Category Archives: Main Dish

Blackened Fish Spice Blend


…or any fish for that matter.

You’ve seen this picture before here.  This is my favorite fish dish.  Hands down.  No doubt.  We have fish at least once a week in some way shape or form.  And, when I don’t have a meal planned, and I don’t have time to put together something elaborate, I rely on this dish.


Keeping a jar of these spices handy ensures that I never have to miss out on a full-flavored meal.  Typically, if I were to marinate a thinner fish, like tilapia, I marinade the fish dry an hour before, while I’m doing something else, and cook it on the stove with some olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes each side.

If I were to use it on a thicker fish like salmon, I mix the spices with olive oil to make a paste and rub it over the fish.  After, marinading, I bake (covered in foil) in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes, or until flaky.


Blackened Fish Spices

adapted from Food Network
yields about 4 servings


  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed


  1. In a jar with a lid, mix together all the spices.
  2. When ready to use, either use it dry by pressing and rubbing spices into the fish.  If using wet, mix a tbsp of spices with approximately 2 tsp of olive oil and make a thick paste.  Spread and rub into fish.  Marinade for an hour and cook to your preference.


Filed under Fish, Main Dish, olive oil

Hot and Spicy Tofu Stir Fry

This is hard to say but I’m turning into my mother.

Whenever we take her out to eat, albeit rarely, she always says, “We should learn how to make this” or “We can make this at home.”  My father would entertain her requests and they would cook meals together to replicate restaurant foods.  (I can’t wait to share my mother’s Southwestern egg rolls with you all one day.)  Without a doubt, my mother takes more joy out of copying a recipe and making it at home than have someone cook, serve and clean up for her.  During her last trip to Whole Foods, she asked the kind staff to let her try what seemed like all of the deli foods only to have the little Indian lady thank them and walk away.  Afterwards, she tells me “We can make that at home.”

I used to be the opposite of that.  As I’ve gotten older and more courageous in the kitchen, I find myself refusing to purchase items because I tell myself that with the right ingredients, I can put it together at home.  I still will not buy any prepared food items from grocery stores just because I think I can do it myself.  Don’t even get me started on the bakery items.

We have a favorite Chinese restaurant that we frequent often.  However, as going there as often as we do is not really an option for the long-term, it was time that I buckled down and found a way to recreate the dish I love at home.  I’m a fan of tofu.  Binks is not, but is coming around – slowly but surely.  I love the texture and its versatility.  Especially for saucy dishes, the ability for tofu to soak up and marinade itself in whatever it simmers in is just one of the many reasons why I choose to use this as a protein source.  After some tweaking, I created a dish that competes well with the one I order almost exclusively at the restaurant.  You really can change the vegetables based on what you have on hand.  I love eating it alone, but the sauce would be perfect draped over hot steamed rice.

Hot and Spicy Tofu


  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 small red jalapenos, chopped – adjust to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp chili in oil or red pepper flakes, adjust to taste


  1. Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add tofu to the oil and brown on all sides.  Set aside.
  2. In the same pot, heat the remainder of the olive oil and heat.  Add the carrots until softened a bit, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Add the sliced onions and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the onions are wilted.  Add the bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic and ginger and stir until the peppers are softened, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, vinegar, soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar and chili sauce.  Pour over the vegetables and stir to incorporate.  Add the tofu and stir carefully to mix into the sauce, but don’t over mix that you crumble the tofu.  Cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened a bit, which should take another 10 minutes.


Filed under Asian, Chinese, Main Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

I’ve mentioned several times that pizza is a staple in this house.  Whether we go out for it or make it at home, pizza makes a repeat appearance here.  While I love the crisp thin crust pizzas, there is a very special place in my heart and palate for the rich and saucy deep dish pizza.  I experienced deep dish pizza for the first time while I visited Chicago with Binks while we were dating.  As he had lived there for three years, he had always raved about Gino’s East.  After the first bite, talk about a revelation.

