Monday, February 18, 2013

Corn & Asparagus Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette, Smokey Paprika Grilled Fish, and Mango Margaritas

Last week the hubs and I celebrated some victories at work-- meeting deadlines, achieving goals, taking names, etc. So we had a little celebracione back at the house, preparing food together, downing a few pre-dinner beers, and throwing tequila and mangos in the blender.  Enjoyed the meal out on the balcony overlooking the beautiful Sydney sunset.
SouthernSpoon blog: Sydney sunset
Sydney sunset from our balcony
The combination of elements was too good not to post everything together here. Grilled fish coated in smoked paprika and cumin, an incredible salad of fresh corn, asparagus, green onions, and a vinaigrette of olive oil, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. And mango margaritas, with a little fresh-squeezed lime and orange juice tang (not Tang... did anyone else's grandmother feed them that neon orange powdered drink mix? My Texas grandmother always told us it's what the astronauts drank. Perhaps they, too, then ran around the space shuttle like maniacs on a neon orange sugar high).
SouthernSpoon blog: corn and asparagus salad, grilled fish, mango margaritas
dining al fresco: corn & asparagus salad, grilled fish, mango margarita
Anyway, this meal was awesome. It would be the best combination for a BBQ or chilled out dinner party. The salad by itself would be a noteworthy picnic/potluck contribution. The fresh corn on the cob is key, but canned corn would work in a pinch. Substitute fresh green beans if asparagus is out of season. And mango margaritas are a winner for any occasion.
SouthernSpoon blog: corn and asparagus salad, grilled fish, mango margaritas
perfect combination of fresh, spicy, lime-dressed salad and smoked paprika fish
I give you: corn & asparagus salad, smokey paprika grilled fish, and mango margaritas.

Corn & Asparagus Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette
serves 5 as a side dish
slightly adapted from The Best of Bill by Bill Granger

2 large cobs of fresh corn
1 small bunch of asparagus (or green beans), tough ends snapped off
2 green onions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
big pinch of freshly ground black pepper
small pinch freshly ground sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Place the corn cobs in the water and turn down to medium-high heat. Boil for 8-10 minutes, until corn is cooked and tender, but still plump (not overcooked). When the corn is done cooking, carefully remove the cobs and set aside to cool.

While the corn is cooking, chop the asparagus (or green beans) into 1-inch pieces, and thinly slice the green onions on the bias. Set aside.

After you have finished cooking the corn, place a steamer basket into the simmering water that you used to cook the corn, and add the asparagus (or green beans). Cover the pot with a lid.  Steam the asparagus for 4-6 minutes, until crisp-tender.  When done, remove the steamer basket of asparagus and immediately run under cool water to cool down the asparagus.

Using a knife, carefully cut away the corn from the cooled corn cobs. It's ok if some of the kernels stick together and don't separate completely from each other. Set corn aside.

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt to make the vinaigrette. Add the sliced green onions, asparagus, and corn to the serving bowl.  Toss gently so that the vinaigrette evenly coats the vegetables. Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge for up to 12 hours before serving.

Smokey Paprika Grilled Fish
serves 4
slightly adapted from The Best of Bill by Bill Granger

1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (regular paprika will work fine)
big pinch freshly ground pepper
small pinch freshly ground sea salt
4 fillets of firm, white fish, such as flathead, snapper, or tilapia
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, paprika, pepper, and salt. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over both sides of the fish.

Heat a BBQ to medium heat, or heat a sauté pan and the olive oil over medium heat on the stove top. Place the fish in the hot BBQ or on the hot sauté pan, and cook for about 4-6 minutes on each side, until cooked through. The flesh should be opaque and flake easily with a fork. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Mango Margaritas
4 drinks (... or two Texas-sized)

2 large, ripe mangos
(1 tablespoon honey or sugar, only if your mangos aren't very ripe)
1/2 to 3/4 cups tequila, to taste (a good quality white tequila is best)
juice of 1 lime
juice of half an orange (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 to 2 cups ice

Carefully peel and chop the mangos (see preparation tip below). Place in a blender with the tequila, lime juice, and orange juice. Blend on high for a few pulses to get things liquified, then add the ice. Blend for about a minute, pulsing every few seconds, until no lumps of ice remain.

Taste the mixture, and, if necessary, add a little more ice to chill and a tablespoon of honey or sugar to sweeten (... and another slosh of tequila if necessary). Blend on high for a few more seconds, and serve immediately.

