more lakes/more beer), and so on.

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FRIDAY FISH: Salmon and Vegetables on Two-Cheese Tabasco Grits

This week is the start of my once-a-year FRIDAY FISH series. Since 2015, I’ve each spring been posting six fish or seafood recipes, one for each Friday in Lent, the season of thoughtful observance leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Whether or not you follow any sort of faithful journey, you can still get some new ideas for cooking fish–who doesn’t need those? For grins and giggles — I think some of these meals qualify as fun— and to see what’s happened in other years, click on FRIDAY FISH in the topics cloud or type “Friday Fish” into the search box. To give you a few ideas, I’ve included in this post photos and links for some favorite FRIDAY FISH posts from the last couple of years.

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FRIDAY FISH: Cheesy Crab and Corn Chowder

I’m not big on giving something up for Lent, though I’m observant as a progressive protestant Christian can be. I’ve been writing FRIDAY FISH every week on the blog for five years now just as a way to think about fasting from meat and to increase our health. What’s happened is that I’ve become more of a fish and seafood cook and have gone out on a pole limb recipe-wise. Gotten out of my recipe card so to speak. Each year I’m catching something new (oh, gee), tweaking an old dish, or just looking for less-expensive or more available options –particularly for those of us who live in landlocked states like Colorado where fish is available, but not on the scale or quality it is on the coasts.

…scroll down for more info on lent or eating fish on Fridays…

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Friday Fish: Southwestern Grilled Fish Sandwiches with Green Chile Goat Cheese and Jicama Coleslaw

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I make it nearly a practice to not google or check a cookbook when I first dream up a new recipe. Sometimes the dish-thought has been perking around in my brain or heart for a while; other times it’s a new idea encouraged by time or need. (Say Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up, for instance; I’m probably thinking about Irish food and that will not be corned and cabbage, I can promise you. Or, it’s Lent, like now, and I’m fishing around for fish.)  But afterward, when the recipe’s a PDF or the post is written, I sometimes will search for information on my meal and almost always for additional links to help my cook-readers. (Like where to buy native wild rice or another way to cook beans.)

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Red Beans and Rice–More Time Style

Food-Beans-Red Beans and Rice whole bowl

I grew up with a dad who was born in 1907 out on a Mount Herman farm an hour and a half north of New Orleans. You didn’t have to live right in the city proper to be steeped in its deep, full, and varied food culture. His family was champion at cooking and eating together.  And whatever was available just might be on that stove. Insert turn of the century poor farm folk imagination here.

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Friday Fish — Grilled Tuna Salad with Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

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I never pass the fish and seafood in the store without seeing if something’s on the fire sale.  $9 OFF a pound is a fire sale for fresh tuna.  It means they have to get rid of it that day, preferably immediately. I’m willing to eat that tuna. I’m happy to run home and cook it straight away.  This is a typically summer meal, but you can squeeze it in for Friday Fish this month if your’e dreaming.

We’re in the last week of Lent; Palm/Passion Sunday was last Sunday and that means Easter’s on its way.   I’m always amazing how Lent takes us from the dredges of winter to the cusp of spring, and sometimes mixes it all up in one day. Just about how my life sometimes goes, I think, and maybe yours, too.  Here’s Holy Monday and Tuesday’s  single post from my Lenten blog, Praying in Saint Paul and here’s Holy Wednesday’s.  You can check out the rest of the week’s posts by going to the upper left-hand corner of the black bar at the top and clicking on Sidebar or if CLASSIC is up, click on that and then click on Sidebar in the menu.

Anyway, here’s what I did with that sale tuna–and what you might do, too, on Good Friday if that’s part of your faith tradition. Otherwise, save it for that first warm day.  What I did was all dependent on what I had in the fridge and on the counter after a visit to the market …

grilled tuna salad with vegetables &
spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
serves 4

