We’re rooting hard in Baton Rouge for our own Jay Ducote to take top honors on The Next Food Network Star, and one of his recipes on the show inspired dinner at my house this week. Jay is a friend and fellow blogger/food writer (among other talents), and it’s been fun to watch him soar on a national level on both Cutthroat Kitchen and now possibly as Food Network’s next big thing. A few episodes into the annual series, he’s showing his natural ability to gab and connect, and he’s playing to his strengths as a chef who favors big Southern flavors. The Cajun tasso macque choux he prepared for a large crowd during the first episode earned kudos – and it prompted me to make my own version.
OK, it may sound so nineties, but pesto remains one of summer’s tastiest and most versatile condiments. Made fast with homegrown basil, mint, spinach or other seasonal green stuff, it’s useful spread on sandwiches, drizzled in soup, tossed in pasta or draped between thick slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. By now – mid-June – the basil many of us planted this spring is high, lush and screaming to be harvested. And f you live in a hot climate like I do, the leaves you pick today will quickly replenish throughout the summer, because basil is an herb that likes to be used.
San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, each one offering a different vibe and, if you know where to look, incredible grassroots food. On our recent trip, we situated ourselves in the Mission District because of its reasonable housing for a group of six, and its proximity to authentic affordable eats. John and I have been to San Francisco several times, but this was the first time we brought our children (ages 13, 11 and 8) and my mother-in-law. Here are a few highlights that might be helpful if you’re headed that way.
Mild, white fish needs a little help to shine. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is by painting one side of the fillet with Dijon mustard before breading and pan-frying. The tangy mustard is a great foil for the fish’s neutral flavor, lacing it with punchiness and locking in its juices.
This is a dish designed to please modern families. It’s affordable, flavorful, appealing to children and ready in 10 minutes. You can dress it down with Cole slaw and baked beans, or up with fresh asparagus or broccoli rabe. And its preparation requires only a few dishes.
4 mild, white fish fillets, such as flounder, tilapia, catfish, grouper or speckled trout
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup corn meal
½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Fresh lemon and herbs for garnish
Mango salsa (optional)
Place fillets in a pie plate and pour milk over them, ensuring each is wet on both sides. In another pie plate, or on a large dinner plate, add bread crumbs, corn meal, salt and pepper. Blend with a fork. Place mustard in a small bowl. Lift each fillet from milk, slather one side with about a tablespoon of mustard, then dredge fish in bread crumb mixture on both sides, starting with the mustard side. Gently shake off excess, and place fillets on clean plate.
Heat about 3-4 tablespoons olive oil to medium high in large skillet, or enough to thoroughly coat bottom of pan. When oil is hot, add fillets. Cook for two minutes on one side, then carefully flip and cook two minutes on the other side.
Serve immediately with fresh lemon, chopped herbs and a side of store bought or homemade mango salsa.
This is the summer that my children, ages 13, 11 and 8, WILL learn to cook.
Yes, I should have done this before now. But like most busy moms, I’ve been more focused on slapping dinner on the table than about explaining how it got there.
I realize that my kids are only getting older, and one day soon they’re going to need to scramble their own eggs. And that, as you know, is not as easy as it sounds. The one thing that cooking requires, more than natural talent or creativity, is practice. And unless I invite them in to make some messes and slow me down, they will never learn.
You will not regret making this salad. Before you even go to the “trouble,” understand that it is nothing more than 3 simple components: fresh cooked shrimp, chopped veggies and a really nice dressing. C’est tout, OK? Do not glaze over at the list of ingredients, because this is easy and really adaptable. Plus, it’s just damned delicious and I want you to experience it. With me?