Go Fish

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Fishing for trout, crappie, and blue gill: Andy with his dad, Gus, his sister, and her friend – Big Bear, California around 1953

Have you been bemoaning the fact that BigLittleMeals hasn’t blogged about any (ZILCH) recipe with seafood? There are several good reasons. We’ve been trying to give you recipes that freeze well and reheat well, and most recipes with fish or shellfish don’t do that. And really good, not-frozen seafood is both hard to find (unless you’re on a coast somewhere) and expensive. Also, given the complexity of trying to eat what doesn’t greatly harm the planet, it’s tricky knowing what seafood to enjoy and what to avoid – and whether to eat “farmed” seafood – or not.

In thinking about all of this, we realize how much we miss Louisiana and its readily-available crawfish and oysters and shrimp. I wouldn’t even begin to try to make my own Oyster Po-Boy here in California, nor would I order one out. You just can’t replicate that N’awlins’ favorite anywhere else….not even in Baton Rouge.  A shrimp and sausage gumbo is undeniably delicious but is awfully time-consuming for our keep-it-short-and-simple goals.  And every spring we think about having crawfish shipped to us, but we know it wouldn’t be the same.

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Loving our crawfish dinner on Centenary Drive, Baton Rouge, LA – around 1985

Without further adieu and without breaking the bank, or ruining the planet, or planting yourself in the kitchen for hours, here are a few suggestions for a simple fish dinner.

With Louisiana still on my mind, I’ll start with catfish.  Fresh, farm-raised USA catfish. Out of the three grocery stores we frequent (Whole Foods, Olivers, and the Sonoma Market, for those of you in our area),  two of the three regularly have fresh catfish filets on hand and Whole Foods often gets some in on Tuesday (don’t ask me why Tuesdays; weird). Our recipe for Summery Baked Fish can be made with catfish, cod, tilapia, or any nice firm fish filet.  The recipe is made in a nano-second and can be grilled or baked, depending upon your druthers.  It’s “summery” because fresh, juicy tomatoes are essential.

My Bestie in Los Altos, Diane, provided the Best of the Besties: Honey Garlic Shrimp. Diane is known for whipping up appetizers for 100 or so folks without batting an eye, doing cooking classes on hors d’oeuvres, and is offering to cook a Provencal French dinner for 10 – to be bid on at a charity auction to help abused women.   Diane knows and appreciates easy, delicious food…..plus, she’s pretty amazing.

For the Honey Garlic Shrimp use frozen shrimp that are NOT farm-raised and ARE peeled and deveined.  Better yet, buy fresh shrimp in the shell (not farmed) and peel and devein them; it’ll take a little time.  Read more about what to look for in purchasing shrimp in Consumer Report’s article in Food for Thought.

And if canned seafood is your best option, you’re going to love “Mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole.” A trip down Memory Lane, if you’re of our generation.  It’s a little time-consuming to make, but unlike most fish dishes, it freezes well and reheats well.

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Grill, Baby, Grill!

 

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Grilling on a Char Broil Grill (and enjoying a glass of wine) at my parents’ house in Ft Collins, CO, 24 years ago.

Sarah Palin may have goaded us with “Drill, Baby, Drill,” but Andy’s battle cry for all of our blog buddies is “Grill, Baby, Grill” – and it rubs off on me. We are such BBQ fanatics that when we feared Andy’s favorite Landmann Barbeque (Charcoal) Grill might be discontinued, we ordered another one as a back-up and it sat, boxed, in our garage for a couple of years. And we’re using it now. Hmmmm, makes me think I should get another one on its way, just in case.

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Two Steaks for One: 1st Lt Andy in Vietnam 1969

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Grill-Master Face-off between Andy and my brother; Fort Collins, summer of 1993

Yes, we grill at least 3 times a week, come rain, sleet, or snow, or being stationed in Vietnam; and it’s almost always for just the two of us. But in thinking about this blog, I’m having trouble validating why the time is worth it for “just us.” Which reminds me, a number of years ago Sara and I promoted a mother/daughter cookbook which would have been titled “Just You; Just Me; Just Us” – geared toward one and two family households.  Andy and I intend for our blogs to be somewhat of a continuation of that theme.

