Seafood Lasagna

So apparently lasagna is one of those foods I really like because I tend to make it a lot. Every time it’s a little bit different, based on the whims of the day and the one I made most recently was a seafood lasagna. Seafood lasagna is another one of those dishes that reminds me of France because my host mom used to get some really good lasagna from the fisherie(?) on a fairly regular basis. This one was a bit too bright and not as diversely occupied as Sophie’s guy’s, but it’s still pretty nice.

Structurally, it was very similar to every other lasagna I’ve ever made, the only special thing was how I treated the tilapia. But I’ll go over everything just because I like you so much.

Tilapia Ingredients:
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon’s worth)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tilapia filets
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (how convenient!)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Start by combining the zest, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl then take roughly half of it and coat both sides of the tilapia filets. In a oiled skilled heated on medium-high, cook the tilapia for about two minutes on each side.

They won’t be cooked, but don’t freak out. You’re going to bake them so it’ll be ok.

Once that’s over with, remove the tilapia and lover the heat to medium. Add the remaining spices and lemon juice, then stir it all around and mingle with the fish juices. Next add the whipping cream and cook for about 2 minutes until slightly thick.

While the sauce was reducing, I chunked/shredded the tilapia. When the sauce was ready, I tossed the tilapia in and took it off the heat. And that’s it for the tilapia.

Lasagna ingredients:
Tilapia and sauce (as prepared above)
About 3/4 lb cooked shrimp
Lasagna pasta sheets
1 jar Pasta sauce (I used 24 oz black olive and capers since lemon and capers are such good friends)
7 oz ricotta
~3 cups mozzarella
2-3 handfuls parmesan

Keep in mind to preheat the oven to 375, then feel free to get on your layering.

I started with a layer of pasta, using 4 sheets.
Then ricotta with parmesan sprinkled on.
More pasta sheets.
The tilapia and sauce, topped with a good amount of mozzarella.
Even more pasta sheets.
All the shrimp, a little less than half the sauce, and more mozzarella.
The penultimate layer: pasta.
And finally, top it off with the last of the sauce and however much cheese you want.

Then cover and bake for 35-40 minutes and enjoy!

The lemon comes through well, but isn’t overpowering and mingled with the sauces nicely. And even though it may seem strange to combine seafood and cheese, it totally works in lasagna. I’ve tried it a fair number of times, with a variety of sauces–even pesto–and it always works.

I ate mine with a side of asparagus, also something that turned out to be one of my favorite things.

Ceviche is actually pretty easy

Not only that but it’s also quite tasty.

Basically ceviche is cured seafood. Shrimp, in this case, but many different types of whitefish are also used. It’s something to be played with, but there are some basic ingredients:
Seafood (1 lb shrimp)
Peppers (1 poblano)
Onion (1/2 yellow onion)
Tomato (1)
Citrus (combination of lemon and lime juice)

It’s definitely a patient food, especially when you use shrimp, so expect to spend a lot of time waiting. We let it sit for about an hour, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the first step.

First, cut up your veggies. Smaller parts will distribute flavor better, but you can be as coarse as you want. It’s optional to cut up the shrimp, but I did in hopes of it being done sooner.

Next mix it all together nicely and cover with lemon and/or lime juice (some people throw in other flavors like orange or pineapple, which are good for taste, but aren’t as acidic as lemon or lime, so they shouldn’t be the majority). Add a little salt too, just because a little salt is almost always a good idea. Then here comes the tough part: let it sit for an hour in the fridge. You can stir every once in a while as you like (I definitely did–I hate waiting), but it’s not necessary. When the shrimp have become opaque and pinkish (when they look cooked), they’re done.

To help kill the time, I decided to make my own tortilla chips. I’ve fried tortillas before, which makes a good, hearty, crunchy chip, but this time I decided to try baking.

They came out thick and still kind of bready, but they served their purpose. They are very simple and easy to play with. I went with the basics and just brushed on some olive oil, salt, and pepper. To cook them, I heated the oven to 375 and flipped them often. When they first came in the oven, I flipped them after 30 seconds, to make sure they didn’t stick, them let them cook on each side, 5 min at a time, until they were the consistency I wanted. It’s kind of an involved process, so it really helped pass the time.

