Homemade Guacamole: Mortar and Pestle Style

In his quest to add the perfect guacamole recipe to his repertoire, Kyle would pour over our poor waitress’ every move as she made our tableside guacamole at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Now, numerous tableside demos and questions later, the zesty lime and garlic combined with the ripe avocado and cilantro make this one of our favorite snacks.

Ingredients:
• 1 teaspoon diced serrano pepper
• 1 small clove of garlic, diced
• 2 teaspoons finely diced yellow onion
• 1 lime, quartered
• 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
• 1 small tomato, diced
• 1 ripe avocado

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• This recipe serves enough guacamole for two as a snack or side. If you’re serving it as a meal (as we’ve been known to do when we’re craving a big batch of it), use two avocados per person.
• To determine if the avocado is ripe, feel the area around the stem. A ripe avocado will feel like you’re squeezing the palm of your hand. An unripe one will feel like a stone. If the store only has unripe avocados, you can put them in a paper bag with an apple or banana overnight to speed up the ripening process.

Instructions:
Dice the serrano pepper, wearing gloves to protect your eyes from an innocent eye rub turned accidental burning. Using a mortar and pestle, smash the serrano, garlic and onion with a pinch of salt. Squeeze half of the lime into mixture.

Prepare the avocado by slicing it from stem to bottom (lengthwise). Open and use your knife to remove the seed. Take a spoon and scoop the avocado into the mortar with the other ingredients. Using two regular dinner knives, use a scissoring action to dice the avocado into small pieces.

Mix in the tomato and cilantro with a spoon. Add more lime juice and salt to taste.

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Thai Fresh Pea Soup

Like your average guy’s 30th birthday celebration, there was a gift and some celebratory drinks involved. But in Kyle’s case, the gift was a trip to New York City to take a cooking class at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and the celebratory drinks were some of the best we’ve ever had at the (then) recently opened speakeasy lounge Raines Law Room.

But one of our most memorable moments happened while at dinner at one of Kyle’s favorite restaurants, Mesa Grill.

“It’s him. I see the red hair. It’s really him back there cooking tonight!”

We were seated at a table right near the kitchen, and Bobby Flay was working in the kitchen that Saturday night.

To offer some perspective on the magnitude of this sighting for Kyle, Bobby Flay has been one of his cooking idols for a very long time. Bobby Flay cookbooks line the shelves in our kitchen, and Kyle loves to try recipes from them (like these amazing roasted yellow pepper grits). And Bobby never disappoints, as everything we’ve tried of his has been a homerun.

Bobby didn’t disappoint in person either. Not only was everything we tried cooked to perfection, but he took the time to come out of the kitchen to pose for pictures and talk to people. Never one to be shy, Kyle marched right up to the hostess stand to buy a copy of his Mesa Grill cookbook and waited in line to greet him. Bobby Flay couldn’t have been more gracious, and he was more quiet and reserved than you would expect from watching his demeanor on one of his bajillion Food Network shows.

One Bobby Flay autographed cookbook and a chance meeting with your favorite chef later, that dinner goes down as one of the all-time best we’ve ever had.

Recipe adapted from cookbook Kyle received as part of his cooking class at the CIA, The Culinary Institute of America’s Gourmet Meals in Minutes cookbook.

Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 cup onions, diced
• 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
• 2 teaspoons green curry paste (look for this in the international aisle of your grocery store)
• 1 ½ quarts vegetable broth
• 2 ½ pounds shelled peas (thawed, if frozen)
• 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, lightly toasted
• ¼ cup mint, chopped

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• Don’t puree the soup with a handheld blender. Use a food processor or countertop blender instead.
• You can go without the lightly toasted mustard seeds, if you like. We tried the soup with and without and didn’t notice a considerable taste difference.

Instructions:
Sweat the onions, garlic, curry paste and a small amount of the broth in a soup pot over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the remaining broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the peas, cover the soup and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a food processor or countertop blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reheat the soup if necessary.