Not “For-Men” Only

Enter into the blog picture the George Foreman Grill. Our 87-year-old Baton Rouge friend, Katie, has always been the Hostess with the Mostest.   And the meals she served always matched her hostessing skills.

When we visited Katie in April, we had long talks about what foods she fixes for herself, now that she’s living alone. I mentioned grilling, and she whipped out the George Foreman grill she had found at a garage sale a few years back. She was adamant about how handy it was for her and how good the meat was that she fixed on her little electric grill. Then just a few weeks ago my brother, who just turned 80 – and is still practicing law – received a Foreman grill from his legal assistant, who feared he wasn’t eating well and needed encouragement to cook for himself.

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The moral to this all MAY be that every older person living alone needs a George Foreman grill. OR it MAY be that grilling – be it electric, gas, or charcoal – is a fun variation on the kitchen cooking theme – for all ages and all numbers. We pick the latter.

Choosing just 4 recipes to include was a daunting task. We decided that we wanted something that was both prepared and grilled quickly, on a Foreman (electric), gas, or charcoal grill, had fairly basic ingredients, and was a bit out of the ordinary.  Here are the winners: Margarita Chicken – we’ve made it for years and never tire of it, Mediterranean Grilled Chops, Grilled Steak with Ginger and Soy, and SuperSimple Grilled Corn – because we wanted to include this picture of Moss, our grandson 🙂

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No, this is not a recent photo of Moss; it was taken about 11 years ago, and no, he wasn’t eating corn from our Grilled Corn recipe.  BUT our recipe is just that droolingly (I’m sorry; sometimes I just can’t help myself) delicious.  And, yes, Moss still experiments with both eating and cooking new foods – but now with a little more enthusiasm.  He started 7th grade this month and got up at 6 am on the first day of school to make homemade tortillas to bring to a school friend – in exchange for cookies she promised him.  And he and his mama just made (under the M&M brand name – Moss and Mama) Blueberry Chia Jam.

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Butter, Eggs, Apples, Avocados & Rotisserie Chicken

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Yes, we’ve all heard it by now.  On Monday Amazon/Whole Foods will lower the prices on organic butter, eggs, apples, avocados – and rotisserie chicken and “responsibly farmed” salmon – but they’re not delivering – yet – by drone (thank god)!

Here’s the BigLittleMeals take on how to best take advantage of this deal (yes, there’s just a teeny bit of jadedness in our use of the word “deal!”)  We’re going to pass on the salmon, since we’re still very very confused about farmed seafood.  Happy to know we’re not alone in that – see the article we posted in Food for Thought.

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Use your butter, eggs, and apples to make German Apple Pancakes – for breakfast OR dessert.  The recipe comes from our Boulder Bestie, Danielle.  Danielle’s been considered part of our family since she and our daughter Sara were UC Santa Cruz roommates….a long time ago.  This is Danielle’s grandmother’s recipe; we’ve adapted it just a bit.

Avocados are almost all you need for this quick and easy guacamole from T-lish – the affectionate name for Tacolicious, Sara & Joe’s restaurant group.  If you’re making it several hours before enjoying it, here’s a helpful look at how to keep guacamole green.

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Guacamole Wannabees

Then we suggest you use some diced up rotisserie chicken and some shredded cabbage with the guacamole in a taco – or  use your organic eggs and diced chicken in our Breakfast Lunch and Dinner Fried Rice.

Best of the Besties: Baked German Apple Pancakes

  • Servings: 2-3
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This recipe is easily made Super Simple by omitting the apples.   Just heat the 2 T of butter in the skillet, add the egg/flour mixture to the hot skillet, pop it in the oven, bake as stated, and serve with the lemon sauce. We love it that way too!

Directions

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 c whole milk
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 tart apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • an additional 4T melted butter and 2T lemon juice mixed together to pour over the baked pancake
  • powdered sugar – to dust on pancake just before serving.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix together flour and salt in a medium bowl.  In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together until frothy and light.  Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, just to blend.  Do not overbeat.

In a 10″ cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the apples and brown sugar and saute until the apples are tender, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the nutmeg.

Pour the egg/flour batter over the apples and place the pan in the oven.  Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Danielle’s grandmother, Margaret, warns that you must not be tempted to look at the pancake in the oven before the 20 minutes are up! Remove from the oven and drizzle with about half of the melted butter and lemon juice mixture; then dust generously with powdered sugar. Serve immediately – directly from the skillet – and pass the extra butter and lemon mixture around at the table.

