Month: May 2013

Grilled Mahi-Mahi, Goat Cheese Tostada and Black Beans

20130513_182844(2)My first night in Puerto Vallarta, I opted to eat at the hotel’s beachside restaurant. My waiter brought me a strong margarita on the rocks and a basket of bread, which I would have left untouched if were not for the two (okay, three) cheese straws that called out to me after a long day of traveling.

I opted for a lime-grilled Mahi-mahi with goat cheese and black bean sauce, followed by a shot glass-sized dessert involving chocolate and raspberries. Margarita in hand, I watched the sun set over Banderas Bay. Not a bad way to kick off a vacation, eh?

I expected black beans to be prevalent in Mexico, but they were actually a rarity, at least where I was eating. Here, I’ve bulked up this dish a bit by incorporating actual beans, and not just their cooking sauces. Serve with whatever vegetables are in season and look good at the market or from your garden.

This might sound overly complicated for a weeknight, but it’s really not. Make the tostadas over the weekend and store them in resealable zip-top bag. Reheat leftover simmered black beans from scratch, or used canned beans. Fresh salsa from the store and seasonal vegetables of your choice finish the dish nicely. All that remains is the fish itself, which cooks in under 10 minutes.

Grilled Mahi-Mahi, Goat Cheese Tostada and Black Beans

Inspired by Las Casitas Restaurant, Casa Magna Marriott, Puerto Vallarta

Serves 4

4 corn tortillas
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups simmered black beans with cooking liquid*
2 oz. goat cheese
4 boneless, skinless Mahi-mahi fillets (about 6 oz. each)
Salt & pepper
1 lime
Fresh salsa, for serving

Make the tostadas: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of the tortillas with a bit of olive oil and lay on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Make ahead: can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Prepare the beans: Heat beans in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add additional cooking liquid if necessary. Taste; season as needed. *Note: If using canned beans: rinse and drain; place in a small pan and add about 2/3 cup water. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and cilantro. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer. Taste; season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm.

Prepare the fish: If using an outdoor grill, prepare for direct, high-heat grilling. If indoors, heat a grill pan on medium-high heat; brush with olive oil. Pat the fish dry. Season generously with salt, pepper, and zest of the lime. Grill fish until opaque, about 3-4 minutes per side, turning once. Squeeze with lime juice.

To assemble: On each plate, break the tostada in half and place on the plate. Crumble the goat cheese on top. Ladle 1/3-1/2 cup bean mixture onto the tostada, including 2-3 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Place the grilled fish on the tostada. Top with fresh salsa. Serve immediately.


Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese


While flipping through my latest issue of Bon Appetit, a picture similar to this jumped out at me immediately.

I couldn’t not try out this appetizer. Whipped goat cheese? Um, yes please. This was not a tough sell.

???????????????????????????????If this seems a bit elaborate for a roasted vegetable, it is. It’s worth it. The cooking liquid gives it a spicy cook, the roasting makes it crispy, and the whipped goat cheese makes it memorable. Try this at your next casual dinner, served family-style.

I cut the whipped goat cheese in half, and it’s still well more than I need. I think it would be delicious on a burger, or an ear of corn. Any other ideas?

When a recipe calls for “dry” white wine, they mean one that isn’t sweet. I used an unoaked chardonnay, but use one you like.


Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6 as an appetizer

8 cups water
2 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
2 oz. goat cheese
2 oz. cream cheese
1 oz. feta
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for serving
Coarse sea salt (for serving)

Preheat oven to 475°. Bring wine, oil, kosher salt, juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into center, 15-20 minutes.

Using 2 slotted spoons or a mesh spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet, draining well. Roast, rotating sheet halfway through, until brown all over, 30-40 minutes.

Blend cheeses and tablespoons oil in a food processor until smooth; season with sea salt if needed. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with oil. Do Ahead: whipped goat cheese can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped goat cheese.

Carrot Cake

Last month, we had three birthdays within a week, and someone asked me for carrot cake.

Now, there are a few of universal truths about carrot cake. First, it’s not carrot cake they’re asking for, it’s cream cheese frosting. Second, it’s about the CREAM CHEESE FROSTING. And third, you either love carrot cake or you don’t; there’s rarely a middle ground on this one.

Realizing I didn’t have a carrot cake recipe in my files, I went hunting. I like Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a few reasons: it doesn’t feel or taste heavy, and you can really taste the spices.

Use the fine side of a box grater to grate the carrots. (You can use a food processor, but you can’t grate the carrots as finely that way.) If you want to pipe your frosting, use chilled cream cheese and, if you have it, clear vanilla extract.






Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Caked recipe based on Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots (1 pound)
8 oz. cream cheese
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 16-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes. Transfer cakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.

In a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar. Frost cupcakes.