* Serving Tip: We think mango margaritas taste better without salt. But, to be festive, you could run a lime slice around the rim of each glass and dip the glasses in sugar. Classic lime-- or watermelon-- margaritas, on the other hand, are delicious when served in a salt-rimmed glass.

* Preparation Tip: How to peel and chop a mango:

Place the mango on a cutting board so that the top is facing up (like sitting an egg on its bottom, with the smaller cone end facing up).

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the mango from top to bottom, all the way through, avoiding the slender seed in the middle-- so that you cut off a large mango 'cheek'.  Using the same technique, cut all the way through the other side to slice off the other mango 'cheek' (avoiding the slender seed in the middle).  

Hold a mango cheek in the palm of your hand, and very carefully cut a criss-cross pattern into the mango flesh, cutting all the way to (but not through) the fruit skin.  Flip the mango skin out so that the cubes of mango stick out (like a porcupine). Using the knife, carefully cut the cubes off of the skin.  Repeat with the other mango cheek.

There will be a rim of fruit left around the seed, which you may be able to carefully slice off and salvage if the fruit is big enough. If not, remove the peel and eat the remaining mango fruit stuck to the seed, preparing to wash your entire face and arms before dinner to remove all traces of mango-nibbling.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sausage & Egg Mini Breakfast Casseroles

We recently discovered that our local butcher carries two varieties of sausage without preservatives: a peppery and fennel-y pork sausage and a spicy Spanish chorizo. This means we can incorporate these flavorful meats (which are usually off-limits due to preservatives) into meals every now and then: hooray! So for Australia Day weekend (January 26) we got a bunch of both and grilled them up on the BBQ, serving them with homemade hot dog buns, caramelized onions, pickle relish, and all the fixin's, and a red cabbage, fennel, and orange salad with buttermilk pecan dressing from Katie Quinn Davies' What Katie Ate Cookbook. Delicious.

The next morning we decided to try something different from our weekend tradition of poached or scrambled eggs on toast (sometimes spread with avocado) topped with smoked salmon, and a fruit smoothie and coffee on the side.  Weekend breakfast is a big deal for us. We set the table, work together to chop, blend, whisk, season, and toast so that everything is ready at exactly the same time to sit down with a nourishing, hot plate of brunch. Actually it's rarely all ready at the same time. Sometimes the eggs are over/under done, the toast too brown, the coffee not finished brewing, etc... one day we'll have it down : )  

Southern Spoon blog
this is not what your coffee will look like if you come to our house for brunch,
but we'll take you to the café around the corner to have one
Anyway, the morning after our Australia Day holiday BBQ, I searched through my cookbooks, keeping in mind the leftover links of sausage we had in the fridge, and found a recipe for mini breakfast casseroles in the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook.  I didn't have a few of the ingredients, but adapted away using what we had and produced four tasty, personal-sized portions of sausage and egg casserole. Perfect morning meal with fruit salad and coffee. 

Southern Spoon blog: mini sausage and egg breakfast casserole
mini sausage & egg breakfast casserole, side of fruit salad
If I'd had mushrooms I would have chopped up a few and added them, and maybe a sliced green onion, too--but these are really good as is.  We had one mini casserole each and that was plenty, leaving two for the next morning. The middles sank a bit overnight in the fridge, but they tasted just as good reheated in the microwave until hot. Happy weekend breakfast to you.

Sausage & Egg Mini Breakfast Casseroles
adapted from the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook
makes 4 mini (1-serving) casseroles

2 bread slices, torn into 1/2-inch chunks (I used multigrain bread)
2/3 cup of chopped, fully cooked sausage links or patties
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (any fat content will do)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup natural or greek yogurt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F/ 175C. Spray four 8- to 10-oz ceramic casserole dishes (or oven-safe coffee mugs) with cooking spray.  Evenly distribute the torn bread chunks into the four casserole dishes, then top evenly with the chopped, cooked sausage. 

Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, yogurt, and pepper.  Distribute the mixture into the four casserole dishes, pouring over the bread and sausage. Top each casserole with shredded cheese, and, if desired, a sprinkle of dried oregano. 

Place the casserole dishes in the centre of a baking sheet (to catch any spillovers, mine spilled over a bit during baking), and bake at 350F/175C for 25-30 minutes, or until casseroles are set and puffed up slightly.  Serve immediately.

* Storage tip: The Southern Living Christmas Cookbook says that unbaked casseroles can be covered with plastic wrap, then foil, and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.  Thaw overnight in the fridge then bake as directed.