green rice noodles with pesto and crunchy oven-fried fish fillet

IMG_0629.jpgRecently there have been a lot of recipes and tips for using ingredients already in the pantry and freezer. Call it quarantine cooking. It’s also a good idea not to waste food and use up what is there before it passes its Best By Date. This pesto recipe was a marvelous find for I never use up all the herbs and greens I buy. I can whiz all the leftover greens and freeze a batch for later use. And since I keep frozen fish fillets on hand, it’s a no-brainer to just bring out the panko breadcrumbs because I seldom have white bread in the house. I didn’t use the tartar sauce that came with the recipe, instead I had on hand some Thai chili-lime sauce. This being Lent, I paired the noodles with fish, but you could substitute grilled shrimp or chicken or pork tonkatsu. 

Pesto
1 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
1 cup chopped basil
1 cup chopped parsley or spinach
1 cup chopped chives or arugula (rocket salad)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 Thai chile seeded and chopped (add seeds if you want more heat)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice bran oil or vegetable oil
Salt
2-4 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
8 oz rice sticks (pad thai thickness)

In the workbowl of a food processor, add the greens, garlic, lime juice and zest, chile, olive oil, rice bran oil, and salt to taste. Process until pureed and emulsified.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Boil a large pot of water. Add the rice noodles and bring to a boil again. Cook 5-7 minutes or until the noodles are soft but pleasantly chewy.  Drain them in a colander and rinse in cold water. Drain. Pour the drained noodles in a large bowl and pour 1/3 of the pesto over them. Gently toss. Add more pesto to taste. Plate the noodles and top with toasted sesame seeds. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note: The pesto freezes well if you’re not going to use it right away.

Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Serves 4

Fish
4 haddock or cod fillets, 1 1/2 inch thick
Salt and pepper
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (sub 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 minced shallot
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (I used wasabi)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons flour

Tartar Sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced capers
2 tablespoon sweet pepper relish
1 minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 350˚F. Put a rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Make the crumb coating. In the bowl of a food processor, put the bread pieces, melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse 8×1 second bursts until you get a coarse crumb. Spread the crumbs in an ungreased rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes then put into a pie plate. Add 1/2 minced shallot and parsley. Mix well and set aside. Increase the oven heat to 425˚F.

Make the egg wash. In a large bowl, put the eggs, mayonnaise, horseradish, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. Whisk until well combined. Add 5 tablespoons flour. Whisk until well combined. Scrape into a pie plate and set aside.

Dredge the fillets and bake. In a third pie plate, add 1/4 cup flour and set aside. Pat dry the fillets and salt and pepper them lightly. Dredge each fillet in the flour, then the egg wash, and finally the crumb coating. Pat generously with crumbs. Put on prepared rack. Bake 18-20 minutes or until the fish fillets reach an internal temperature of 140˚F.

Make the Tartar Sauce. While the fish is baking, make the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Oreo Tia Maria Cream Icebox Cake

This cake looks difficult but it is so easy to make and looks like you made a fuss. Make it when you are looking for something special but you don’t have a lot of time. Celebrate a birthday or just celebrate you. You’ll be glad you did! Lightly sweet it’s like an ice cream cake with a delicate coffee flavor. This is an 8-inch cake so it finishes quicker or there are fewer leftovers, whichever comes first!

Oreo Tia Maria Cream Icebox Cake
Prep: 20 minutes
Chilling: 4-12 hours
Yield: 6-8 servings

500 ml heavy whipping cream (at least 36% milkfat)
60 ml Tia Maria coffee liqueur
2 teaspoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 boxes (95g each) Oreo Tiramisu Cream Cookie Thins
Rice bran oil or a vegetable oil

Lightly oil one 8-inch springform pan. Line the sides with plastic wrap, letting a little hang over the edge. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed the cream, icing sugar, Tia Maria, and vanilla, until sugar is dissolved. Increase the speed to high and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Line the bottom of the prepared pan with a layer of cookies. Spread one-half to three-quarter cup of whipped cream on top, pushing the cream evenly against the pan sides. Add another layer of cookies on top, placing cookies up against the pan sides. Continue alternating cream with cookies, ending with a cream layer. You can cut cookies with a sharp knife to fit the pan. You will get about 4 layers, and will have leftover cookies. Save these for the topping.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4-5 hours, but overnight is preferable.

