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Please tell me that you have had Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang Shrimp.

Brad and I try to support local restaurants, chefs, cooks, establishments as often as possible. In our fine city, we love visiting everything from dive bar/sticky seat joints to high end restaurants that intimidate you with their wine lists, amuse bouches and fancy pants ingredients. I find that, in general, local/non-chain restaurants have better quality food and better service.

However, from time to time, a chain restaurant will reel me in with one of their signature tempting dishes. And Bang Bang Shrimp may be my favorite chain restaurant appetizer of all time.

*Side note: If you live in Cincinnati, my all-time favorite non-chain appetizers are as follows:

-Casual Joint: Habits for the Potato Rags (Crispy hashbrowns topped with bacon, cheese, tomato, onions and ranch)

-Middle of the Road: Senate for the Poutine Fries (French Fries topped with melted cheese curd and braised short ribs)

-Fancy Pants: Boca for the boat scallop served with caramelized brussel sprouts (seriously the best brussel sprout I have ever in my life even dared to imagine)

*End of Side Note- Back to the BANG! BANG!

I’m having fun these days trying to recreate some restaurant favorites at home. Why? I dunno. Because I want to. And because I can.

That’s why.

I figured I would start with the Bang Bang Shrimp. If you haven’t had this wonder, it is a small dish of fried shrimp that is coated in a creamy and spicy “bang bang” sauce. The shrimp is served over a bed of crisp iceberg lettuce and shredded cabbage. The whole kit n’ caboodle is topped with some green onion. It is the perfect naughty start to a meal.

I would like to preface this recipe by saying that I decided that for two people, it is much easier to just order some of the Bang Bang Shrimp to go. However, I will make this recipe again (FOR SURE) when having folks over for dinner or when entertaining a larger crowd.

Lets start by making the Bang Bang sauce.

You’ll need some Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. I found this at Whole Foods.

Drop 1/4 c. into a bowl.

Then add 1/2 c of mayo. Not Miracle Whip, people. Mayo.

Now get out your Sriracha hot sauce (this is found in the Asian foods aisle at the grocery store).

I started with a few drops of the hot sauce.

Then, I added a few more.

Then, some more.

I ended up adding about 1 1/2 t., but we like things spicy at our house.
I recommend adding a wee bit at a time, and giving the sauce a taste as you go.

Stir is up, and set your sauce aside.

Easy, right?

Now, because I think I hate simplicity from time to time, I decided I would make two different kinds of fried shrimp.

I like options, and I couldn’t decide between coconut shrimp or regular fried shrimp. Bonefish Grill makes regular fried shrimp, but I super duper love coconut shrimp.

And since I was cooking, it was decided that there should be a coconut shrimp version of the Bang Bang.

So, to make the batter for the Coconut Shrimp, put equal parts (I used 1/3 c. of each) of flour,

Cornstarch,

And shredded coconut (I prefer the unsweetened variety) into a bowl.

Add in one egg.

And then an equal part (1/3 c. for me!) of ice cold water.

Give that a little stir and set it aside.

Now, we will prepare batter number two.

Well actually, we will be preparing a little soak and then a dry dip for this batch of shrimp.

Mix together equal parts milk.

And regular old hot sauce.

I used Tobasco because I had it on hand. I think next time I’ll try Frank’s Red Hot because it is my fave.

And then in a separate bowl, toss in 1 cup of flour.

With 1/4 c. of cornmeal and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

There ya have it.

Now, we shall dunk the shrimp.

I used medium sized shrimp (Bonefish uses the super small guys), and I bought mine peeled and deveined.

I kept the tails on. However, when I make this again, I’ll take the tails off. It will make for easier eating.

I took about half of my shrimp and dumped them into the coconut batter.

Then, I took the other half and allowed them to soak up some hot milky goodness.

Hang with me.

I know that this doesn’t look all that appetizing at this point.

We’re getting there though. I promise.

Get out some peanut oil.

Or vegetable oil.

The key is to use a lighter oil because the lighter oil handles higher temperatures better.

An olive oil can burn, and you don’t want that.

Trust me.

Put about 1/2 cup of oil into a large skillet. You want to use enough to fully coat the entire bottom of the pan. In fact, the oil should be about 1/8 of an inch deep.

Here is my fool proof test to know when the oil is ready. I’m not good at using fancy gadgets like thermometers.

So, I put the tip of my batter coated fork into the oil….

And when it creates a perfect frying sound and perfect frying ripples, I know that the oil is ready.

Gently place a single layer of shrimp (I started with the coconut) around the pan. They should not touch each other.

And you should not mess with them once they are in the pan.

Side Note: Wear an apron, and use long tongs. This pan will spit a little hot oil at you so you want to be covered!

After 1 1/2 minutes, give the shrimp a flip.

They should be beautifully golden.

While the second side is cooking, pull your hot sauce and milk soaked shrimp out of the liquid.

Add them to your flour/corn meal mixture. Give them a toss.

Remove your coconut shrimp from the oil to a paper-towel lined plate. Immediately give them a sprinkle with salt.

What I SHOULD have done at this point was add these very hot shrimp to a bowl of the Bang Bang Sauce to coat.

I did not do this.

Don’t be like me.

Toss your shrimp with the sauce while the shrimp are piping hot.

Cook your second batch of shrimp- single layer in the oil for 1 1/2 minutes per side.

And when they look like this, pull them out of the pan.

Drop them onto a paper towel to drain some oil.

