Tag Archives: yogurt

Mission “Learn to like Tilapia” – Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

For some time now I have been wrinkling my nose at tilapia. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sustainability factor of conscientiously farmed raised fish; I do! It’s the taste and the texture of most tilapia that turns me off. In my experience tilapia often has an unpleasant earthy (or muddy) taste and the texture can be mushy even when it’s perfectly fresh and flawlessly prepared. I don’t mean to be a food snob, really I don’t! But compared to all the fresh Atlantic seafood I have the opportunity to catch (well sometimes), or purchase here in South Florida, tilapia just seemed second rate.

Last night however, I decided to give tilapia another chance. Why? Because tilapia has taken over the market in leaps and bounds becoming one the most popular seafood products in the U.S. today. Everywhere I look, from restaurant menus, to grocery stores tilapia has become a recognized value and a very popular request. Hey, what was the old adage…If you can’t beat them, join them? So I picked up a package of fresh tilapia fillets and set out to prove myself wrong.

According to Cooks Illustrated the muddy taste in tilapia is caused by a naturally occurring compound called geosmin which is Greek for “earth smell”. (Go figure!) They said this compound is abundant in the blue-green algae found in the bottom of the man-made ponds that catfish and tilapia are raised in and that the flavor can be diffused by acids. They went on to recommend soaking in buttermilk for an hour before cooking which of course, I didn’t take the time to do.

My thinking in using this recipe was that the yogurt, garlic, and vinegar in the tzatziki would provide enough acid to overcome any unpleasant taste in the fish and indeed it did…somewhat. While the recipe is a keeper that I will definitely use again, I might opt for pre-soaking the tilapia in buttermilk next time (if I don’t use snapper, grouper, or mahi-mahi instead).

Hang on now…don’t fret! I haven’t given up on tilapia yet. After all, I still have 3 big fillets left from that package last night. I think I might try it with an acidic marinade, a Cuban mojo perhaps or some other citrus blend. I’ll keep you posted as mission “Learn to like Tilapia” continues!

Tzatziki Crusted Tilapia

2 to 4 – Tilapia fillets (preferably pre-soaked in buttermilk for one hour)
¾ Cup – Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp – Olive Oil
Zest of one whole lemon
½ Tbsp – Large grind, fresh ground black pepper
Kosher Salt
Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe below)

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the fillets dry and place them on a lightly oiled, foil covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the fillets with kosher salt and set them aside while you mix the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and pepper then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Continue stirring and fluffing the crumbs loosely until the oil, lemon, and pepper has been very well distributed, about 5 minutes.

Spread an approximately 1/8 inch thick layer of tzatziki evenly on top of each fish fillet then sprinkle the crumb mixture over the tzatziki to form an evenly thick coat. Bake for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute to crisp and brown the topping. Carefully remove from the oven and plate the cooked fillets.

Serve with additional tzatziki and a lemon wedge on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 Cups – Greek Yogurt, plain non-fat
1 small (or 1/2 large) – Cucumber, seeded and grated  (about 1/2 cup)
1 Clove – Garlic, grated fine
1 Tbsp – Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp – Olive oil
1 good pinch – kosher salt

Grate the cucumber and place it on a paper towel or dish towel, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. In a medium bowl stir together the garlic, vinegar, and olive oil then stir in the yogurt. Finally, gently squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated cucumber and stir into the yogurt mixture until well blended. Taste for seasoning and chill until ready to use.



Using Leftover Turkey – Shepherds Pot Pie

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

In one of my last posts I talked about all the stuff I’d been doing with leftover turkey, then, I posted a recipe for pork. Surprise! I got a few emails asking for the turkey recipes I had mentioned. Since I didn’t have pictures of those I thought I would use a little more of that turkey last night. Even after making this one, would you believe I still have more turkey in the freezer? Wow, I do love making good use of those leftovers!

This is sort of a fusion recipe; a pot pie filling with a shepherd’s pie topping. All of the ingredients are fresh and honestly, with the exception of a couple of recipes my daughters will never let me quit cooking, I doubt I could ever go back to making casseroles with frozen veggies and canned soups! When you take that first bite of good fresh food the wholesomeness is immediately apparent…the richness of the leeks and the mushrooms, the depth of flavor in the homemade broth.

I can’t recommend enough cooking with fresh food. The payoff in enjoyment (not to mention compliments) is almost as nice as the health benefits!