When you are ready to serve the cake, crush the leftover cookies, either pulsing them 2-3 times in a food processor, mashing them in a mortar with a pestle, or enclosing them in a zipper lock bag and rolling a pin across the cookies to crush them. Sprinkle crushed cookies on top of the cream layer. Unclasp the sides and remove. Slice and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

grated apple cake

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This is a new recipe that I’ve just tried out and includes my notes for the apple cake in a 9×2 inch pan. In tweaking this recipe, I plan to switch to an 8-inch cake pan or springform pan. I always weigh ingredients when I bake for more consistent results. If you haven’t got a scale, use a glass measuring cup for the wet ingredients and metal/plastic dry measuring cups for the dry. I had some cooked apple slices left over from another baking project that I used in the cake (see picture above), but I’ve included instructions for decorating the top with apple if you want. BTW, there is no leavening agent in this recipe, so it is not an accident that the ingredient list doesn’t mention any baking powder or baking soda. The key here is whip the fluffiest eggs to provide structure and volume. This cake has a wonderful whiff of lemon and a slight tang from the green apples and lemon together. 

2 oz/57g unsalted butter, melted then cooled
5 oz/142g all purpose flour, measured then sifted
3 large eggs
4 oz/113g caster sugar
2 small granny smith apples (yield 1 cup grated)
Zest of 1 lemon
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon added to flour, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla added to melted butter, optional
1 small granny smith apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch slices for decorating the top, optional

Butter and flour one 9×2 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment and set aside. Melt the butter and let cool. Add vanilla to butter, if using. Set aside. Sift flour and cinnamon, if using, into a medium bowl. Set aside. Heat oven to 350˚F/175˚C

Peel, core, and slice apples into eighths. Grate. Or use a food processor. Cut each eighth into three chunks. Uniform chunk sizes make it easier to get uniform grated apple in a food processor. You should get about 1 cup grated apple. No need to be strict about the cup, it is just an estimate. I used it all. Apple will turn brown but this is normal. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and 4 oz sugar on low speed to combine. Increase speed to high and beat 7 minutes until the eggs turn pale yellow, quadruple in volume, and thickened. I love it! Take out the bowl from the mixer and use a good spatula to fold in the rest of the ingredients by hand. Be gentle and do not overmix the eggs or you will deflate them.

All at once, add the melted butter with vanilla, if using, and lemon zest. Fold in until just combined. Sift all the flour over the surface of the batter and fold in gently until just streaks remain. Fold in the grated apple.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Pour in just one spot to prevent too many air bubbles from forming. Lightly shift the pan back and forth on the countertop to settle the batter. If desired, place apple slices on top of the batter in the center in a pinwheel pattern.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until the top browns and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. A tester inserted near the center of the cake should come out clean with a few crumbs attached. Remove pan to a wire cooling rack and let stand 10 minutes. Put a second cooling rack on top of the pan and invert pan and bottom rack. Remove bottom rack that is now on top and remove the pan and parchment. Put the wire rack back on the bottom of the cake and re-invert. If any apples fall out in the process, just put them back on. Cool completely then transfer to a cake plate for slicing and serving. You will get a moist tender cake that’s about 2-inches tall. Dust with confectioners sugar. Best eaten at room temperature. Can be stored under a cake dome for 2 days (in your climate, overnight in mine), then refrigerated after that. Bring refrigerated cut slices to room temp before eating. Or zap it for a few seconds in the microwave if you’re impatient like me.

(In Julia Child’s voice): Bon Appetit!

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