Steamed Lime & Cilantro Tilapia w/Dark Soy Sauce

One of my favorite fish dishes is from my Tita Cora. Tita Cora (aka ‘Auntie’ Cora, my husband’s first Aunt) usually makes a steamed fish often for the holidays or just get togethers throughout the year. She uses various kinds of fish, but the flavors of lime, cilantro and ginger are always the same. Tita Cora is an amazing cook, as she should be since she had her own Filipino restaurant for many years.

This recipe is one inspired by my Tita Cora. I had some whole tilapia that have been scaled and gutted ready to use… so preparing similarly as Tita Cora was the first thing that came to mind. I don’t know how often you cook or prepare whole fish as some folks don’t feel comfortable with dishes that stare back at you. But having grown up around dishes that stare back at me, this is pretty normal to me and takes me back to my ethnic cooking roots.

Steamed Lime & Cilantro Tilapia w/Dark Soy Sauce
original Joelen recipe, inspired by Tita Cora

1/2 cube shrimp broth cube
1 thumb fresh ginger, sliced
2-3 cups water
1-2 small whole tilapia fish, gutted & scaled
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 lime, sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil

– In a large bottom dutch oven or wok, add water, shrimp broth cube and sliced ginger.
– Place bamboo steamer on top of wok or metal collapsable steamer in your dutch oven.
– Season tilapia with salt & pepper on both sides. Place in steamer.
– Top tilapia with fresh cilantro.
– Place lime slices over the cilantro.
– Cover and let fish steam until done; 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and place on serving platter.
– While fish is on serving platter, in a small sauce pan, heat oil and soy sauce. Let it come to a boil to thicken and set aside.
– Pour mixture over fish and serve hot with rice.

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

With my recent success with yeast, I’m starting to go back to all the yeast using recipes I’ve wanted to attempt. As a friend said, “It was a crime that someone so experienced in cooking wasn’t comfortable with yeast.” These are words that couldn’t be any more true! Done are my days using a prepared pizza dough from Trader Joes. Homemade pizza dough is the only way to go in this house going forward!

With that said, I decided to come close to home by making a Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza from scratch. I used two small round stoneware pans for individual pizzas. Although it came out amazing, I would probably make one large pizza next time. I didn’t like how ‘stubby’ the pizza slices were because the pan was small. However the dough itself was wonderful. My husband even suggested marketing the pizza (silly guy!). But I can’t take all the credit as I used an Emeril recipe. Who knew Mr. Bam could have a good Chicago style recipe?

One thing to note for those that are interested in making a pizza dough from scratch is that not all pizza doughs are the same. Some are better used for thin crust and others for pan or deep dish pizzas. The following recipe is best for pan/deep dish pizzas

Chicago Style Pizza
dough recipe from Emeril/Food Network

Pizza Dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 2 teaspoons to grease bowl
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the semolina, 1/2 cup of the oil, and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes. Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil.

Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Divide into 2 equal portions and use as directed.

Pizza Sauce:
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chiffonade fresh basil
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves minced garlic

– While the dough is rising, make the tomato sauce.
– Drizzle olive oil in a hot sauce pan over medium high heat.
– Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
– Add whole can of tomatoes (undrained), tomato paste, fresh herbs and salt/pepper.
– Stir and heat through. Set aside until ready to use.

Pizza Toppings:
1 lb pork sausage
1-2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 cup sliced white buttom mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced bell pepper strips (frozen is available at Trader Joes)
1/2 cup shredded colby jack cheese, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

– In a medium bowl, combine sausage, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, ground pepper and fennel seeds. Mix thoroughly to fully season sausage.
– Divide the sausage mixture in half and shape each half into a large flatten disk of sausage. Set aside.

Assembling Chicago Style Pizza:

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Oil 2 seasoned 12-inch round deep-dish pizza pans with the extra-virgin olive oil. Press 1 piece of dough into each pan, pressing to the edge and stretching about 1 1/2 inches up the sides. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Layer the mozzarella & colby jack cheese all over the bottom of the pies. Top each with half of the mushrooms and bell pepper strips.

Top the pizza with the dish of sausage.

Ladle the sauce evenly over each pizza and top with remaining mozzarella if you’d like.

Bake until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice and serve hot.

Chicken & Mango Salsa Tortilla Stack

Not sure how the weather is in your corner of the world but today is horrible here in Chicago. I’m so thankful I did all my grocery shopping and errands yesterday before the big ‘blizzard’ hit!

To make some room in my freezer, I roasted a large chicken last night which I coated with a cinnamon chipotle rub and stuffed with 2 chopped limes. Delicious! We enjoyed some of the chicken for dinner yesterday with leftover Arroz con Gandules. I actually roast meats quite a bit for a few reasons…

  1. Often times, large cuts of meat (pork, beef, chicken) cost less per pound than others.
  2. Roasting a large cut of meat allows me to be creative and make other dishes using leftovers… stretching the cost a bit more!

So with leftovers of this Cinnamon Chipotle Lime Chicken on hand, I took a peek in my fridge to see what I could come up with. The Pièce de résistance? … Chicken & Mango Salsa Tortilla Stack! It’s a common dish layering tortillas, salsa, cheese and meat which is then baked. Very similar to a lasagna only kept stacked.

Chicken & Mango Salsa Tortilla Stack
original Joelen recipe

1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
1-2 cups Mango Salsa (or whatever salsa you have on hand)
1 cooked roast chicken breast (or use rotisserie chicken)
5-6 corn tortillas (6 inch size)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a round baking dish, spread about 1-2 tablespoons of salsa.
Place one tortilla over the salsa coated dish.
Top with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
Top with another tortilla.
Top tortilla with slices of chicken until covered.
Spread a few tablespoons of salsa over chicken.
Top with another tortilla.
Continue layering and stacking in whatever way you’d like until all ingredients are used.
The top layer should end with a tortilla and enough salsa to cover the top.
Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes.
Serve with sour cream, a sprinkling of shredded cheese and a dollop of guacamole.


Floribbean Holiday Party!

This year we wanted to celebrate the holidays with friends in a special way. To take our mind off the cold Chicago winter, we provided a bit of the tropics with our Floribbean menu. We chose this cuisine in honor of Florida… where we would have moved this past late November/early December. We decided to stay in Chicago after reviewing our work situations so here we are. We’re not sure if we will move in the future, but for the time being, Chicago is home.

We couldn’t have asked for a better holiday party with friends and good food. Here’s what I prepared with links to the recipes! (and a special thanks to my husband for helping out around the house to prepare while I was busy in the kitchen…)

black bean corn salad
spinach orange cranberry salad
carribbean jerk chicken salad

Side Dishes
Congri (spanish rice, black beans & chorizo)
Arroz con Gandules (pigeon peas & rice)
Maduros (sweet plantains)
Tostones (green plantains)
Yuca w/Mojo

Main Dishes
Mojo Chicken
Guava BBQ Ribs
Jamaican Roast Pork
Citrus Flounder
Cuban Paninis

Key Lime Pie Bars
Tres Leches Trifle
Creamy Tropical Fruit Salad

DIY Caribbean drink bar
assorted wines
Caribbean punch

For holiday fun, we had our White Elephant Holiday Gift Exchange! Friends brought in a cooking/baking related gift… but it had to be something they already had. We all drew numbers and picked out a gift, with the option to swap a gift that was already opened. It was a lot of fun and some great gifts were received! Here are some of the great smiles of the night…