Sprinkle the toasted mustard seeds over the finished soup before serving and garnish with chopped mint.

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Buttermilk Cornbread

Let’s get real, fellow carb lovers. One of the best reasons to make chili is because it’s begging for some cornbread on the side. This recipe, my fellow cornbread connoisseurs, is the perfect plus one to the slow-cooked brisket chili. Not too sweet, not too dry and so good you won’t even think about putting butter on it.

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com.

Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup butter
• 2/3 cup white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup cornmeal
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• While you can cook this in a greased baking pan, we decided to cook them in a muffin tray lined with wrappers. It made about 18 muffins.

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8 inch square baking pan or line a muffin tray with muffin wrappers.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let it cool a few minutes before adding in eggs and beating until well blended. (If it’s too hot when you add the eggs, they’ll scramble.) Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in skillet. Stir in cornmeal, flour and salt until well blended and only a few lumps remain. Pour batter into the pan or scoop into the muffin tray.

If you’re baking in a pan, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you’re using a muffin tray, bake for 18-20 minutes, using the toothpick trick to determine when they are done.

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Slow-Cooked Brisket Chili

We’ve been waiting for one last week of cold weather to make the chili of all chilis. And we kept waiting and waiting because it’s been an unseasonably warm 70 degrees in March. But we weren’t going to let the premature spring weather stop us from making one last great batch of chili.

This Kyle original recipe is going down as the all-time best chili we’ve ever made. What makes it so delicious? Brisket slow-cooked to perfection for 5 hours and just enough peppers to bring the heat without overpowering the dish. Did I mention the beer part? Oh, yeah, it gives you a great excuse to buy some good dark beer to impart some serious flavor and sip while you’re waiting for the magic to happen in the oven.

Ingredients:
Marinade:
• 4 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1 dried Anaheim pepper, toasted in a pan and diced
• 1 dried Ancho pepper, toasted in a pan and diced
• 1 bunch cilantro stems, diced
• 2 limes, juiced (we recommend grilling them to draw out as much juice as possible)
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Chili:
• 1 brisket
• ½ pound stew meat, ground
• ½ pound pork shoulder, ground
• 1 cup mesa
• 2 green peppers, diced to ¼ inch thickness
• 5 cloves garlic, minced
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• 1 jalapeno, roasted, skinned, seeded and diced
• 1 poblano peppers, roasted, skinned, seeded and diced
• 1 cup Porter-style beer (We used Upland Brewery‘s Bad Elmer’s Porter)
• 4 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
• 3 cans hominy, rinsed
• 1 can black beans, rinsed
• 1 can red beans
• 1 tablespoon oregano
• 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
• 1 tablespoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• This is a two-day process, as the brisket needs to marinate overnight for 12 hours.
• Roast the jalapeno and poblano peppers by rubbing them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and placing on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until soft and skin is blackened. Place the peppers in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the skin and seeds and chop evenly.

Instructions:
Prepare the marinade, pour into a large Ziploc bag and place the brisket inside, removing all air from the bag. Marinate overnight for 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a big roasting pan with aluminum foil and place the brisket fat side up in the pan along with marinade. Add enough water to half-way cover the brisket. Cook for five hours or until meat can be easily pulled apart with a fork.

Here’s the brisket after a couple of hours in the oven. Needless to say the house smelled ah-mazing while this was slow cooking.

Using a Cuisinart food processor, grind the stew meat and pork shoulder separately. About 10 pulses should get the meat to the desired texture, but adjust accordingly for your liking.

Coat the stew meat and pork shoulder evenly in the mesa flour. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a very large Dutch oven (we recommend this Le Creuset
one) and place half of the meat in it to cook. Once it is browned, remove with slotted spoon and place on a plate. Repeat for the second batch of meat, adding more olive oil if need be before cooking the last half of the meat.

