Thursday, January 7, 2010

Part 1, Recipe: Roasted Vegetable and Fish Tacos

Part 1: "I Don't Know How To Cook"
Recipe: Roasted Vegetable and Fish Tacos (Master File 2)
Hopefully you have a sharp chef's knife now.  You're going to need it.  Before you do anything you need to learn how to hold the knife.  Go here and look at the picture at the bottom of the page.  It might feel weird at first, especially if you (like me) used to hold your knife with your index finger pointed down the top of the knife.  The correct hold will give you a ton more control and greatly reduce the chances of you cutting off any digits.

Today we'll be making tacos.  If you don't like fish use cooked chicken, shrimp, tofu, seitan, or tempeh.  Read through the entire recipe before you begin.  It looks long but it goes quick.

chef's knife
cutting board
broiler pan
baking sheet/sheet tray/cookie sheet/jelly roll pan (whatever you call it)
cooking spray
aluminum foil
paper towel or tea towel

1 lb white fish such as cod, halibut, walleye, trout, or tilapia (find the best choice here)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
chili powder
cayenne pepper (optional)
salt & pepper
2 medium zucchini
1 large tomato
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 lime
1/2 cup sour cream or crema
1/4 cup cilantro
salsa (optional)
8 taco size flour tortillas

Wash all your vegetables well.  This includes the lime. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

Start with the bell peppers.  Cut off the tops and bottoms and set aside.  You will now have bell pepper tubes with seeds inside.  Either reach in and yank out the seeds and membranes or stick your knife in and cut them out.  Don't worry about getting every last seed.  They're not going to hurt you.  Stand the tubes up and cut the peppers into thirds or fourths so you end up with planks of pepper.  Cut each plank into sticks 1/2" wide.  (Having trouble gauging 1/2 inch?  The tip of your index finger to the first knuckle is more than likely 1 inch long.)  Then rotate the sticks 90 degrees and chop into 1/2" square pieces.  Dump these unceremoniously onto your baking sheet.

Move on to the onion.  It has an end where the green parts came off (top) and an end with whiskery roots (bottom).  Cut off the top.  Stand the onion on its top so that it's stable and cut the whole thing in half right through the root end.  Now you can easily remove the skin from each half.  Take one half at a time and lay it down with the root end near your non-dominant hand and the cut top end facing your knife hand.  Get down so the onion is at eye level.  You're going to take your knife and hold it parallel to the cutting board.  Slice through the onion halfway up but stop before you go through the root end.  The root is going to hold everything in place while you work.  Now you can stand up again.  Slice the onion from bottom to top (1/2" inch slices), but again don't slice through the root end.  Now make perpendicular slices across the grain (1/2" again) of the onion and voila!  Perfectly uniform chopped onion!  Put the onion with the peppers on your baking sheet.

Now would be a great time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Next we'll deal with the zucchini.  This is going to be cake compared to the onion.  Slice off the top and bottom, cut it in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2" thick half moons.  These go to the baking sheet.

Garlic time.  Pull the cloves off of the bulb and put them on your cutting board.  Lay your knife on top of one and either pound down with your fist or push down until the clove smushes and cracks.  You can slip the skins off easily now.  Cut each bulb in half, lay the flat surface down, and chop the garlic into a not-so-fine mince.  Onto the baking sheet with these.

We'll do the tomato last because it goops up the cutting board.  Cut out the core at the top of the tomato using the tip of your knife.  If this scares you, use a paring knife.  You just want to cut out a cone-shaped wedge around the part where the stem comes off. Cut the tomato in half along its equator and use your finger to scoop out the seeds and pulp.  Lay each cut half down on the cutting board.  We're going to cut it into slices similar to how we made that first cut into the onion so get down so you're eye level with the tomato.  With your hand on top of the tomato and your knife parallel to the cutting board make 1/2" slices up the tomato starting from the bottom.  Slice all the way through.  Now you have tomato planks, more or less.  Cut each plank into 1/2" sticks and each stick into 1/2" pieces.  I know the tomato is irregular and squishy.  Just do your best here.  These go onto the baking sheet.

Now drizzle about two tablespoons of oil over everything on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a hearty pinch of salt and pepper.  Use your hands and mix everything together so the veggies are all coated with oil.  Arrange everything to take up the entire pan in a single layer if possible.  Put this in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes.

Wipe the tomato goo off your cutting board and dry.

Pick or cut off a 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves.  You can have some of the top part of the cilantro stems in there without it being woody and overpowering so don't worry about it.  Give the cilantro a rough chop.  Put them in a smallish bowl with 1/2 cup of sour cream and the juice from half of the lime.  Stir and let it sit so the flavors marry.  Cut the other half of the lime into wedges.

Stir the veggies after 15 minutes.

Set your timer for 10 minutes.

Prepare the fish by drying the fillets off with some paper towel.  Brush each side with a little bit of oil.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.  Sprinkle each side with cumin, chili powder, a bit of oregano, and cayenne if using.  Spray a broiler pan with cooking spray and place fish on it.

Wrap your tortillas in aluminum foil and set aside.

When your veggie timer goes off check and see if you can stick a fork into a piece of pepper.  Things should be crisp-tender.  If it's too much on the crisp side keep checking every five minutes until done.  Once those are done take them out and set them aside for a minute.  Crank up your broiler.  While that gets nice and hot move the veggies into a serving bowl and cover loosely with foil.

Put your foil tortilla package into the main part of the oven.

Put the fish under the broiler and set the timer for five minutes.  Flip the fish over and set your timer for three minutes.  Check the fish every minute after that because when things go bad in a broiler, they go bad fast.  Now is not the time to wander into the other room to watch TV or check your email.  You're looking for completely opaque fish that flakes easily with a fork and has clear juices.

Pull the fish out, cut into pieces or strips, and serve on warm tortillas with the veggies, sour cream, lime wedges, and salsa if you insist.

Leftovers Idea:
If you have leftover veggies, put them into some eggs in the morning.

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