Give them a sprinkle of salt.

Then, immediately toss the shrimp with the sauce.

Serve the shrimp over a bed of lettuce, and top the whole thing with some chives or green onion.

Again, toss your shrimp. It will look prettier than my globs of sauce do.

I served up the shrimp with a couscous and vegetable stuffed portobello and a big fruit salad.

The verdict on the shrimp?

Well, both types of shrimp were delicious.

I think a hybrid of the two would actually be perfect. Next time, I think I will follow the coconut shrimp recipe, but I will add in 1/4 c. of  cornmeal (to make a crispier fried shrimp) and I will add in 1 T. of hot sauce (to increase the spice factor).

So, what is next?

Well, I have a Kung Pao Chicken/Shrimp/Scallops recipe that I’m excited to share.

It was GOOD- think PF Changs, but not so bad for ya.

I also have a delicious lasagna recipe too.

I am still stocking up the fridge with frozen meals, so I’m cooking away. I’m just  behind on sharing with you.

Don’t hate me.

Thanks.

1 1/2 weeks until the big due date. But I’m ready now. So, bring on the baby!

Hope you are all having a great week.

XO,

Leah

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I’m feeling spicy.

And I’m not feeling super talkative.

So, today I shall share my spicy. In a straightforward fashion.

This recipe is sort of a cioppino (Italian fish stew). It is SO sinfully easy, yet very fancy pants.

This is a recipe designed to impress. This recipe is also for two people… a nice romantic dinner. Or a special treat for a dear friend. Or an indulgence for you and only you, with enough left for a delicious lunch the next day.

Here is what you’ll need (you probably have most of this in your pantry):

1 T. olive oil

4 cloves of garlic

1 bay leaf

crushed red pepper flake- I used about 1 teaspoon, and that made for a medium spicy soup. Add more or less based on your heat threshold

White Wine (1 cup or so)- please don’t judge my cheap-o wine featured here

2  14 oz. cans of tomatoes- I used crushed, but diced would work too

Start by heating your oil in a deep skillet (with a tight fitting lid) over medium heat. Add in your finely chopped garlic, and cook for one minute.

Side note: I had previously cooked some garlic and parsley in the same pan for garlic bread hence the green flecks.

Add in your bay leaf and crushed red pepper flake.

Cook for one more minute.

Now add in your wine.

A cup should suffice. But you can add as much as ya want.

Scrape any bits off of the bottom of the pan.

And then add in your tomatoes.

Give it a good stir.

Then, bring it to a boil.

After it boils, reduce your heat to medium/medium-low to simmer.

While that simmers, we shall prepare our seafood buddies for consumption.

Little neck clams (again I only purchase this stuff from either the Fish Market or Whole Foods)-I got 6 clams for 2 people.

That makes for 3 each.

I wasn’t even a Math major.

Impressive, I know.

Give them a rinse.

Make sure all of the clams are closed.

That means they are alive.

And they are good to eat. I actually ask the man at the fish market to make sure he grabs only fully closed clams when I am shopping.

Now, rinse off your mussels.

Have you ever had mussels?

I think they may just be my favoritist, favorite item from the sea.

They are tender and delicious.

Ideally they come in their shell; however, my Whole Foods only had the pre-shucked mussels.

They still taste great, but they are a little less fun to eat.

If they have the shelled version, I would pick up at least 8 for 2 people.

Same rule goes for mussels in their shell… make sure it is fully closed.

Whether shucked or not, give them a rinse.

Now, rinse off your shrimp.

I purchased 8 16/22 shrimp.

The 16/22 means that there are between 16-22 shrimp included to make up one pound of meat.

These guys came with their shell removed and deveined. Perfection. Deveining shrimp grosses me out.

Do not use pre-cooked shrimp.

Thank ya.

By the time you have finished pulling all of your seafood out of the fridge and rinsing it, your sauce has been simmering for 8-10 minutes, and it is ready to receive the fruiti di mare… you know, the fruit of the sea.

Clams go in first.

Place them in the pan.

Cover and cook for exactly 5 minutes.

I actually use a timer for this recipe because the cooking time is THAT important.

When you pull off the lid, some of the clams may have already started to open up.

Now add in your mussels.

It is the same cooking time whether they are shucked or not.

Lookin’ good.

Cover the pot, and cook for exactly 3 1/2 minutes.

Take the lid off, and add your shrimp in.

Oooh, mama.

Cover and cook for 1 1/2 minutes.

Total cooking time is 10 minutes once you start adding seafood.

At this point take a look at your clams and mussels. If they are in the shell, the shells should be fully opened.

If there are any shells that don’t open, toss them out.

They won’t be good to eat.

Your shrimp will be pink and cooked through.

Turn off the heat, and scoop your spicy goodness into bowls to serve immediately.

The ONLY way to ruin this dish is to overcook the seafood.

If you follow the directions above, the seafood should be perfect. Clams, mussels, and shrimp should never taste too chewy or at all rubbery. If they do, you have ignored me and overcooked something.

They should be perfectly tender and delicious.

Serve it up with some roasted vegetables and garlic bread.

Take it over the top with a light sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano.

Now that is an easy weekday meal that is a snap to make, and it is pretty impressive.

Right?

You can do it.

You should try it.

Even if you think seafood (especially shelled seafood) isn’t for you, won’t you please at least give it a try?

It would make my life.

Thanks pals.

Have a great day!!

XO,

Leah

We’re friends, right?

I can tell you things.