Once meat is removed from the Dutch oven, add another drizzle of olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions, adding salt and pepper. Once onions are translucent, add green peppers, jalapeno and poblano. Cook until green peppers are soft.

Turn heat up to medium high and add 1 cup of beer, using a wooden spoon deglaze the pan. Add the meat and 4 cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Rinse each tomato can and fill each 1/3 of the way with water and pour in the Dutch oven. Add oregano, ancho chili powder, cumin, paprika, kosher salt and cayenne pepper and stir. Put the Dutch oven in the oven with the brisket and cook for 3 hours.

Stirring the chili while the brisket continues to slow cook.

When brisket is finished cooking, remove from oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. Remove fat from brisket, then shred with a fork and cut down to bit-sized pieces. Pull the other pan out of the oven and add the brisket to it. Add 3 cans of hominy (rinsed), 1 can of black beans (rinsed), 1 can of red beans. Add 2 cup of water and cook on the stove on low heat until all ingredients are heated through, about 1 hour.

Stick a fork in it, it’s done.

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Friday Faves: The Mandoline Edition

For those of us with less than desirable knife skills (read: very slow with uneven cuts and, let’s face it, prone to getting very close to losing a fingertip territory), the mandoline is the magical kitchen tool you never knew you needed. For those of you who know your way around a knife, the mandoline provides a fast way to guarantee an even cut every time.

It’s Friday, which means we’ll be talking about a product we can’t live without in our kitchen and recipes we can’t wait to try.

Meet the mandoline. For the uninitiated to the mandoline club, not only does it guarantee a uniform cut but it’s a huge time saver when you’re cutting something in mass quantity for, say, a ratatouie or a crazy amount of onions you need to carmelize. As an added bonus to those of us who aren’t professional chefs who can perfectly cut anything with their eyes closed, the mandoline produces a precise cut.

Our mandoline got a great workout when we made these sweet potato fries with basil salt and a lemon garlic dipping sauce. You can really see what a uniform cut it created, which made it possible for the fries to bake evenly.

We’re constantly discovering amazing looking food and new bloggers on Foodgawker and Tastespotting, and these two recipes especially had us asking each other, “how good does that look?”

Kyle’s pick: Jennifer Joyce’s Blood Orange and Palm Heart Salad
Why we can’t wait to try it: With avocados and oranges, this salad looks light and refreshing — perfect for the freakishly warm March weather we’re experiencing in Indianapolis.

Lauren’s pick: Naturally Ella’s Brussel Sprout, Fig and Feta Ravioli
Why we can’t wait to try it: When time allows, we love making our own pasta and this recipe gives us the perfect excuse to try a lighter ravioli since it’s been in the 70s lately.

*Read our About Us page for our Amazon affiliate links policy.

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Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt and Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce

Sweet potato fries are my weakness. And we’re talking a weakness of epic proportions a la Britney Spears and her beloved Cheetos. Minus the whole walking into gas stations barefoot to acquire said weakness, that is.

Anyway, point being whenever I see sweet potato fries on the menu somewhere, I have to order them. For me, the sauce is what really makes the sweet potato fries, as their sweetness is begging for a contrasting flavor to complement it. Trust me when I say this lemon garlic dipping sauce does not disappoint. And the basil salt sprinkled on top of the fries? Yeah, it’s as delicious of a combination as it sounds.

Recipe adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis.

Ingredients:
• 5 sweet potatoes, cut into fry-size pieces
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• ¾ cup mayonnaise
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• To avoid having too-long fries that will break in half as you’re stirring them in the oven, select Idaho potato-sized sweet potatoes. If you can’t find smaller sweet potatoes, you can cut the potato in half before slicing into fries.
• If you have a mandoline food slicer, this is the time to (very carefully) use it. The mandoline will produce uniform cuts, which is key to getting the fries to finish baking at the same time. Simply cut off the two ends of the potato and start slicing away.
• When using a knife to cut a potato into fries, the key is cutting the potato into a rectangle-like shape. First cut off the two ends (on the “long” side of the potato) to make those sides flat. Then cut off the four remaining sides to make those sides flat as well.
• Once you have your “rectangle” potato, cut off about a ½-inch slice (adjust for your preferred thickness), lengthwise. Then cut that slice into four or five even pieces (again, adjust for your thickness preference). Voila, fries!

