Weeknight Meals

Macadamia-Crusted Mahi-Mahi

The wind is howling. Like, shaking my blinds, waking up Gatsby, and making me think I’m back in Nebraska in a winter blizzard howling. This is a cruel joke after a really rough winter, and then two days of 60+ degrees and sunshine. But, it’s also the incentive I need to get this delicious recipe up on my blog.

You see, I’ve been in Hawaii. Or rather, I was in Hawaii about three weeks ago.

Time out. Can we talk about Hawaii for a moment? Beautiful place. Definitely on the to-do list for pretty much anyone. In honor of my dad’s birthday, we took a cruise that stopped at all four main islands. My favorite island was Maui, I would have loved more time in Kona, and the Na Pali Coast is even more beautiful in person than in pictures. I could have spent two more weeks there (at least), but I’m so glad I went.

Anyway, I am just now getting back into my routine, and feeling the desire to cook creatively. Whenever I travel, I love to experience the local culture and food — and then recreate in my kitchen. I definitely have a few ideas from Hawaii.

But I was on the road for almost two weeks (some business, then vacation), and when I came home all I wanted was very simple, very green foods. I wasn’t ready to experiment with new ingredients or really spend much time in the kitchen. I’m just getting back into the swing of kitchen playtime.

20140309_193216

But, this is actually not a new recipe for me, although I had admittedly forgotten about it until having a similar dish in Hawaii. I first developed it about 6 years ago to copycat a dish I had at a now-defunct Asian fusion recipe. At the time, coconut-based ingredients weren’t mainstream back then, and I knew nothing about Asian cooking (umm, today I know twice as much… which is to say, still nothing), so I used dairy milk and olive oil.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

If you’re strict Paleo or gluten-free, panko is a no-go. The problem is, without some kind of binding you’ll end up with macadamia nut butter if you aren’t careful, and it’s hard for the coating to stick. Some people like to use nut flour or nut meal in a recipe like this, and I’m sure they are delicious. But, nuts are heavy and rich. I specifically wanted the lightness and crispiness that panko adds to the dish.

It’s great with rice, or try plantains if you can get some (presuming you like them… they aren’t really my thing). I also like it with a pineapple-based salsa, and I imagine other tropical fruits would also be good. I served this with leftover broccoli, but it tasted too bitter to me. Maybe a first-course salad would have been better? Let me know what you think.

Hope you enjoy! Aloha, and I’ll see you soon.

Macadamia-Crusted Mahi-Mahi

Serves 4

1 1/4 cups macadamia nuts
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 can light coconut milk, shaken (or 1 1/2 cups dairy milk)
Kosher salt
Ground pepper
4 6-oz. boneless, skinless mahi mahi fillets, or other firm white fish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray or brush with melted coconut oil. Combine nuts and bread crumbs in a food processor. Add a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Pulse until the nuts are finely crushed (it will resemble couscous). Pour into a shallow bowl.

Pour the milk into a separate shallow bowl. Pat fish fillets dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dip each fillet first into the milk and then into the nut mixture. Place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle any excess nut mixture onto the fillets.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until a light golden brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs

IMG_0010

Chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of economical, healthy cooking, and this simple citrus marinade makes them really shine. I come back to it again and again.

This dish is fairly quick, flavorful, and versatile. I’ve used this recipe with both bone-in and boneless varieties, although bone-in hold up a bit better — especially if you decide you’d rather grill outdoors than broil, which works well too!

???????????????????????????????

A few tips for marinading: you want both an acid (citrus) and an oil. Use a glass container or plastic bag, not metal, and keep the meat in the refrigerator. With chicken, don’t marinade longer than 2 hours.

???????????????????????????????

The chicken and reserved sauce are fantastic served over roasted spaghetti squash or pasta and  a large helping of broccoli, or try it with a bed of your favorite greens. Next time, try a double batch of the marinade and use it for grilled or roasted vegetables.

???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs

From Bon Appetit

Makes 4 servings (2 thighs per person)

1 bunch scallions (green onions), white and light green parts only
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 chicken thighs, preferably bone-in, skin-on (about 2 pounds)

If you like raw scallions, finely chop them and set aside 1/4 cup.

Place all ingredients except chicken into a food processor or blender and pulse until a coarse purée forms. Set aside 1/4 cup marinade; place remaining marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill at least 20 minutes, but no more than 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Line a broiler-proof baking sheet with foil. Remove chicken from marinade and place skin side down on baking sheet; discard marinade. Broil chicken until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn; continue to broil until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 12–15 minutes longer.

Serve chicken with reserved marinade and scallions, if desired.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

I’m not big on resolutions, but I do like goals. One of mine for 2014: eat more vegetables, more consistently. This recipe was borne out of a desire to do just that, especially during lunch, when salads leave me feeling unsatisfied and searching for sugar two hours later.

20140105_174339

I first made this easy bolognese with family over the holidays, and loved that it was hearty and filling on a cold day. Even my crunchy-vegetable-hating brother seemed to like it. At home, I took the recipe a step further by substituting spaghetti squash for traditional pasta. I had never cooked spaghetti squash myself, and it was surprisingly easy.

I divided the mixture into 6 portions and froze half for easy lunches down the road. Great with a green salad or even a cup of soup!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

Serves about 6

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 cup diced mushrooms (I used half a package)
1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey)
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/3 cup (or more) shredded Parmesan cheese (Omit if observing a Paleo diet)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash spaghetti squash rind, halve lengthwise, and scoop out seeds and pulp. Place rind side up on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until fork-tender. When cool enough to touch, shred the squash with a fork, working the width of the squash. Place shredded squash in a colander; drain and discard excess liquid. (Make ahead: can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.) 

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up meat, until meat is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil; reduce to a simmer.

Toss squash, sauce and cheese in a large bowl. Season to taste.