Like my deepest darkest secrets.

I can?

Perfect.

Here’s one: I generally don’t like salmon.

And I feel like I should.

Salmon is one of those foods on every list of stuff that is good for your body. It is low in calories yet high in protein. They also have lots of those good omega-3 fatty acids that we need from food (because our body doesn’t make it on it’s own).

So, here I am. A food lover.

A healthy gal.

Yet, I have had trouble jumping on the salmon train. Because salmon tastes like fish.

Bleck.

I don’t like fish to taste fishy.

Can I get a hallelujah?

A few months ago we had dinner at our friends, Jim and Abby’s house. We do dinner fairly frequently with these two, and it is fuu-uuun. Want to know why?

Because 1. Jim and Abby are fun.

And 2. Jim and Abby love food.

Then 3. Jim and Abby are adventurous eaters.

And 4. Artemis and Paolo- the two cutest ding-a-ling pups you have ever seen.

So, anywho… one dinner, Abby made the most delicious salmon I have ever had. And I don’t mean it was delicious for salmon.

It was so incredibly flavorful and wonderful that it changed my perspective on salmon. Forever.

So, I had the day off for Presidents’ Day (thanks so much Franklin Pierce), and I decided to make the main man and myself a delightful salmon lunch.

Courtesy of Ms. Abby.

Let me just say this. Besides being delectably delicious, this is sinfully easy.

You really have no reason not to try it.

Here is what you’ll need:

1 lb of salmon- feeds 2-3 people

1 T. oil

1 T. soy sauce

1 T. dijon mustard

1 T. honey

1 T. brown sugar

1 T. butter, melted

1 clove of garlic, diced

Get out a shallow pan to make the marinade. I used the same dish to marinade the fish as I did to make the marinade in.

Hooray for one less dish to do!

Add in your olive oil.

Then your soy sauce.

And then some dijon.

How about some honey, honey?

Gimme some sugar.

Plop your butter in a bowl.

Microwave until melted, and add it to the party.

Add in your garlic.

Give it a whisk.

Until it is all combined and looks like this.

Now, unwrap your fish.

Let’s chat a bit about fish, shall we? I buy my fish from one of two places exclusively.

1. Whole Foods (where this came from)

2. A local Fish Market- in Hyde Park for any of you Cincinnatians

Why?

Because both places have their fished shipped in twice a day. That means that it is about as fresh as Ohio fish can be. Also, both places are committed to getting only high quality fish in. There are very few farmed fish options, and if the fish is from a farm (and not from the ocean) it is cultivated using the highest standards and quality feeds.

So, there you have it.

Place the fish, flesh side down into the marinade for at least 15 minutes.

Do not marinate the fish any longer than an hour.

Why?

Because Abby says so.

Pop a lid or some plastic wrap on it, and put the pan in the fridge.

While that marinates, turn your broiler on to high.

Get out a broiler pan.

A broiler pan has a top pan with holes or slats for juices to drip through to a bottom pan.

I happen to have a small broiler pan that was the perfect size for this fish.

You should give it a quick once over with non-stick spray.

I did not do this step.

And I paid for it in manual pan cleaning labor later.

After your fish has marinated (I let mine go for about 30 min), take it out and lay it skin side down on your broiler pan.

Keep that marinade!!

Take a brush,

and slather more marinade on your fish.

Pop it into your oven for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, pull it out.

\

Brush on more of that salty delicious marinade.

Put it back into the oven for another 5 minutes.

Then, pull it out again.

Brush it again.

Don’t be shy. Really slather it on there.

Finish it off for another 5 minutes.

It comes out looking like this.

(Although not so florescent. I was cooking on a very cloudy day so the lighting was weird).

That was a total of 15 minutes cooking time. 15 minutes will cook your fish to about medium doneness (for a filet about an inch thick) which I think is perfect. Medium doneness means a flaky yet moist fish.

Nothing makes a fish nastier than being dry.

If you don’t like medium, you can give your fish another 2 minutes or so. But you REALLY don’t want to overcook it.

Actually, that rule holds true to just about any protein.

Overcooking=dry, tough, nastiness.

Let the fish rest for 5 minutes. It will continue to cook just sitting there, and the resting will keep some moisture in.

I sliced off a chunk of the salmon, and I popped it on to a lovely green salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette.

Um, yeah.

It was good.

And good for me.

Can’t get much better than that.

Except, of course, if the picture would have turned out better. The fish was not radioactive and florescent.

Even though it looks that way.

Try something new this week.

You’ll be glad you did.

XO,
Leah

Newsflash: We are preparing for Winter Storm #256, and I’m sick of the snow.

I read a lot of blogs. I love them. I have made new blogger friends all over the country just through my little site here.

So, in the evening I was browsing through my blogger friends’ posts, and checked out Leah’s Thoughts where she had recent pictures of her daughter enjoying the sunny San Diego weather in her bathing suit!!

After seeing that, I need you to remind me again…

Why the heck do I live in Ohio?

In my humble opinion, there is ONE (count them… one) good thing about cold weather and snow storms.

Snow makes cooking comfort food more fun. There is something about a big steaming bowl of soup, or a tender pot roast, or a big bowl of pasta that warms you from the inside while you watch the snow fall… it somehow makes the snow delightful again.

So, for this snow storm, I give you the recipe for homemade ravioli.

Ravioli is a great, great dish. Want to know why? Because once you know the basics of how to make ravioli, you can stuff those guys with any little thing you want.