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using your mandoline food slicer or your knife, cut the potatoes into even-sized fries. Place fries on a foil-lined baking sheet or pan and toss with olive oil. Bake until golden, which will take about 45 minutes. At 15 minute intervals, stir the fries to ensure they’re baking evenly and not getting stuck to the foil.

While the fries are baking, prepare the basil salt by combining the basil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. In another small bowl, create the lemon garlic dipping sauce by combining the mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice, and stir to combine.

When the sweet potato fries are finished baking, take them out of the oven and sprinkle with the basil salt. Serve with the lemon garlic dipping sauce.

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Rosemary No-Knead Bread

If you can undo the twist tie on a store-bought loaf of bread, you can make your own homemade bread with this rosemary no-knead bread recipe.

After Kyle’s sister-in-law baked this for Easter several years ago, it’s become part of our regular rotation. The best part? It’s so simple that as long as you measure everything correctly (ahem, unlike I did the first time I attempted it solo), it’ll turn out great every time.

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

Ingredients:
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
• 1 5/8 cups water
• 1 ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest, chopped (we left it out this time)
• Cornmeal for dusting

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• Measure everything carefully or the bread will not rise correctly.

Instructions:
In your KitchenAid Mixer bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, rosemary and lemon zest. Insert the dough hook attachment on your mixer and slowly add the 1 5/8 cups water a little bit at a time, stirring until blended. When finished, the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Remove the bowl from the KitchenAid Mixer and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (70 degrees F is ideal) for 12 to 18 hours, until the surface is dotted with bubbles.

Remove the dough from the bowl and put on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little four on the dough and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Rub a small amount of flour on your hands and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel, with cornmeal. Place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let it rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 ¾ quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

When dough has doubled its size, remove the pot from the oven and place on a heat-safe surface. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot. It won’t look very pretty, but that’s okay. If the dough is unevenly distributed (which it probably will be), shake the pan once or twice to help it straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, about 15 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let it cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread to release it.

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Monterey Jack, Corn and Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

Risotto. A labor of love, the cause of countless Top Chef eliminations and a delicious yet calorie-laden meal.

That is, until now.

Okay, while there’s no getting around the time commitment risotto takes or the inevitable fact that even Top Chef contestants like the smug Miss “I can cook risotto, I learned how to cook in Italy!” will screw up risotto, there is a way to create a light yet great-tasting risotto.

Kyle’s appreciation for a beautifully-cooked risotto formed in the kitchen of Oakley’s Bistro during a “Chef for a Day” stint where he worked side-by-side with the talented team, helping them prep for that evening’s dinner. There’s a fine line between al dente and undercooked, and Kyle learned that plus many other tips that have given us mouthful after mouthful of amazing risotto over the years.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light. It’s just 383 calories per serving and makes 4 servings. Since we like to cook on Sundays for the week, we doubled the recipe.

Ingredients:
• 1 ¾ water (we substituted vegetable broth to add more flavor)
• 2 (14 ½ ounce cans vegetable broth)
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 cup uncooked Arborio or other short-grain rice
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional, but we used it)
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 cup thinly sliced green onions (approximately 1 bunch of green onions)
• ¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalepeno peppers
• ¼ to ½ teaspoon hot sauce (we used ½ teaspoon of Louisiana Hot Sauce)
• 2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, defrosted
• ¾ cup chopped roasted red peppers (we used 2 red peppers)

What to note before tackling the recipe:
• While you can purchase bottled roasted red peppers, you’ll get a much fresher flavor if you roast your own red peppers.
• Use a good wooden spoon for stirring the risotto. Ours is broad and flat (like this one, which lets you make a lot of contact with the bottom of the pan to ensure you’re not burning the bottom half of the risotto.
• Resist the urge to crank up the heat to finish the risotto faster. Low heat is the way to go, as you want to give the rice time to release its starch.

