Friday, June 22, 2012

Following the recipe: my summer project

I subscribe to a lot of cooking magazines. I know all about finding the best wines for under $20; I've read all about how to grill even though I live in Manhattan and will likely never own a grill; and I know all the tidbits about the best new chefs under 30. I like to look at all the perfect food pictures and I even look at the recipes. But what do I almost never do? Ironically, I almost never make anything I come across in a cooking magazine (or a cookbook for that matter, and I have plenty of those too). Growing up with a grandmother who made everything from her head, following a recipe somehow smacks of unauthentic cooking to me. I like putting "a little bit" or a "sprinkle" of this or that in my food, although trying to explain that in a recipe isn't easy.

Recently, I decided that one of my cooking experiments this summer would be to follow a recipe. Here's the first one I tried, and it was certainly worth it.

Fish Tacos with Watermelon Salsa
(from food network magazine)


  • 4 cups diced seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound skinless wild striped bass fillet, tilapia or cod
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 avocado, sliced


Make the watermelon salsa: Combine the watermelon, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and jalapeno in a bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Preheat a grill to high. Sprinkle the fish on both sides with the chile powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt; drizzle both sides with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brush the grill with olive oil, then add the fish and grill until marked and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a plate and break into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, toss the lettuce with 2 tablespoons of the juices from the watermelon salsa and a pinch of salt. Warm the tortillas on the grill and fill with the fish, watermelon salsa, avocado and lettuce. Serve with lime wedges.

This is something I would never have made on my own, though it is something I order a lot when out. I was afraid that the watermelon salsa would make it too sweet, but it was just perfect. I used tilapia in this recipe but will try the cod or bass next time. And there will be a next time, but only after I've followed another recipe.

My history geek moment: It is believed that watermelon originated in southern Africa, though its seeds have been found in some 12th century (that's B.C.) burial sites of the pharaohs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer lemonade

Being pregnant is interesting. However, the list of things one can't eat and drink is maddening. Honestly, what did women do 50 years ago? As I try to negotiate a fine balance between being completely paranoid and enjoying my favorite food season,summer, I'm finding alternatives to the things I love to drink (think a dry summer rose) and eat. I trick myself into thinking I'm having a glass of Pinot with this little gem: homemade lemonade with a splash of seltzer, served in a wine glass, of course. This recipe comes from My change is using less sugar, a splash of seltzer and adding a bit of mint to the glass.

1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups water
Fresh mint to garnish

 Make a simple syrup of the sugar and water by heating the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves (about 1 minute).

While the sugar is dissolving, squeeze the juice of 6 lemons for 1 cup of juice.

Combine the syrup and lemon juice and refrigerate until cold.

Serve with a splash of seltzer and mint, if you'd like, or slices of lemon.