This time around I made a wild mushroom ravioli; however, if mushrooms aren’t your thing, you can use spinach, ground beef or sausage, just cheese, or any combo of vegetables.

Or, in the words of the imprisoned T.I (did you happen to see the story where he got in trouble for getting a little “frisky” with his wife while she was visiting him jail? yikes!), “you can have whatever you like”.

Keep in mind, this recipe is not a quick fix, make-it-in-5-minutes-after-work type of meal. It is designed for a snow day or a lazy Sunday.

Let us begin with the filling. Keep in mind… this is just a suggestion. You could really throw just about anything you like in these buddies. This version is adapted from a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe.

Here is what you’ll need for mushroom ravioli:

Olive Oil

10 oz. Frozen Spinach

Onion, chopped

Garlic, finely diced

Button Mushrooms

Shitake Mushrooms

Crimini Mushrooms

Mascarpone Cheese (1/3 c.)

Parmigiano Reggiano (1/3 c. shredded)

Start by defrosting your spinach in the microwave.

While that is melting away, put about a tablespoon of olive oil into a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Add in your onions- I used one whole white onion, chopped.

Let those soften for 2-3 minutes. We are not looking to brown the onions, so if they start to caramelize just turn down your heat a bit.

Add in your garlic. 2-3 large cloves ought to do ya right.

Now, finely chop (either with a knife or a food processor) your button mushrooms. It should be about a cup of mushroom.

Throw that into your pan.

Then, move on to your shitakes.

I love shitake mushrooms.

The are the shit-ake.

Chop up a cup of those or so.

Toss ’em into your pan.

Now, criminis.

Chop them and drop them.

Stir those around.

Mushrooms are very porous. So, they soak up olive oil quickly. However, they need the oil to cook the way we want them to.

So, once all of the mushrooms are in the pan, look them over. If they are looking parched, add in some more olive oil.

It is likely that you will need another tablespoon of olive oil at this point. Add it in.

Grab your defrosted spinach and wring out the extra water. A lot of people will tell you to use a clean kitchen towel for this task. I prefer to use just my hands. Sure, I lose a spinach leaf or two. But I don’t ruin a kitchen towel.

This is what your mushrooms should look like.

Once they look like that… softened, slightly browned, and cooked… add in your spinach.

Really, you just want to warm your spinach through.

Time to season our filling.

A bit of salt (1/2 teaspoon).

And a touch of pepper (1/4 teaspoon).

Now, in a separate bowl, put in your mascarpone cheese.

Mascarpone is an Italian cheese, and I think it is similar to cream cheese. However, it is not that sweet and it is a lighter texture.

Most regular grocery stores carry mascarpone cheese in their cheese section (mine is near the feta and goat cheese). I did have to ask the worker where the heck the mascarpone was.

If you can’t find mascarpone, you could use Ricotta cheese.

Now, add in your shredded parm.

Add in your mushroom and spinach mixture, and give it all a stir.

Your filling is done.

Now, we shall  begin our pasta dough.

There is nothing on the planet like homemade pasta dough.

If you haven’t made it, there is no time like the present to try. Right?

Start with flour- about 3 1/2 cups. Put it in a pile on your counter.

And then make a well in the center.

Crack 4 eggs into the center of the well.

Add just the slightest drizzle (1/2 t.) of olive oil.

And then, because I was feeling crazy, I decided to make this into red wine pasta dough. If you wanted just a regular dough, simply leave out the wine.

If you like just the slightest little hint of wine in your pasta dough, add in 2 T of red wine.

Now, carefully whisk your eggs and wine together.

Gradually encourage some of that flour surrounding your eggs to join the whisk party.

It took me a few times making pasta dough before I could effectively incorporate the flour without breaking through my flour wall. If that happens to you, no worries!!

Just quickly use your hands to knead the whole thing together.

Ideally, you’ll be able to continue incorporating the flour slowly so that you can see a dough begin to form.

Once the mixture is to a thicker consistency, get your clean hands in there.

Pull in just enough flour to make a soft dough.

The amount of flour needed is pretty obvious as you work with the dough.

Don’t try to force in the entire amount of dough left on your counter. You will not use it all.

Knead the dough until you have a dough slightly thicker than a pizza crust dough. It should be soft and workable. Knead the dough another 5-6 minutes. After that time it should be somewhat elastic in consistency and a little sticky.

Wrap it in plastic wrap, set it aside, and let that poor dough rest for about 30 minutes. It just had a pretty solid workout!

I am the lucky and proud owner of the Kitchen Aid mixer pasta dough roller attachment. It makes the next step very easy for me.

There are also hand cranks that can help you flatten out your pasta.

If you don’t have either of those (which I imagine most people don’t), get out your handy dandy rolling pin.

Roll the dough.

Until it is pretty gosh darn thin.

Then lay it out on your clean counter to make your ravioli!

Plop a tablespoon of your filling on your dough spaced about an inch apart.

Now, take either some water or a whisked egg and run it around the edge of each of the stuffing piles.

This will act as your glue.

Take a second sheet of pasta (slightly larger than your first), and lay it gently on top of your piles of filling.

Press the top sheet gently to make a ravioli.

I use kitchen scissors to cut the ravioli out into the circle shape.

This is what they look like.

OK, Step Three.

Are you still with me?

I told you this was a snow day recipe!

We are going to make an easy peasy red sauce to top your ravioli.

Of course, if you are looking for a short cut, you could use a pre-jarred can of pasta sauce.

