March Gladness

March 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

   The Minneapolis-Saint Paul area enjoyed a stretch of truly glorious weather this past week: days sparkling with sunlight under cliché-blue skies, with temperatures climbing into the 40s and even bumping up against 50 – conditions that make for great walks and great moods.  As we rounded the last corner on our pre-breakfast canine constitutional one morning, a neighbor commented cheerily that my little Muñeca was “the cutest dog in the neighborhood.”  I’m pretty sure she pranced a little prouder all the way home.

A lighthearted mood of course leads my obsessive brain to thoughts about what to serve my dinner guests, and nudges me to come up with something a bit adventurous to serve alongside the more traditional menu items.  With the echo of radio ads touting Lenten fish specials bouncing off the walls of my cranium, I settle on Sole Poached in White Wine Sauce, with Lemon Rice Pilaf, Oven-Dried Tomato Slices with Fresh Basil, Watercress and Green bean Salad, and Pear/Mango/Cranberry Bake.

 The rice, adapted from the Reader’s Digest Live Longer Cookbook, takes around 45 minutes:

2 tsp butter              1/2 C finely chopped onion             2 C long grain brown rice             4 C chicken broth

3 TB lemon juice    1 bay leaf                                                  1 tsp salt                                              1/4 tsp white pepper

In a large, heavy saucepan melt butter over medium heat; toss in chopped yellow onion and sauté, stirring, for five minutes or so – until golden. Add rice and stir to coat – about one minute. Add chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 40 minutes. Discard bay leaf and garnish with snipped fresh chives, if desired.

The fish dish is a lightened version of a televised Graham Kerr recipe from the indulgent late-sixties:

4 sole fillets                                             1 C fish (or vegetable) broth                                              1 C white wine

1/2 C cored, peeled apple                 1/2 C chopped celery                                                           1/2 C apple brandy

16 large shrimp                                      1/4 C fat free half and half                                                   fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the fillets, broth, wine (or vermouth), apple, and celery in a large skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and cook for one-two minutes. Remove fish and keep warm in oven. Peel and devein shrimp and add with brandy to simmering sauce; cook until shrimp turns pink. Whisk in half and half, heat through, and ladle sauce over warm fish.

The tomatoes are Rachel Ray-inspired, simple, and can be done alongside the fish and fruit:

4 large tomatoes                                  1 tsp olive oil                                                fresh basil or basil flakes to taste

Slice tomatoes to 1/2 ” thickness and lay on a baking sheet sprayed with canola or olive oil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.

And the salad is based on a Martha Stewart video clip, simplified a bit for those of us without the luxury of household staff:

1/2 tsp salt                                              16 oz fresh green beans                           2 TB chopped shallot

1 TB lemon juice                                   1 TB olive oil                                                 1 English cucumber

1 large bunch watercress                  fresh or dried mint leaves

Parboil beans in salted water 4-5 minutes, then rinse them in very cold running water; drain well. Whisk together the shallot, lemon juice, and oil; add salt and pepper to taste. Wash, trim, and drain watercress. Slice cucumber very thin and toss beans, dressing, cucumber, and watercress together. Sprinkle with mint to taste.

And lastly, a purely original idea for baked fruit to add color and a touch of sweetness (not to mention a nutrition boost and fodder for scintillating dinner table conversation: at only 107 calories per 1 cup serving the mango, originating in Southeast Asia over 4,000 years ago and boasting an amazing nutrition package, offers fiber and pectin; beta carotene, alpha carotene, vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B6; and stomach soothing enzymes which act as a digestive aid):

4 large pears, washed & cubed                         2 large mangos, peeled and cubed                                       1/2 cup fresh or fresh-frozen cranberries                                                 1 TB butter                                                                                     1 TB maple syrup                                                                           1/2 tsp coriander

Spread fruit evenly over a foil-lined cookie sheet. Combine maple syrup and butter, heat in microwave until butter melts, then drizzle evenly over fruit and toss to coat. Sprinkle with coriander and bake at 350° for 25 minutes, or until mago is slightly browned around its edges.

The Food Network web site has a lovely recipe for Yucca Buns that would work well here, too, if you have the time to add them to the menu. (Did you know that tapioca comes from the Yucca root – which also had some great nutritional benefits?)

Now, when those gray skies come rolling back over us, as they invariably do during March in Minnesota, I will remind myself of this day and this meal, and climb right back into a sunny mood.

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Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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