Easy fish and the incredible shrinking recipe

“Aldi fish” veracruzano

Beef Tacos

These two recipes are from the “Some Like it Hot” story(?…column?…feature?) in the October 2003 issue.  They are all supposed to be based on a classic Mexican food.  I generally like the way Everyday Food does Mexican food.  Lots of avocado and healthier stuff than beef enchiladas with extra cheese.  

The fish veracruzano called for red snapper, but Aldi carries two kids of fish: salmon and tilapia.  So this is tilapia.

Side story: I've had those napkins since I sewed them for my first apartment back in college

Side story: I’ve had those napkins since I sewed them for my first apartment back in college

This was a relatively quick recipe without a ton of prep, and you’ll notice that most of the ingredients keep for a long time.  The plum tomatoes are the most perishable thing.  Other than that it’s onions, garlic, pickled jalapeños (gotta love a recipe that calls for jarred food), green olives (again, whoo and hoo), dried oregano, fish, and limes.  I like recipes that can be made at the end of the week when the more perishable things I shopped for have already gone bad or been used.

It’s a tasty recipe with lots of saltiness and tang.  If you like olives (attention, B!), then you’ll like this recipe.

On to the beef tacos.  

It's difficult to take pictures of tacos.  They always look like tostadas.

It’s difficult to take pictures of tacos. They always look like tostadas.

This is three recipes in one: beef taco filling, guacamole, and pico de gallo.  Speaking of letting things go bad…I purchased 7 plum tomatoes for this recipe.  The pico de gallo called for 6 and the guacamole called for 1.  All but one went bad in the fridge by the time I got around to this recipe.  Oops.  But I didn’t want to hold off on making this and it was too late to go to the store.  So I made an incredibly tiny batch of guac and an equally ridiculously small batch of pico de gallo.

It's not often you get to sixth a recipe

It’s not often you get to sixth a recipe

You know what?  This was a totally legit option.  Sometimes you don’t need a giant amount.  This was enough for two adults to garnish their tacos for one meal.  It meant we didn’t have them for leftovers, but that’s not the end of the world.

There’s another substitution involved here.  The recipe calls for 3 total jalapeños in the three recipes.  D and I just took apart the last of our garden.  This yielded one more random pepper (Anaheim?):

I'm from LA! ...Anaheim...

I’m from LA!
…Anaheim…

and one eensy weensy baby Poblano pepper:

cutie!!

cutie!!

The long skinny pepper has almost zero heat, so it didn’t help much but the Poblano gave it all good flavor.

This is a fine taco meat recipe, by the way.  I like the freeze it taco filling recipe from another issue better, but this one is fine too.

And if you need more heat, may I suggest Valentina.  Ah Valentina…the magical $1.00 hot sauce. How are they making any money selling this stuff?!

mi amor, Valentina

mi amor, Valentina

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Zucchini fish dish

Steamed Flounder with Vegetable Couscous

Bachelor chow?  Not bad.

Bachelor chow? Not bad.

This recipe explains a lot about why I love(d) Everyday Food.  The issue B and I chose is one of the issues that went with my husband, D, during our brief academic separation.  Let me back up.  I went back to school in the fall of 2009 to get a master’s degree.  D stayed in Chicago while I went downstate because we thought it would only be a year and why uproot two lives.  So we had to divide up our stuff.  Lots of it went in my parents’ basement, lots into his parents’ basement, then the truly essential things were split between my new place and his new place.  Which brings me to Everyday Food.  Our collection of the magazine was split between us so that neither one of us would have to be without it.  I’ve been a subscriber since my mom transferred her subscription to me the fall that I started law school.  It was the fall right after I got married and the fall when I first moved to Chicago with that husband and got our cats.  This magazine is as old as my adulthood.  It taught me how to cook something besides macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and 2-mustard chicken (a delectable dish involving…wait for it…two mustards).  So it’s important, ok?!?!

Because this recipe is from an issue that was in D’s custody during that year, he is the one with all of the experience cooking it.  In fact, he cooked it again this time.  I asked him for his thoughts about the recipe as someone who has made it so many times.  I asked him why he made it so often back in his semi-bachelor days.  He told me that it was a good choice because it is quick (that’s true, this dish really only takes maybe 15-20 minutes.  Not cookbook 15-20 minutes.  Real 15-20 minutes), and it gives you a lot of chunks of hands-off cooking time when you are free to unload the dishwasher, set the coffee for the next day, and clean up after yourself.  Plus, it is delicious.  He’s definitely right about that one.  It has a real Mediterranean flavor to it with the selection of vegetables, the couscous, and the oregano.  That makes it wonderfully light, but flavorful.  It is also nicely moist.  One does not think of things cooked in the microwave as being particularly moist, but this fish was perfect.  He also noted that this recipe uses pantry staples (dried oregano, olive oil, couscous) and things that store well for a long time (bell peppers, zucchini, and, if frozen, fish).  That makes it a good one for a semi-bachelor who doesn’t always have time to make it to the grocery store on a regular basis.

Another reason why D likes this recipe so much, he said, is because it does well with substitutions.  You’ll note that the recipe calls for flounder.  D always makes it with tilapia.  Why?  Because that’s what they sell in the big bags at Aldi.  You can also swap in other steaming-friendly vegetables without losing much.  I can imagine green beans in this dish.  This time around, D also substituted whole wheat Israeli couscous for the usual couscous.  This was completely delicious.  This did require one change to the cooking time.  You need to steam the veggie and couscous mixture for another minute if you’re using Israeli couscous.  That’s it!

A family classic worthy of becoming a staple long after we’ve reunited.