But truly, this is so easy!

Here is what you’ll need:

Olive Oil

1/2 Onion, chopped

2-3 Garlic Cloves

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk of celery, peeled and chopped

28 oz. of tomatoes (I like a 14 oz can of crushed and a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes for more texture in the sauce)

Salt and Pepper

Bay Leaf

1 T. butter

Put a T. of oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.

Add in your onion and garlic.

And then your carrot and celery.

Let that cook for 3-4 minutes to let all of the vegetables soften.

Oh, hey there wine.

Want to join the party?

OK!

I just added a splash (1/4 c).

Let that cook 1-2 minutes.

Add in your maters.

Put in 1 1/2 t. of salt, 1/2 t. pepper, and a bay leaf or two.

Stir it up, and then because it is a cold snow day, plop in some butter.

Mmmmmm.

Let that simmer for 10ish minutes.

Aaaaaaaaand, sauce is done.

Get some water boiling.

Once it boils, add in a teaspoon or salt.

Carefully drop in your raviolis.

Once they rise to the top of the water, they are done. It takes only 3 minutes or so!

I added a little olive oil to the water while those buddies were cooking. It helps the pasta not stick together once it is drained.

Grab your strainer!

Get all of the extra liquid off of those ravioli.

Pile them on a plate and top it with your sauce.

Grate some parm on top and serve with something green.

As I said at the beginning, this isn’t is 10 minute simple meal but it is so good.

You haven’t lived until you have had homemade pasta or ravioli. The difference is unbelievable.

I hope you are surviving the snow and ice if you are in one of the cities getting slammed.

Happy Cold and Snow!

XO,

Leah

It seems impossible that my ears are burning from the cold air whipping around as I walked our ding-dongs tonight.

Just a week ago, I was soaking up the sun and drinking mai-tais in Hawaii.

I’ve mentioned that while we were there, we had some incredible meals.

And none of them rocked my world more than my Uncle Steve’s red snapper.

Yowza.

I learned that this fish dish of his was what he made for my Aunt Lynda on their very first date. No wonder she came back for date #2!

Since leaving Hawaii, I have been dreaming about that dish. So, I decided to make it tonight to momentarily transport us back to the warm ocean breeze (you know, away from the cold fall blustery gusts of Ohio).

Now, I faced a couple of problems right off the bat.

1. I live in Ohio.

2. You cannot get the Hawaiian Red Snapper  (one of the only Red Snapper varieties to not be overfished and on the “do not eat” list) in Ohio.

3. If you could get the whole darn thing, Brad and I could not eat an entire fish.

4. Who would eat the eyeballs and brain without Steve here?

So, I set out to make a more mainland friendly version. All of the ingredients I used are easily found in Ohio, and I have both a chicken and a seafood version. So, if fish isn’t for you… stick around for the chicken.

Hang tight.

And hang loose.

I’ll walk ya through Uncle Steve’s recipe, and at the end I’ll give you our mainland version.

Dear Fish,

Thank you for giving your life for us. It meant a lot. Truly.

You were delicious.

XO,

Leah

Those are fish guts.

Know who likes fish guts?

This little guy.

So, this big guy shared the guts with the little guy.

Steve took the whole gutless fish and placed it on a Ti leaf, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and then wrapped another Ti leaf around it. He wrapped the whole bundle in foil, and he put it on the grill.

It both grilled AND steamed it.

Magical.

Here he is all cooked up.

Squeeze a little lemon on our buddy, Mr. Fish.

And a bit of soy sauce.

Now.

Oh now.

Now is the part that changed me.

On this plate is chopped garlic, ginger, and macadamia nuts.

Yes, please.

In this pan is oil. When it gets to the perfect temperature, the oil will bubble a bit around the chopsticks.

When it bubbles, toss in your plate of wonder.

Well, don’t toss.

That’s hot oil you are dealing with. And it could splatter. And that would hurt.

As soon as it hits the oil, oh Sweet Mary Patricia.

It is the smell of the islands.

When it gets a little golden, you are golden.

And you should pull it off of the heat.

Take that whole sizzling pan and pour it over Mr. Fish.
It crackles and adds those flavors to the entire dish.

Sprinkle it generously with chinese parsley (aka cilantro) and green onion.

Did I mention that Mr. Fish had to lose his tail?

Know why?

Because the house we rented had a small grill, and poor Mr. Fish couldn’t quite fit.

Look at that spread!

Pretty fantabulous.

In Hawaii, we had this with pad thai, white rice, seared ahi tuna, and a delicious green salad.

The after dinner show was pretty entertaining too.

Uncle Steve partook in the fish eyeball.

I cannot overstate how nasty this eyeball looked. The lens of the eyeball looked like a small white eyeball.

Sick.

But Steve is an island boy, through and through.

So, he slurped up the ball of eye.

Now, this is my cousin.

He is my uncle’s mini-me.

And he wanted the other eyeball.

At the very least, he wanted to be like his dad.

By the looks of his face, I’m not so sure he actually wanted the eyeball.

And believe me, he was even more unsure he wanted the eyeball once it was in his mouth.

Ha.

Did I mention that I’m from a family of good eaters?

Now, trust me when I say that even if you are not a seafood person you have to try a version of this dish.

It is so delicious, and on a cool fall day it will take you away to the islands.

I roasted some chicken tenders that were coated with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

350 for about 15-20 min (depends on the thickness).

I also wanted to try this dish with tilapia- a pretty easy-to-find fish in Ohio.