In this recipe I used my own homemade turkey stock, another great way to use leftover turkey (and bones). Chicken broth would work almost as well as would leftover chicken. The idea behind cooking the mushrooms in this way is to get the pan just hot enough so that the juices exude and evaporate very quickly, rather than pooling in the pan. As the liquid evaporates it leaves lots of flavor behind. Then as the mushrooms begin to caramelize, they will be at the peak of their flavor.

Yes, I do use a little butter here; I think it adds richness to the potatoes and a polish to the sauce. I honestly feel there is no harm in using butter as long as it is used in moderation. If you think about it in terms of, two tablespoons of butter in a dish of 10 – 12 servings, it actually works out to very little fat per serving. Just enough in fact that I didn’t miss the whole milk (or cream) that I used to use in mashed potatoes. As the potatoes come together the goal is a fluffy creaminess with still a little stiffness…too much liquid would result in a watery final dish.

Start to finish the dish took a little over an hour to prepare…40 minutes prep work and 30 in the oven. This one is definitely good enough for company as the friend that came to dinner simply couldn’t stop eating it. It was, for sure, a great way to use up a little more of that leftover turkey!

Shepherd’s Pot Pie

For the filling…

2 Cups – Cooked Turkey, cut in roughly ½” cubes
2 Cups – Good stock
2 Cups – Leeks (white part only) quartered lengthwise, rinsed well then sliced
8 oz – Button mushrooms, quartered (approx 2 cups)
1 Cup – Celery, diced large
1 Cup – Carrots, diced large
3 Tbsp – Unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp – Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ tsp – Rubbed sage
½ tsp – Dried marjoram
½ tsp – Dried thyme
2 tbsp – Olive oil
1 tbsp – Unsalted butter
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

For the topping…

5 large – Red potatoes, quartered lenthwise the cut into (approx) 1” chunks
1 Cup – Low fat cultured buttermilk
½ Cup – Fat free plain yogurt
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
One sprinkling – Paprika

Kosher salt

Place the potatoes into a large saucepan or soup pot and add enough water to cover. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling reduce the heat to medium and cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking…

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. When the pan is nice and hot add the olive oil and swirl in the pan to distribute. Add the mushroom and sage and cook stirring frequently until the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms and they are showing signs of browning. Then, add the leeks, carrots, and celery to the pan along with several good grinds of pepper, the marjoram, and the thyme. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often until the celery is tender-crisp.

Stir the Turkey into the pan along with 1 Tbsp of butter and cook, stirring, until the butter has melted. Stir in the flour and cook two minutes more stirring gently to incorporate. Stir in the broth being sure to loosen any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer and thicken, stirring only occasionally, while you prepare the mashed potatoes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

When the potatoes are fork tender carefully pour into a colander or sieve to drain. Allow the potatoes to sit for 5 minutes to allow the steam to dry the potatoes before returning them to the cooking pot. Crush the potatoes slightly then add ¾ of the buttermilk and the yogurt. Mash well with a potato masher (or mixture) until well mashed. Add the butter and the remaining buttermilk and continue mashing until your desired consistency is reached. Taste the potatoes and season with salt if needed.

Stir the turkey mixture once more, stirring in the fresh parsley. Taste the mixture to check the seasonings, add salt & pepper if needed, then pour evenly into a 9 X 13 baking dish. Top the turkey mixture evenly with approx. ½” thickness of the mashed potatoes using the back of a spoon to even out the surface. Sprinkle the top with a little paprika then bake 30 minutes. Rest 10 minutes and serve, garnishing each plate with a little more fresh chopped parsley.



Mmm…Turkey Stroganoff

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 3)

We’ve been eating a lot of plain non-fat yogurt lately and I have been using it more and more in my cooking. I started out utilizing it in place of sour cream on baked or twice baked potatoes, then we started mixing it with a little sugar-free fruit preserves and a touch of agave nectar for a guilt-free dessert. Nowadays I use non-fat yogurt in everything from cornbread and pancakes to French onion dip.

To boost the acidity to more closely resemble sour cream, I nearly always add a little lemon juice to the recipe. When using plain non-fat yogurt in a sauce remember to remove the sauce from the heat before incorporating the yogurt. The reason for this is because with no fat to assist in thickening or emulsifying, plain non-fat yogurt will separate or curdle if you boil it.

You can lessen the chances of your sauce separating by using Greek yogurt which is thicker by nature or by straining your plain non-fat yogurt to thicken it. This is done by draining the yogurt through a fine sieve, cheesecloth, or coffee filter to remove the whey (the watery stuff) and thicken it. This results in a thicker more flavorful “yogurt cheese” that is delicious in dips and cold sauces like Tzatziki. There is a great article here that explains better how to do this.

