Fish Tacos

Fish tacos. Simple, fresh, delicious fish tacos. I know. It still should be time for soup. It’s some amount of negative degrees outside with extra wind for maximum numbness. I wasn’t supposed to drive to work today, per the meteorologist. I shouldn’t even go outside. Everyone in the education system is laughing at home right now, delighting in the unforeseen frozen temperatures and breaking into another Christmas present, cuddling up with something warm. But, but I want it to be warmer. I want to experience summer time, if only on my palate. I want something fresh and vibrant to lighten up the most gray of all views I’ve ever seen from my window (apartment, car, or otherwise). So I chose fish tacos. The epitome of beach lunches plated on my heavy ceramic serving-ware in my not-quite-heated-enough apartment with wind blistering my window frames. It’s dichotomous. But it’s simple, fresh, delicious… and, darn it, I just want avocados right now.

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Fish Tacos

Serves 4

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. wild Alaskan cod, marinated

Fish marinade:

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. chili sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika (or chili powder)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

8 small corn or flour tortillas

2 avocados, sliced

1/4 white or red onion, diced

2 roma tomatoes, diced

Green leaf lettuce, chopped finely (or cabbage)

Spicy aioli:

  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. chili sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

The night before serving, prepare fish marinade by combining ingredients above in a lidded jar or bowl, shaking or whisking vigorously to mix. Rinse and pat dry the fish filets, place in a dish with an available lid (I used a pyrex baking pan), and pour the marinade over the cod. Spread the marinade evenly over the filets on both sides, cover with the lid, and refrigerate overnight.

The day of cooking, heat a frying pan over medium heat with EVOO. Saute marinated fish for 5 minutes, flip, then saute for 5 minutes longer, until opaque and flaky. Set aside to rest, then break into bite-sized chunks.

While fish is sautéing, prepare the toppings: slice tomatoes, dice onions, slice avocados, chop lettuce, and prepare the spicy aioli by mixing the aioli ingredients in a small bowl and whisking together until smooth. Heat the tortillas in a frying pan over medium heat for approximately 30 seconds per side, or microwave them between damp towels for about 30 seconds.

Once the fish is rested, prepare your tacos. I prefer to spoon about a 1/2 tbsp. of aioli onto the softened tortilla, then place 3-4 pieces of cod on top. Follow up with a massive pile of toppings, choosing more or less of your favorites for your taco (I always go a little heavy on the avocado). A little Chihuahua cheese would certainly not be remiss here; however, I didn’t have any, and was certainly not braving the sub-zero (really) climates to purchase some. A margarita, though… that may have been a good idea. Surf’s up, Brian; dig in.

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Cream of Celery Soup

It’s 2014! And Chicago has welcomed us with a blustering blizzard that has trapped my car in a blanket of snow, myself inside my apartment, and my dogs under at least 2 blankets at a time. My typical city-wide view is now a dense gray fog of clouds and snow, and within seconds of stepping outdoors I’m blown backwards inside by the howling wind and sharp snowflakes. Who knew snowflakes can be sharp? They can somehow. And nothing is more ironic than receiving a parking ticket from the loving Chicago PD for parking on a street where they tow if there are more than two inches of snow… when you can’t move your car because there are more than two inches of snow. Chicago rant aside, I think it’s time for soup again. Soup with vegetables! Because we’re healthy now, right? Sure, “cream of” usually means heavy and indulgent, but, in this case, we’re speaking more to the creamy, sumptuous nature of the soup, as there is actually no cream in it at all. But a lot of celery! And in this quick, delicious, and nutritious vegetarian soup, the celery gets way better use than ants on a log.

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Cream of Celery Soup

Serves 4

2 tbsp. butter

1 yellow onion, diced

2 bunches celery, diced (celery leaves included!)

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried rosemary

3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups milk, anything but skim

Salt & pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large sauce pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add diced onion and saute until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add diced celery to the pot and saute until softened and tender, about 10-15 minutes longer. (If you prefer your soup to be ultra creamy, consider blanching the celery first in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, until very soft, and then saute with the onions for an additional 5-10 minutes. I don’t mind some celery flecks in the final product, so I skipped this step). Once the vegetables are cooked to your liking, mix in herbs and seasoning and saute for a minute. Sprinkle flour over the vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly, allowing the flour to “melt” into the mixture. Continue to mix and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the vegetable stock and milk, preferably whisked together beforehand.

Stir the soup regularly over medium heat, until the soup begins to thicken and lightly boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer slowly for 10-15 minutes, until the soup is your preferred consistency. (If you find the soup too thin, add another tablespoon or two of flour shaken into 1/3 cup milk. If too thick, just add more liquid- stock or milk or otherwise).

Once the soup is thickened, use an immersion blender to create a smooth consistency. Serve hot, with crackers of course. This soup may not feel substantial enough for dinner, but it is wonderful served with a grilled cheese sandwich. Or a salad, of course; it is the new year.

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Classic food-in-the-window-with-Chicago-skyline shot.

Winter Vegetable Soup

On a snowed in Saturday, soup is a requirement. I insist that you watch fat snowflakes fall out of your window as you crumble in an inordinate number of crackers. Keep the crackers crunchy, though, by adding only a few at a time. This is a good way to fit in your vegetables, Brian; a (vegan, actually) soup for lunch, dinner, or snack if you’re feeling especially dangerous. Now go practice your knife skills, spacial recognition of shapes, and stirring skills. Because with those powers combined, you’ll be satiated in mere minutes (more like 25)!

Winter Vegetable Soup

Winter Vegetable Soup

Serves 2 for a meal, 4 for people practicing

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium sweet potato, diced into 1 in. cubes

2 medium carrots, diced into 1 in. cubes

4 small parsnips, diced into 1 in. cubes

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

3 cups vegetable broth

1-2 tbsp. milk, cream, or milk alternative (optional)

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Saute yellow onion until translucent and slightly browning, approximately 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds. Add diced vegetables, stir, and heat for 1-2 minutes. Add dried herbs and spices and mix well. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are (all) fork tender.

Once the soup has cooked, it can be served chunky or blended. Use an immersion blender, food processor, or blender until soup reaches a smooth consistency. After blending, a tbsp. or two of milk, cream, or milk alternative may be stirred into the soup for a bit more creaminess. Serve in bowls, with crackers on the side.

Watch the snow fall and start to feel all warm and cuddly inside. A dog may sit next to you for maximum enjoyment.