I used the frozen version from Kroger.

Get out a piece of parchment paper, and give it a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Place your defrosted fish down and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Cover with another sheet of parchment paper.

We’re making a little pocket to steam the fish in while its in the oven.

This method keeps the fish super moist.

Have I ever mentioned that I rather loathe the word  moist?

Start at one corner and fold it like this:

Move over a couple of inches, and fold it again:

Keep going and folding!

Until it looks like this.

It doesn’t have to be perfectly sealed, but you want a pretty good pocket for some solid steam action.

Put it on a piece of foil or on a pan so that if juices start to flow, they don’t flow directly to the bottom of your oven.

Pop that into the oven with the chicken for the last 10 minutes of the chicken cooking.

Again, this will vary based on the filet’s thickness.

If you have paper thin tilapia filets, you could need as little as 5-6 minutes.

Take a peek, and if they are white all the way through- they are done!

Now, I fried up the garlic, ginger, and macadamia nut mixture.

I’m going to insist on mac nuts. Normally, I would say to be flexible and use what you have.

But the mac nuts take it over the top.

They really do!

Put your meat on a pan, and drizzle the most flavorful goodness over it.

Please note, I forgot to add a squeeze of lemon juice and about 1/4 cup of soy sauce.

You should not forget this step.

But rest assured, if you do, it will still be deeeee-lish!

Top with cilantro and green onion, and pop it on a plate!

I served it up with a roasted butternut squash casserole with blue cheese in it (recipe is coming soon). So stinking good.

I’m convinced that the garlic/ginger/mac nut along with the cilantro/green onion topping would be delicious on just about anything.

I’m thinking that I might need to try it on shrimp and scallops next.

Yes, I think so.

Know what would be perfect with this?

A pina colada.

Or a mai tai.

Or a glass of crisp white wine.

Have a great weekend!

If you are feeling inspired, transport yourself to the islands with this dish.

XO,

Leah

Early Sunday morning we arrived home from the best and most magical vacation of my life.

We spent a glorious ten days in Hawaii, and we covered three islands.

We started on Oahu in Honolulu seeing Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach.

We then went to the Big Island where we stayed for six nights. I think we saw approximately 3,200 sights.

We ended at a resort in Kauai, the Garden Island for our final three nights.

I don’t really even know where to start. We got to spend time with my family there, and that was hands down the highlight of the trip.

My Aunt Lynda- she and my mama are almost exactly one year apart in age. She has been in Hawaii for 30+ years.

Aunt Cindy. She is also my mama’s sister, and she lives in a beach house near the active volcano flow. The hostest with the mostest.

And this is my Aunt Adele. She is the baby of my mama’s family. She drove us all over the island… she may have caused us to white-knuckle it from time to time.

Aren’t they the prettiest?

Let me tell ya something. They are fun too.

So much fun.

This is my cousin Pono. He is nearly 14, and he is about as charming as they come. His mama is Lynda, and his dad is my Uncle Steve.

And this is Uncle Steve.

He’s holding perhaps the best dinner I’ve ever had.

Here are all of the Hawaii ladies (including my most gorgeous and delightful cousin Liula) and me.

And here is the whole clan minus my cousin Liula.

My Aunt Del is sitting next to her main man, Tim.

On top of spending extended time with my most amazing family,we ate delectable local food, our accommodations were deliciously deluxe, and the sightseeing and daily excursions put both Brad and I on sensory overload.

We took over 800 pictures if that says anything.

And now, I’ll share all 800 with you. So, sit tight and enjoy the show.

I kid. I kid.

I know how painful sitting through other people’s vacation pictures can be, so I promise to only give the highest of the highlights.

The food.

Oh, the food.

We started our trip with poke (POH-Kay). And my life will never be the same.

Poke literally translates to chopped chunks of fish.

The way that we ate it was in the ahi tuna form. Oh my.

We could order the most gigantic plate of sushi grade ahi tuna served up poke style for $5.

We ate at fabulous local restaurants.

This is Paulo’s in Pahoa on Big Island.

But the best meals came from Uncle Steve’s kitchen.

I took copious notes and tons of pictures, and I cannot wait to share some of his recipes!

We also watched Uncle Steve savor the fish eyeball.

To quote the fine movie Clueless, “Gag me with a spoon.”

And Steve’s mini-me (my cousin Pono) having the same sentiments as me- although he gave the eyeball eating the old college try.

Then, there were the sights.

I plan on sharing my very favortist (yes, I know- not a word) sights with you in more detail, but here are the visual highlights.

Pearl Harbor. I was here once twelve years ago, but it was important to visit again. Last time I was there 9/11 had not yet occurred. After this trip, I could not get over the similarities between Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001.

Sunrise on our private cliff on Big Island.

A hike down to the ocean.

Akaka Falls.

Black sand beach.

I visited The Hobbit.

Or maybe it was Harry Potter.

Either way, this tree made me feel teeny tiny.

Brad went on a search for the smoke monster.

Rainbow falls.

A drive to the sea.

This is the exact spot where my world class surfer uncle taught Brad and I to surf.

We’re pretty  much pros.

Probably going to quit our jobs and join the circuit.

Snorkeling in Champagne Pond.

Snorkeling in the pond outside Steve and Lynda’s friends home.

Waipio Valley.

In Waipio.

On top of the clouds on Mauna Kea.

It was COLD up there!

Um… Hawaii wine tasting.

Am I kidding?

I am not.