A heavy baking dish full of crust, cheese and sauce, perfectly proportioned.  Eaten with a fork and knife, I loved the flaky cornmeal crust, full-bodied sauce and hearty cheese.  I have been searching for a great recipe since my last visit.  That was about 5 years ago.  I decided to take another crack at it to see if I could somehow relive that experience.  Binks was quite happy to participate in my experiment.

Before I begin, I’ll throw in the towel.  No pizza will rival Gino’s (well let’s forget the Giordano’s debate for the purposes of this post).  I accept that.  However, this homemade version was very delicious.  This pizza was highlighted exactly as it should be – the crust and sauce.  First, let’s discuss crust.  Almost akin to puff pastry, this crust was wonderfully flaky and baked crisp without being too doughy. Second, the sauce is near perfection.  I’m a huge sauce fan and I understand the sauce for deep dish is different from for a thin crust.  Here, the sauce needs to be chunkier to complement the thick layer of mozzarella.  All in all, welcome the new member of the pizza family in rotation in our house.  We are quite smitten.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
recipe from Cook’s Illustrated via Annie’s Eats
yields one 9-inch pizza


For the dough:

  • 1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (8 1/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (1 3/8 oz.) yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/8 tsp. instant yeast
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. (5 oz.) water, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. grated onion
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper

For toppings:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • ¼ oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 tbsp.)


  1. Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Add water and melted butter, and mix on low speed until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally.  Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth, and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.  You know it’s ready when the ball of dough pulls away complete from the sides of the mixer.  Coat a large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil, rubbing excess oil from fingers onto blade of rubber spatula. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to oil top; cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in volume, which should take between 45 to 60 minutes.
  2. While dough rises, prepare the sauce.  Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until melted.  Add onion, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high and bring to simmer.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2½ cups, which takes about 25 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in basil and oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. To laminate the dough, turn the dough out onto dry work surface and roll into a 8- by 6-inch rectangle. Using offset spatula, spread softened butter over surface of dough. Leaving ½-inch border along edges. Starting at short end, roll dough into tight cylinder.  With the seam side down, flatten cylinder into an 9- by 3-inch rectangle.  Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with one half, fold into thirds like a letter; pinch seams together to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled in volume, between 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. At this point, preheat the oven to 425F.  To assemble, coat a 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Transfer the dough ball to a dry work surface and roll out into a 13-inch disk about ¼-inch thick.  Transfer the dough to the pan.  Lightly press the dough into the pan, working into the corners and 1 inch up the sides.  If the dough resists stretching, let rest 5 minutes before trying again.
  5. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella evenly over surface of dough.  Spread the tomato sauce over cheese and sprinkle 2 tablespoons  Parmesan over sauce.  Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Filed under Main Dish, Pizza, Uncategorized

Angel Hair Pasta with Chile Lemon Oil and Arugula

It’s rare that I make pasta any other way than drenched with a beautiful red sauce. Sometimes, red sauce seems more fitting for the fall and winter seasons. Recently I look towards more simpler and lighter pasta dishes, without having to give up any flavor. And, with this pasta, you get quite a looker too.

Fine strands of pasta covered in parmesan cheese and flakes of panko bread crumbs offer richness, while the chile and lemon infused oil add depth and vibrancy. The addition of fresh arugula adds a peppery bite without adding any weight to the dish. Beautiful, delicious and perfect for a main course or to be served alongside a shrimp scampi, like I did when we had company over.

Angel Hair Pasta with Chile Lemon Oil and Arugula

slightly adapted from Shutterbean via Tyler Florence
Serves approximately 6 people


  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes (I used 3 tsp because I like more heat. Adjust for your taste.)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 6 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a skillet over medium heat, add two tablespoons of the olive oil. Then, add the breadcrumbs and stir to toast until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to mix in. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Wipe the pan clean and put it back on the stove over medium heat. Add the 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic and chile flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes to make sure the olive oil is infused with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the oil becomes fragrant. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large pot, cook pasta to al dente (it shouldn’t take more than 3-4 minutes). Drain and place in a large bowl.
  4. To the pasta, add the chili infused oil, lemon juice, arugula, toasted bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Gently, using tongs, stir everything together.


Filed under Main Dish, Pasta, Vegetarian