Salmon Alfredo

I don’t cook with fish much because I’ve always been afraid of messing it up. But I watched my mom cook some on the grill a little while back so I figured I’d give it a try.

To cook the salmon, I let an oiled non stick skillet heat up for a while (to mimic the heat of a grill), then put the salmon on, skin down.

Then put on whatever seasonings you like, salt and pepper are always good.

As it’s cooking, you’ll notice the bottom change colors, and the color change (from red-pink to salmon-pink) will elevate up the sides of the salmon. It’s pretty neat; you can almost see it happening. A few minutes in, we topped it with some fresh basil…

…and covered the skillet to finish cooking it all the way through to the top.

Once you cover it it doesn’t take long to finish. (This was my first time cooking salmon. It might be faster to cover it the whole time and have it still end up the same…? I don’t know.)

And while that was going, I had the pasta boiling and was making an alfredo sauce. if you’ve read more than one article from here, you’d know that I love cream based sauces. It helps a lot that they’re super easy to make. Just reduce some cream, toss in some cheese (parmesan if you want to make a real alfredo sauce) and stir/add cheese until it’s the right consistency. This time I used rosemary asiago and a small handful of mozzarella.

Once everything was done, I combined the sauce and pasta, then flaked the salmon with my hand and a fork and tossed that in too.

Soo yummy. It’s good cold for nighttime picnics and it reheats well for lunch at work.

Peach-stravaganza!

Though I don’t have pictures of everything (my camera broke part way through the trip and I haven’t been able to recover all the pictures) I’ll tell you about everything we made with mom’s peaches.

First of all, grilling peaches is awesome. We cut them in half and pitted them, then made a sauce with honey, water, and soy sauce to flavor them, then grilled them until they got soft. Sooo good. Especially with tuna (I love tuna and fruit together–apple tuna sushi is great).

(No picture for the moment, unfortunately)

We made four fresh fruit tarts.

Peach ice cream is one of the best fresh fruit ice creams you can make. It’s almost like they’re naturally creamy.

We always make cobbler with my grandma. Normally we use blueberries, but the peaches were too bountiful to not cook with.

And then, for something new, we made jam.

We also made a yummy salad and salad dressing with the peaches that was similar to the berry salad we made earlier in the summer.

I think that was everything we came up with, but my memory’s not so good without pictures to remind me. That’s why I take so many pictures. (If you knew me in real life, you’d know what I’m talking about.)

But! We’re going to have a similar situation next year, assuming the tree survives the hurricane season and the coming winter. There’s also going to be plums, which seem harder to deal with, according to me. So give me ideas!

Instant Food

Normally I’m not that big a fan of instant food–I figure if you’re going to eat, you should make it worth it and eat something awesome, but things are different when more than half your things are in boxes. So I figured I’d write a post about the different instant foods I tried out before my kitchen was all the way unpacked.

The first thing I tried (and can’t find pictures of) was a frozen make-it-yourself orange chicken dish. It was neat because you actually were supposed to cook it in a skillet, not the mircowave, and the ingredients were separated for you to throw in like you normally would while cooking. The only thing that was done for you was the frying of the chicken. It came out really tasty, but a little too much for two people, but hooray for leftovers!

The next interesting one I tried was a prepackaged paella. Sounds weird, right? I’ve had real paella before, so I wasn’t even going to consider boxed paella until it was highly recommended to me by a customer.

It comes with seasoned rice and canned seafood.

And like the orange chicken, you cook it in a single skillet, all you need to add is water and stir a little. Overall, I liked the taste, but the mussels were a really weird, almost crumbly texture, so that made me kind of sad because mussels are normally super tasty. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it considering it was about $5 and that you can get a similar tasting rice for around a dollar:

Then there’s also the really simple stuff.

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh yeah.

I’ve made a few other things too, like butterkase-fontina fondue with chicken, apples, and bread for dipping, pudding (which I’ll be writing about later), and some more upgraded pasta. So I’ve found out that even if most of your stuff disappeared one day, there’s still plenty to cook.

Dressing up Spaghetti

This is something really easy you can do for one of those nights where you don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want. It’s a simple twist on spaghetti and pasta sauce that turns out really yummy.