The vegetables for this salad are grilled (inside or out), but could also be oven-roasted for 20-30 minutes or so at 400 degrees F.  No matter how you cook it, you’re eating quickly and happily.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds or lengthwise into1/4″ thick slices
  • 2  3/4-inch slices of a very large yellow onion
  • 2 6-8 ounce thick tuna steaks
  • 1/2 cup each cherry tomatoes and boccocini (small mozzarella balls)–about 12 each
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise or kalamata olives
  • Juice of half-lemon
  • Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Preheat indoor or outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Brush eggplant, zucchini, and onion with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Grill about 8 minutes, turning once at mid-point.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  After a few minutes, slice into one-inch pieces.
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Brush tuna with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 2 minutes on one side until there are dark grill marks; turn and grill other side about 2 minutes for medium rare – rare, depending on the thickness of the tuna. Cook another minute or two for medium-well.   Remove and let rest 1-2 minutes.  Cut into one-inch chunks.
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To a large bowl, add tomatoes and boccocini (small mozzarella balls), spinach, olives, and sliced eggplant, zucchini, and onions. Stir gently and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice; add tuna and stir again.  Drizzle with remainder of lemon juice and then generously with vinaigrette.  Divide between four pasta or shallow bowls, placing cherry tomatoes in one section, cheese in another, and so on. Garnish with olives and reserved basil julienne. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Cook’s Note 1. If you’ve a large enough grill, grill the vegetables and add the tuna during the last few minutes.  I made this on a big cast iron indoor grill that covers two burners (Lodge), but it still wasn’t big enough for everything. Add to that, I’m only an indoor griller and like things in manageable batches. I leave the big gas or charcoal grill to Dave or whomever I can lasso into firing it up.  2. If you’d like a bit heartier salad, stir in a 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans (season first pepper and with a bit of the vinaigrette) along with the grilled vegetables.
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spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shallot or red onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil julienne, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, spices,  mustard, shallot, and two tablespoons basil.  Slowly add the olive oil, whisking all the while, until vinaigrette is well mixed and emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasonings. (Rest of basil is for garnish)

Wine:  Go American and drink a great big California Chardonnay or an Oregon Pinot Noir.
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Note:  Recipe previously posted on this blog August, 2013.
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Sing a new song; make a new salad,
Alyce

Friday Fish — Sole Cooked on Kale-Basil Risotto with Green Beans Almondine

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Upcoming Cooking Classes 3rd+4th Thursdays of April, May, and June, 2015,  5-8pm at Shouse Appliance, Colorado Springs, Colorado. $55 adults; $30 kids.  $5 discount for cash/checks.  Includes French Night, Make a Great Pizza+ Salad at Home, Kids make dinner/dessert, Spring Brunch (Master quiche/homemade sausage!) Can’t wait to cook with you. Click here for list and sign-up info.

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The day began beautifully–a little chilly, but gorgeous.  I went to Bible study and when we finished had to run for the car as a white-out snow storm had hit. No hat, no scarf, no boots, I was frozen by the time I started the engine, found the snow brush, got the car cleaned off, and jumped in to head for home. (Channel Saint Paul, Minnesota.) Did I say the temperature was by then 10 degrees colder than when I’d left the house?  Brrr…. Of course the dogs were thrilled with the weather.

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Definitely a soup day today, I’m glad I made this fun one-pan fish meal last night preparing for Friday Fish.  (One more to go after this.)

If you follow a tradition of Lent, you might be interested in reading my Lenten journal (blog), written three years ago and chronicling the entire 40-day journey. Here’s the link for days 33-34; we’re a week away from the end as this Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday and next week is Holy Week. Sigh.

About the fish dish…I’d thought about this meal for a while and just never got around to making it until last night. As Dave asked, “How long does something like this perk in your brain?” (Who knows?)  The crux of it is you make a pan of risotto with a few vegetables and, when it’s done, add a layer of seasoned, thin fish fillets and lemons.  Put the lid on and let it cook just a few more minutes until the fish is firm and opaque and there’s your one-pan dinner.  As far as I know it’s an original dish, but who knows?  If you wanted to do this on a simpler rice preparation (say long-grain white rice cooked in chicken broth), I think it would work with some extra liquid.  If you do want to make the risotto and haven’t ever made it, read Mark Bittman’s article on “Laid Back Risotto,” and fear not!  I did make a pound or so of green beans, too, but just because I love them.  Try this:

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SOLE COOKED ON KALE-BASIL RISOTTO

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