Brought to you by Danielle in Boulder and BigLittleMeals.com

D-lish T-lish Guacamole

  • Servings: makes about 2 cups
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If you’re making this for just one or two, the recipe is easily cut in half. Adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran

Ingredients

  • 2 c gently mashed avocados (about 4 big ones)
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 T diced yellow onion
  • 1 T minced jalapeno (use your judgment)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Place the avocado in a bowl and add the garlic, onion, jalapeno, cumin, lime juice, cilantro and salt.  Smash everything with a fork – but don’t oversmash; you want it a little chunky.[/recipe-directions]

Don’t save the guac just for chips.  Make a taco with your leftover rotisserie chicken and some shredded cabbage.  Yum. Recipe brought to you by Tacolicious and BigLittleMeals.com.

“You Are My Sunshine”

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Here’s our Eclipse Edition of BigLittleMeals, and well as 2 favorite Sunshine songs and 1 special Moonshine/Sunshine recipe.  Since this is ostensibly a food blog, I’ll start with the recipe.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 7.24.04 AMA version of Sunshine Cake was one of my teenage baking specialties.  My mother coerced me into making angel food cakes, cleverly saying that I could make them so much better than she could.  Then I branched out to baking Sunshine Cakes and finally to a Moonshine Cake.  Sunshine/Moonshine.  How fitting for August 21, 2017.

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My much-abused and used hand-written recipe for the cake came from my brother’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Brandenburg, who was not only a fabulous baker but a wonderful person. Her Moonshine Cake recipe is a version of one which also appeared in a very early edition of the  Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cook Book but had been omitted by the time my 1959 edition was published.  And – just so you know – there was a total eclipse of the sun in 1896, the year Fannie Farmer first published the Sunshine Cake recipe in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

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Moonshine Cake – for August 21, 2017

As for my favorite sunshine music, John Denver’s Sunshine on my Shoulders  was released just a few weeks before our son, Travis, was born.  Maybe that’s why I love the lyrics, especially this line: “If I had a wish that I could wish for you, I’d make a wish for sunshine for all the while.”

Just as I was ready to put this blog “to bed,” I remembered another favorite song about sunshine: Jimmie Davis’ You Are My Sunshine.  Maybe even a better choice than John Denver, given today’s world.  Since most of you haven’t lived in Louisiana, let me encourage you to read up on one of our more colorful governors: from the NYTimes, November 2000 –  Jimmie Davis, Louisiana’s Singing Governor, is Dead. Given that we had one governor shot and killed (Huey Long), one governor committed to a mental institution (Earl Long), and one governor indicted twice (Edwin Edwards), JD seems relatively cool.  I love these tidbits from the Times:

Governor Davis…..had the reputation for instinctively liking everyone. At the end of the legislative session he would gather friend and foe alike and lead them in singing his hit song ”It Makes No Difference Now.’   Kevin Fontenot, a historian at Tulane University, told The Washington Post in 1999. ”He has just never been a demagogue or a hater.”

And one final note on Sunshine:  I was trying this morning to remember the name of a favorite abelia grandiflora (great shrub, if you don’t know it) because I wanted to add more to our garden.  When I finally found my notes identifying it, it turns out to be Abelia Sunshine Daydream.

“Please don’t take our SUNSHINE away.” 🙂

Moonshine Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1 T water
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c cake flour – scooped out gently into the measuring cup and then leveled with a knife (or sift it, if you’re of that generation)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the egg whites into a large bowl; then add the salt and cream of tartar and beat to soft peaks; gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  In a medium bowl beat yolks, water, almond, and vanilla until the yolks are somewhat thickened and lemon-colored (note: I took the liberty to change this a bit from Mrs. Brandenburg’s instructions).  Fold 2 heaping tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture and then mix the flour into the yolk mixture.  Fold the yolk mixture carefully but thoroughly into the beaten egg whites; take care not to overmix.

Put in an (UNGREASED) tube pan (aka angel food cake pan) and bake for 45 minutes.  Invert pan on a bottle to cool.