Here’s what you need:

A bag of salad shrimp
A big jar of your favorite pasta sauce (mine is 26 oz)
Grated asiago or just regular parmesan, if that’s how you roll
Spaghetti

Salad shrimp are normal shrimp, just much smaller. They also tend to come cooked, peeled, and deveined, which are all huge plusses. And because they’re so little, a lot of times they’re cheaper than normal shrimp. But in all honesty, any kind would work just fine.

First start by boiling your water and cooking the pasta. Unless you’re like me, that won’t be hard.

And while that’s going, throw the sauce in a different pan, add the shrimp, and warm them up together on a medium-high heat.

This would be a good time to add any spices that you might like. Chili powder would be good if you want a little heat, or some fresh herbs could be good depending on what sauce you chose.

When the sauce is warm (and the shrimp are defrosted), add the cheese. I added .15 lb (because that’s how much was in the container I bought) but you can be as liberal or as conservative as you like with this part.

Then just stir it in until it melts and turn down the heat to low to med-low. By this time the pasta should be done. Don’t worry about abandoning the sauce while you drain the pasta, it will be ok.

Then just serve however you like.

To make it prettier, you could garnish it with a little more cheese or whatever herbs you used while cooking.

Like I said, this is a really simple way to make plain old pasta a little better.

Seared Lemon Walnut Tuna

I don’t cook with fish much, so it may be very possible that I did something wrong or may give bad advice, so please let me know.

Basically, walking around the grocery store, we decided to cook tuna. Next that lead to a lemon and goat cheese marinade and a walnut and pepper crust.

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So first thing I did was get the fish marinating. I juiced a lemon and a half and added about a 1/4 cup of feta cheese (which I microwaved and whisked together so that it would melt). I found an interesting article the other day about interesting uses for the microwave, and they had a tip about juicing citrus fruit. Basically, microwave for 20 seconds before juicing and it’ll be easier and you will yield more. It seemed to work for me, so feel free to try it out.

Next I added the fish and enough water to cover them.

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I let them sit in the fridge for 20 minutes and that was plenty of time for the lemony flavor to penetrate them.

While that was sitting, I chopped up some walnuts. Though I did buy walnut chips, they were too big for what I had in mind, so I threw them into my ultra handy food processor.

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Until they were almost powder-like or at least half size.

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I mixed those with very small bits of feta, fresh ground pepper and garlic power, all to taste, and put it in a soup plate that was flat enough to hold a fillet without spreading out the materials too much.

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Next I set up everything in the kitchen so that it would be easy to move from one place to another. The tuna is in the Tupperware on the left, the plate of walnut bits in the middle, and the pre-heated skillet on the left.

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One thing I didn’t do but I think would have been a good idea would have been to pat dry the fish instead of immediately putting it in the walnuts. The excess moisture seemed to make the pre-crust hard to work with, but it was manageable. Another problem I has was that I Just Enough pre-crust to work with, and it’s definitely something where you want a little extra.

But here’s what it looked like anyway.

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Tongs seemed like the best tool for the job, although they did get a little hot–mine are all metal. But they would be better than a spatula or something because you’d be in much more danger of messing up the crust. With the tongs you only tough the sides, not the top or bottom–where the crust is.

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The tuna I got was sashimi grade, so I didn’t feel any qualms about just searing it for about 2 minutes on each side. If your grocery store doesn’t have that, you many want to ask your seafood guy if that would be a safe method of preparation. The crust browned slightly and got a little crunch.

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And if you happen to be tag teaming this dish, or if you’re good at multitasking, you can start working on the sauce as soon as all the tuna has left the marinade. Basically, pour it into a shallow pan and reduce on high, stirring constantly. It will come out very lemony, so don’t put it directly on the fish–put it on the side of the plate. To this feel free to add some honey. Not only will it cut the tartness of the goat cheese and lemon juice, but it will also add another depth of flavor.

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Next add some unmincified walnuts and feta as garnish and voila

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And because it was seared, the inside was such a pretty red.

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That last picture was taken from my lap while eating, upon witnessing the glory of the melty and beautiful tuna.