Macadamia Nut Honey Wine… seriously, we shipped a bottle of this home. I cannot wait to eat it with blue cheese smeared on some salty crackers.

Can you believe it?

I met the karate kid.

On a tour of Uncle Steve’s game-changing charter school.

Please note my surfing bruise on my shoulder. That thing got big and black and blue.

And I felt tough.

Lighthouse on Kauai.

This is “Puff’s Tail” on Kauai. It is right outside the town of Hanalei, HI.

You know…

“Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee”

My favorite view of the trip:

My man… relaxing and completely unplugged. Our time together- talking, laughing, exploring, and experiencing- was what made this trip what it was. Beautiful and amazing.

I can’t wait to share with you some more of the details of our trip.

For now, I’m feeling the jet lag so I’m signing off.

I have missed you my blog friends.

Happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

Last weekend, the main man and I indulged.

Big time.

Permit me to explain.

In March of this year, Brad and I traveled to NYC for our friend’s wedding. My man married our dear friends.

Did you know that the main man can marry and bury people?

In fact, he is marrying my brother and my future sister-in-law this weekend.

But that is a different story for a different day.

Well, our newlywed friends sent us a very generous thank you that funded a fancy pants night out at the best restaurant in our great city.

BOCA.

Be still my heart.

This place gives me a quiver and a palpitation and a bit of sweaty palms.

It is so good.

So, Friday we got all fancified and headed out.

Upon arrival, I ordered a dirty.

With blue cheese stuffed olives.

Oh, Boca.

You, my friend, are starting off of the right foot.

At Boca, you choose either 2 courses or 3 courses plus dessert for a prix fixe price.

I love meals like this.

It encourages appetizers and pasta dishes where an a la carte menu might convince you to stay away.

When it is all bundled together, it is like a super special adult happy meal.

But first, the bread.

That darn grilled bread.

Smoky, garlicky, and a little salty.

Holy moly.

I could have stuffed myself on that alone, but I was committed to pacing myself.

I’m disciplined like that.

From our seat, we could see the excitement that was happening in the kitchen.

I love an open kitchen.

Our first course came.

My husband has had the opportunity to interview Chef David Falk (Boca’s founder and head chef), and David said that Boca was the house that the brussel sprout built.

I know, I know.

Brussel sprouts. Yuck.

But not these.

They are caramelized and served with a day boat scallop with brown butter truffle vinaigrette.

They taste like a savory candy, and they remind me that I am a seriously amateur cook.

Brad started with the grilled bread topped with Goat Cheese and Onion Argo Dolce.

I don’t even know what that means.

I assume it means drool-on-your-chin-delicious.

‘Cause that it is what it was.

Sorry about the blurry pic. I was trying to be a little inconspicuous with my iPhone photos!

Next, came Brad’s pasta dish.

Spicy linguini.

Again.

The drool.

Oh hey there wine.

Nice to see ya.

You are delicious too.

Now, I only ordered two courses while Brad ordered three.

I wanted to make sure I had room to eat every delectable bite of food that I did order.

But because Boca is fabulous, they brought me a complimentary pasta dish so Brad didn’t have to eat alone.

I had one perfect sweet corn ravioli with brown butter and black summer truffle.

Have you ever had a meal that included truffle?

I have, and I’m hooked.

I must order any item that includes them.

And I may or may not have bought a small $12 bottle of white truffle oil at the grocery.

OH. MY. DOG.

Truffles are seriously worth the hype.

Earthy. Savory. Aromatic. Perfect Perfectness.

Whew.

Time for the main course.

I went for the filet.

With swiss chard, rosemary potatoes, king crab (like a big ole’ hunk of the good stuff), bearnaise and bourdelaise sauce.

There is a quite famous steak restaurant here in Cincinnati that is also higher-end and delicious.

This Boca filet blew the other steak out of the water.

Brad had the seared chicken with sausage, artichoke, and vermouth risotto.

If I could make chicken like this, I would eat it three meals a day.

And for dessert.

Dessert was sorbet for Brad:

And a trio of cheesecake, chocolate cake, and creme brulee for me:

I could have died happy after that meal.

Here are my conclusions after dining at Boca.

One, I wish I had the money to eat here everynight.

I don’t.

Two, I wish I had the money to eat here once a month.

I don’t.

Three, I shall start a Boca savings account now.

Four, I love to eat. And I love to cook.

It fills me up.

But man, when it comes to cooking, I really don’t know a whole heck of a lot. I left Boca with such a respect for David Falk, who has trained under master chefs around the world. He has studied, honed, and dare I say perfected his craft.

I love experiencing or seeing someone that is a true master at his or her craft.

It is inspiring.

So, while I know that I’m never going to achieve his types of food (well, at least not without formal training, apprenticeships with chefs around the world, and WAY more hours of practice), I do know that I will continue to work hard at getting better at the things I love.

Work hard.

Love what I work on.

Save pennies for next trip.

It must be sooner rather than later.

Have a great three day weekend.

If you can, take your special someone to somewhere special!

XO,

Leah

… errr, something like that.

Brad asked me to help out and do a quick video for a series going on at the Vineyard.

I reluctantly agreed.

This kind of thing makes me nervous and twitchy.

But, here it is in all of its glory.

My voice sounds weird.

And here is the recipe. I have shared it before!

Lots of love,

Leah

I love fish. Not the looking at them or swimming with them or the keeping of them in an aquarium… rather, the eating of them.

