5.23.2011

Quick Fish Dinner for Busy Summer Nights - Recipe



There are some nights when there just isn't time to make enchiladas or bake a loaf of bread. On those nights we make one of our quick dinners. This is one of my favorite standbys: grilled breaded fish with baked potato and peas. It's a simple and delicious meal and perhaps one of the healthiest on our regular menu.

Let's talk about fish. I love seafood, however after living in Panama and seeing the over fishing and destruction of ecosystem that is taking place to feed our appetites I have sworn off seafood including shrimp, salmon and tuna (which is a shame because they are all tasty).  Now I choose farm raised fish.

Our standby is catfish. I know a lot of people are hesitant because it is a very "fishy" fish. However, if you get it fresh and cook it right, it is delicious. I was just at Chicago Botanic Garden's Summer Chef Series. At the demo the chef made grilled catfish tacos. I'll have to try out his recipe and let you know how it goes. It looked delicious, fast and easy! I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy fish. 


For this recipe, I use a very simple preparation of the catfish. I buy one large fillet of catfish for the two of us. It is usually between one third and one half pound. I cut it into chunks so it cooks faster. Then it is breaded with a homemade flour and cornbread dredge and cooked on a Foreman, counter top type grill. It only takes about ten minutes. The juice and oils in the fish give the breading a nice crisp texture that has a crunch when you bite into it. 

You could definitely do this on an outdoor grill or broil it in the oven. I like the Foreman because it is easy to clean and doesn't heat up the house. Plus we live in an apartment with no balcony and it's a pain to take the grill in and out especially when time is short.
 
I pre-bake the potatoes in the microwave for about six minutes to speed up the process. I'm not a huge fan of microwaves, but if there is one thing they are good at, it is getting food hot quickly. I always make sure to poke some holes in the potato before microwaving. My mother did this and from what I recall it keeps the potato from exploding. Non-exploding potatoes are always a good thing. Once pre-baked put the potatoes in a 350 degree oven for ten to fifteen minutes to finish them off.

That just leaves the peas. We use a glass dish to microwave two cups of frozen peas for about five minutes or until piping hot. Then put the potato, peas and fish all together and dinner is served.

This is a great little meal and you can alter it easily. Sometimes we opt for sweet potatoes and sometimes we do broccoli or corn on the cob instead of peas. You can switch up the fish to suit your tastes as well.

What are your favorite quick meals?


Breaded Catfish with Baked Potatoes and Peas for Two

1 fillet of catfish (about 9 ounces)
1 cup breading (1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt, 1/4 teaspoon chipotle and 1/4 teaspoon pepper)
4 medium potatoes (we buy organic which always seem to be much smaller than chemically grown potatoes)
2 cups of peas
  1. Start by prebaking the potatoes. Poke a couple holes in them with a knife and then microwave them for six minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
     
  2. Cut the catfish into chunks and dredge it through the breading. Then pop it on the Foreman grill for about 10 minutes or until a nice golden brown. You will have lots of leftover breading mixture. Just save it in a sealed container in the freezer until the next time you need it.
     
  3. Pull the potatoes out of the microwave and put them into the oven on a cookie sheet to finish baking. 
     
  4. Heat the green peas in the microwave until steaming; about five minutes.
     
  5. Pull the baked potatoes out and plate the fish and peas with them. That's it; your meal is ready to eat. Easy-peasy!
Nutrition:  The information below was calculated using Spark People's Recipe Calculator for one serving based of two medium potatoes, one cup of peas, 4.5 oz of catfish and a half tablespoon of butter.  You've got to have a little butter on the potatoes, right?

5.03.2011

Yellow Flowering Japanese Magnolia 'Butterflies'


I love this small stature yellow Japanese magnolia called butterflies (Magnolia 'Butterflies').  The buttery yellow flowers have been beckoning me from across the garden. 

I usually write about food and recipes on this blog; sometimes I forget about the garden part of Garden. Cook. Write. Repeat.  I spend my days working as a horticulturist for a not-for-profit arboretum and garden.  In May we barely have a chance to sit down, but every once in a while I remember to take a moment and enjoy the view. 


Magnolia 'Butterflies' is a great little tree for small yards.  It gets 15 to 30 feet tall and wide and is hardy in zones 5-9.  It loves the coveted moist yet well drained soil and prefers sun to partial shade.  The best part?  It has a lovely heady fragrance.  Put them in a place you walk by frequently like near the front door or off the back patio. 

Butterflies magnolia was all the rage a couple years back and everyone wanted one and no one had them in stock. Now they are easier to find and more reasonably priced. I have seen whips for as low as $30 and larger ball and burlap plants in the several hundred dollar range. Check your local nursery if you are interested.