This cake is put together a little differently than you’ll find in many recipes , but it works.  The Moonshine Cake will keep a day or two, covered tightly and not refrigerated, and it freezes well.  Serve it with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann

Lettuce Alone

 

Lettuce alone!!!  Lettuce alone?  Or no lettuce at all? That is a salad issue which deserves delving into.

And Andy’s Corner is delving deep into Army Officer Candidate School, circa 1968, looking at beans and donuts.

What would I do without my compadres giving me inspiration and feedback? The other evening I got an email from Jane W in Sonoma, following up on our pun-filled last post. Jane sent a pun about lettuce. And voila – this blog’s title was created!

And as I was thinking about salads, another friend and CC-mate, Joanne, emailed me the title of a book on food she highly recommended: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. I ordered it.

At dinner that week our friends, Buck and Carolyn, served a fabulous green salad with a dressing which I thought was perfect – not too vinegary, not too oily, just a touch sweet. Buck, who likes simple cooking, said it was a super simple recipe and agreed to share it: Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing, our newest Best of the Besties.

That Friday Andy and I went to the great little farmers’ market in Sonoma and I loaded our bag with Romano beans and haricot verts, little radishes, and some Black Krim tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, and, of course, sweet corn.

My blog ideas had congealed! But there will be no congealed salad recipes offered here.

LETTUCE ALONE

If you really must have lettuce by itself – perhaps you have no vegetables in your refrigerator except some Iceberg lettuce – it’s going to be all about the dressing.  And here’s the winner in our minds: Blue Cheese Dressing (and/or dip). Don’t despair that the recipe is too much for just one or two of you, since it will keep up to 5 days in the fridge and can be used multiple ways (maybe it’s because I add a touch of Accent – aka MSG – but I am slightly addicted to carrots dipped into this dressing).  Quick idea: pound flat a couple of chicken boneless/skinless thighs or breasts; quick fry them with salt & pepper, add a little hot sauce to pretend they’re Buffalo Wings and serve them with the dressing along side.

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About the MSG – it’s gotten a bum rap, so be sure to read the two articles that I just posted under Food for Thought.  And while you’re there, read the article I posted on “Why Salad is so Overrated” from the Washington Post.  Gives one pause.

LETTUCE-LESS

Lettuce-less gets my vote for salad preferences, and I’m not alone. Deb from smittenkitchen.com, my very favorite food blogger, has this to say about lettuce. We know that there is some question about whether growing lettuce in huge quantities is really that good for the world’s environment (see Food for Thought post from 5/21/2017), but even putting that aside, I find iceberg and romaine and butter lettuce all a little boring. I had a brief love affair with Baby Gem, but I’m over that too.

Lettuce-less idea #1: slice your freshly-picked, height-of-the-summer, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and/or quickly blanched string beans. Drizzle a little of the Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing on them, plus a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper – and eat and enjoy. Or if you can find Buffalo Mozzarella, put some of that on your sliced tomatoes, along with the drizzle of dressing and a little fresh basil, and you’ve got an Italian salad – plus, sheer utter deliciousness.

veggie dish for salad dressing

 

Lettuce-less idea #2: if you want a tossed salad, take the same veggies and cut them up; add a little diced red onion and some diced feta cheese, sliced Kalamata olives, and a bit of minced fresh oregano leaves, if you want. Then toss gently with the Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing to taste.  If you’re having company, impress your guests by referring to it as a Horiatiki Salata (Greek Salad).

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Lettuce-less idea #3: if there’s beautiful sweet corn at the market or you grow it in your yard, you’ve got to try Corn Salsa Salad which comes mostly from Tacolicious and Sara and is summer perfection. It keeps well; it’s easy; it goes so many ways, and it’s YUM. Plus, it doesn’t have any oil in it, if that’s important to you.

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Lettuce-less idea #4: if you’re loaded up on freshly-picked carrots and bell peppers and cucumbers and/or zucchini and want something Asian-inspired, try the Peanut-y Asian Slaw.  Salt Fat Acid Heat has a Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with peanuts and a similar dressing, but I decided to branch out from that and incorporate more fresh veggies….and even kale, should you have it.

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Finally, a reminder that you’ll find other tempting lettuce-less salads under the Recipes category.  One that got rave reviews recently is Mystery Mix Rice Salad.

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