I was well into adulthood before I realized I really loved the creatures of the sea.

For dinner.

The best part about fish is that it is pretty simple to prepare, and it is usually very good for you- WOO!

So one night last week (when Brad and I were on a tight timeline- we had to get to a sand volleyball court by 7 after a full day at work) I ran to the fish market to grab me some tuna.

I frequent this little shop about 3 miles from my house where fish is delivered twice a day. I have consistently had a good experience.

Until, I went to buy this tuna. The two fifteen year old yahoo boys working there have never served a customer prior to me. I’m sure of it.

And I’m certain they have never filleted a fish before. So, please ignore the three (even though I wanted two?) strangely shaped tuna fillets.

The tuna was looking good though. Bright red (no brown- DO NOT BUY if it is at all brown) and smelling like the ocean NOT a stinky fishy smell.

Anyhow, this may just be the easiest recipe I’ve ever posted. Tuna is so, so delicious. And honestly, it is hard to screw up.

For two people, you’ll need two chunks of tuna (ideally- not three hacked up pieces), about 1/4 c. of sesame oil, 1 T. black sesame seeds, 1 T. white sesame seeds.

Now, take a brush and coat the fish with the sesame oil.

Now, sprinkle with the sesame seeds to coat.

Aaaaaannnnnndddddd, thats the preparation. I told you it was stupid easy. Now, lets grill!

I must take a firm stand now.

Quality tuna (yellowfin, ahi, bluefin) should be eaten rare.

I will negotiate with you if that skeebs you out too much- you may cook it to medium rare.

If you find it necessary to cook it beyond that, I really wouldn’t recommend this recipe. It won’t be good.

Promise.

So, for rare- which means seared on the outside, and pink and cool in the center- I do each steak (1 1/2 in. thick) on a hot grill for about 2 minutes max on each side.

For medium rare- which means seared on the outside, and pink and warm in the center- I would do each steak on a hot grill for about 2 1/2- 3 minutes on each side.

Please don’t judge my frozen spinach and half an orange side dish. I told you I was in a hurry.

The tuna made up for it. I only got one not too great picture of what the inside should look like because I was anxious to woof this bad boy down.

Oh, sweet Mary. Yes.

Served with a little wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce.

I’m not sure life can get better.

Nope, I don’t think it does.

Yours in creatures of the sea making your mouth and belly very happy,
Leah

I don’t know why I only discovered fish tacos in the past couple of years.

That feels wrong in so many ways.

Because they are so delicious.

I understand that some people don’t really groove on fish. But, you should try this anyway. And if I can’t talk you into eating creatures from the sea, you could substitute chicken.

But I wouldn’t.

Because the fish is delish. Har. Har. See what I did there?

Here is what you need:

So, I’m just using tilapia from the freezer section in the grocery store. It is cheap, convenient, and perfect for an after-work dinner because they don’t take long to defrost.

However, any flaky white fish will do.

For the main man and I, I used three filets (each about 1/4 in thick).

For the marinade, you’ll need a lime, some cilantro, a jalapeno, extra virgin olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.

Put some of that oil (1/4 c.) in your marinade bowl.

Now, zest your lime. Just the green part. The white part is the opposite of delicious.

Now, lets use the rest of the lime. Juice that bad boy.

Chop your jalapeno. Don’t touch your eyeballs.

Chop up 1/4 c. of cilantro. I love cilantro. So, does the man in my life.

I think that is why our  marriage works. That, and that alone.

Throw the jalapeno and cilantro into the bowl.

Here’s what you should be looking at. It is a little thicker marinade.

Pretty, non?

Now, we shall marinate. If you are using thin fish fillets like a good soldier, cover with the marinade and stick in the fridge for 30 minutes.

The lime will start to cook the fish if you marinate much longer.

If you are a rebel, and you are using chicken, you may marinate the meat longer.

Now is also a good time to get your grill goin’.

While the grill is heating up and the flava is soaking in to the meat, we shall prepare toppings.

I like some pico (I told you I use this stuff ALL the time), an avocado sliced up, sour cream, a squeeze of fresh lime, and a super simple cabbage slaw.

Here’s how I make the slaw.

You only need a bit of slaw. I would say a 1/2 cup for 2 people.

Chop up the cabbage. Put it in a small bowl. Squeeze in half of that lime.

Now a drizzle of the olive oil- a teaspoon.

And a sprinkle of coarse Kosher deliciousness and pepper.

And mix it up. And done.

Now lets grill some corn on the cob AND our fish. The fish, because it is so thin, cooks quickly. Like 2 minutes on each side.

Finish grilling, and lets make a TACO. Yes! Yes! Yes!

I toasted my tortilla just for a second. I like it warmed up a bit. Then I use my fork and flake all of the fish a part.

Then, I pile on the slaw, avocado, sour cream, pico, and a little extra fresh cilantro.

Top it off with a squirt of fresh lime.

Fold ‘er up.

And stick it on your plate with some corn and fruit salad.

Can you see those blackberries in the fruit salad. They are huge!

Want to see?

HUGE, I tell ya. And yummy.

So, the tacos are and forever will be a hit.

Look.

This one really wanted to be a proper dinner guest.

She tried extra hard to get a morsel.

Those etiquette classes are paying off.

And this one too. She doesn’t care that she’s not invited to the table to sit. She’s quite happy catching anything that flies off of the table.

Please make these tacos. Your life will be unfulfilled if you don’t.

It really will.

Lots of love,
Leah

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