Instructions:
Roast the red peppers by rubbing them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and placing on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until soft and skin is blackened. Place the peppers in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove the skin and seeds and chop evenly. (This is the same method we used in our Roasted Yellow Pepper Grits.)

While the peppers are roasting, pour the broth (and water if you choose to use it) in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Dice onions, grate the cheese (if you didn’t purchase it already shredded) and mince the garlic.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add rice, cumin coriander and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute and turn heat down to low. Stir in ½ cup broth, cook 2 minutes, or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed.

Stir in the onions, cheese, hot sauce, corn and roasted red peppers. Cook 3 minutes or until heated.

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Friday faves: Chocolate stout cupcakes

It was the moment we had been waiting for ever since I surprised Kyle with front row, Lambeau Leap zone tickets to the Green Bay Packers playoff game against the New York Giants. Players leaping into the stands to celebrate, fans all around us cheering.

Except the Packers lost.

Even though the Packers couldn’t pull out a victory against the eventual Super Bowl champs, our trip to Green Bay wasn’t a lost cause. At an amazing dinner at Hinterland Brewery, we discovered a new favorite dessert combination: beer and chocolate, in the form of a chocolate stout cake.

In happier times at Lambeau Field, during a stadium tour the day before the game.

So, in anticipation for St. Patrick’s Day, it was only fitting to honor this magically delicious combination by creating some chocolate stout cupcakes.

Cupcake recipe adapted from this Epicurious recipe. Frosting recipe adapted from this Food Network recipe.

Ingredients:
Cake:
• 2 cups stout (we used a local brew, Thr3e Wise Men‘s Saint Slater’s Irish Stout)
• 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 4 cups sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 4 large eggs
• 1 1/3 cups sour cream

Icing:
• 3 cups confectioners sugar
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

What to note before tackling the recipe:
• For the cupcakes, you’ll have much better results if you sift all of the dry ingredients.
• If the cocoa powder doesn’t meld into one consistency with the beer and butter mixture, remove the pan from the stove and use a hand mixer to blend it.
• Use the biggest bowl you own for the eggs and sour cream mixture, as this is the bowl to which you’ll be adding all of the ingredients.
• For the icing, start with just 1 tablespoon of whipping cream at first. This will give you a stiffer consistency, which will make the icing easier to manage when frosting the cupcakes.

Instructions:
Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

Place cupcake liners in each opening, and fill each one 3/4ths of the way with batter. Bake for about 16 minutes, or until ready. Cupcakes are finished baking when a toothpick is inserted into the center of a cupcake and comes out clean. Put the cupcake tins on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting them.

Icing:
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Now for some Friday faves. With the barrage of butter this recipe called for, it would have been a beast to tackle without our trusty KitchenAid Mixer. Not only does it rock at mixing hard-to-blend ingredients like butter, but it’s a huge time-saver by freeing up your hands to work on other components to the recipe.

These recipes really grabbed our attention this week, and we can’t wait to take them for a spin in our kitchen.

Kyle’s pick:
My Kitchen Moovement’s Tostada with beer-braised chorizo and refried beans
Why we can’t wait to try it: Chorizo is one of Kyle’s favorite ingredients, plus this dish looks like it’s bursting with flavor. And you know we obviously like to experiment with beer in our cuisine.

Lauren’s pick:
The Talking Kitchen’s Lemon pepper pasta
Why we can’t wait to try it: A citrus flavor is a great way to lighten up what could be an otherwise heavier dish, like a pasta. We also geek out over any excuse (when time allows) to make our own pasta, so this recipe gives us a great reason to whip up a homemade batch this weekend.

*Read our About Us page for our Amazon affiliate links policy.

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Mahi Mahi with Tomatillo and Mango Salsa

Ah, first dates. The anticipation, the excitement. The blood, the undercooked fish. What, you never had an injury and nearly escaped food poisoning on a first date? If you’ve never had such a romantic story to relive to your children and friends, then you can live vicariously through our first date story.

Kyle said he wanted to cook dinner for us, and I excitedly accepted seeing as a) I had a crush on him and b) needed a break from my steady diet of George Foreman-grilled chicken and canned vegetables. (I realize that last statement will probably have me banished from the food blog inner-circle, but I’m just keeping it real here.)

Fast forward to that June evening. In his attempt to simultaneously keep a great conversation going and prepare the salsa, he made one slice too many. His poor finger fell victim to the blade, and our date continued with a big Band-Aid, a little less conversation and a little more attention to the knife skills.

Cooking the fish by the poolside grill on a hot summer night sounds sorta romantic, right? Well, not when you’re being serenaded by the 40-something resident who lives for playing his guitar horribly at the apartment complex pool. In a rush to get out of there and save our eardrums from further bleeding and awkward conversation from the guy in between songs, Kyle slightly undercooked the fish. After our first mouthful, back to the poolside grill we went, creepster guitarist and all.

By the time we enjoyed our last bite and sip of wine, I was sure of two things. This guy could cook, and this guy is someone I could see enjoying many more meals with over the years.

Recipe adapted from this Food Network recipe.

Ingredients:
• 2 (6 ounce) mahi mahi, skin removed
• 1 lime, juiced
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• Tomatillo and Mango Salsa, recipe follows

Tomatillo and Mango Salsa:
• 1 semi-ripe mango, peeled and seeded
• 1 ripe mango, seeded and diced
• 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
• 2 limes, juiced
• 1 orange, juiced
• 5 medium-sized tomatillos peeled, washed and finely diced
• 1 medium-ripe tomato, finely diced
• 1 red onion, finely diced
• ½ cup chopped cilantro
• Salt and freshly ground pepper

What to note before tackling the recipe:

• Ask when the fish arrived before purchasing it. Only buy the mahi mahi if it came in that day or the previous day. Most places will have a schedule of their fresh fish deliveries to help you plan ahead, or accommodate special orders for you.
• The fish monger will remove the skin for you, which will save you time (and frustration and/or injury if your knives aren’t sharp enough).
• After the mahi mahi, the most important ingredient is the mango. Make sure at least one of the mangos is ripe, as this will be the one you dice and really taste in the dish.
• When you’re dealing with a hot pepper like a jalapeno, wear latex gloves when you work with them. You can pick up the gloves at your local hardware store. Trust us on this one. It only takes one casual rub of the eye after handling a hot pepper to find yourself running out of the kitchen screaming all the way to the bathroom because you feel like your eye is on fire.

Instructions:

Peel the semi-ripe mango, removing as much flesh as possible and removing the seed. Put the mango pieces in a blender with jalapeno, lime juice and orange juice. Blend until smooth, tasting to make sure the mango flavor shines. If the sweetness isn’t coming through, just add a touch of honey and blend again. When finished, place in a large bowl.

To finish the salsa, peel and remove the flesh from the ripe mango and finely dice. Add to the large bowl with the tomatillos, tomato, red onion and cilantro.

Next, prepare the fish by placing it on a plate and drizzling with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. If it’s not too cold outside to grill the fish, place it on the hot grill and cook on each side for 4 minutes or until done. If you’re as lucky as us to have snow in March, then you should spare yourself the frostbite and pan-cook these suckers inside. Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil in an oven-safe pan and cook the fish for about 3 minutes on one side. Flip the fish and put it in the oven at 450 degrees for 5 minutes.

Remove from the grill or oven, and serve with a generous portion of the tomatillo and mango salsa.

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