This Turkey Stroganoff is a “lower” fat recipe that is a good example of using plain non-fat yogurt in a savory recipe. It is also another way to use that good homemade chicken stock I’m always preaching about. Reducing the stock with the turkey, mushrooms, and onions creates a rich sauce with a depth of flavor that would fool even the pickiest of eaters in your house.

Turkey Stroganoff

1 Lb – Ground Turkey
1 Lb – White Mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
1 – Med Onion, chopped
3 Cups – Homemade (or low sodium) Chicken Stock
1 Cups – Plain non-fat yogurt
Juice of ½ Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Dry Rubbed Sage
1 Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 – 16 oz Package Whole Wheat Extra Wide Egg Noodles
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Fresh Parsley, chopped

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a very large (12” or more) sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, stir in the onions, sage, rosemary, and a few good grinds of black pepper. Continue cooking and stirring one more minute, then lower the heat to medium high. If the pan seems dry add one more Tbsp of olive oil then add the ground turkey and continue to cook stirring often and gently breaking up the turkey until the meat is mostly cooked through.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and 2 Tbsp of kosher salt. Place the pot over high heat to come to a boil.

Stir in two cups of chicken stock into the turkey mixture, scraping up any browned bits that may have stuck to the pan, continue to cook stirring only occasionally. Allow the stock to come to a boil and cook stirring from time to time, until most of the stock has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add one more cup of stock and return to a boil cooking about 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

When the pot of water has come to a full boil, stir in the noodles, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook according to the package directions.

When the noodles are done drain them in a colander and while the noodles are draining remove the turkey mixture from the heat. Gently (so as not to break up the mushrooms) stir the yogurt into the mixture to form a sauce. Now gently add the noodles to the same pan, folding the noodles and sauce until well mixed. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve hot.



Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

Oh, but I do love pork! Granted, as we have grown both in age and in wisdom my wife and I eat much less pork than we used to. The old “everything in moderation” certainly holds true here and while I do eat more pork than beef, I also believe it’s all about balance and I try not to overdo it. No really…I do!

Ok, I admit it; I did pick up this lovely package of chops just last week and last night was the second Tuesday in a row that we enjoyed them. It will however be quite some time before we have them again as they are a fattier cut of pork. Even though there is still some debate regarding the health benefits of pork I do try to pick the leaner cuts if I am going to cook it.

So while you will see it here once in a blue moon I hope you can appreciate that we consider pork an exception to our otherwise healthy diet, a special treat if you will. The same holds true for beef. Some may call it rationalization but I firmly believe that eating whole grains, lower fat foods, and fresh vegetables as the major part of my diet gives me a little leeway. It allows me to enjoy myself from time to time and cook something a little less good for me without feeling guilty. And it tastes oh so good!

As a nod to that healthier diet this sauce is my lower fat answer to a Dijon cream sauce. There is no butter and there is no cream. I think the non-fat yogurt adds a nice creaminess to this sauce and in such a small amount that it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. Adding the yogurt at the last minute, off the heat, keeps it from separating or curdling in the sauce. You can use plain non-fat yogurt in many dishes in place of sour cream, milk, or cream just be sure not to let it boil.

This recipe is written as a menu for 4 and it comes together in 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on the size of the potatoes. Although I did not do it this night, I often sprinkle Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs over the kale as a garnish. Try it, you’ll like it!

Menu – Pan Seared Pork Chops with a Dijon “Cream” Sauce, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sautéed Kale with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

For the Sweet Potatoes…

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry 1 Sweet Potato per person. Using a paring knife carefully pierce each potato once, at least halfway through (from the side). Rub potatoes thoroughly with olive oil and bake 1 to 1-1/2 hours until cooked through.

For the Kale…

4 Cups – Fresh Kale, trimmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 – Medium Onion, quartered then sliced thick
2 – Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup – Homemade or low sodium Chicken Stock
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
2 Tbsp. – Olive Oil
Malt Vinegar (Optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and lower the heat to low. Add 4 good grinds from the Herb Grinder (about ¼ Tbsp) and cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking and stirring occasionally until onions begin to brown (about 30 minutes over all).

Add the kale and toss to coat well with the olive oil, raise the heat and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and cover. As soon as the stock comes to a boil lower the heat and stir once more. Cover and cook on low 10 minutes more, stirring now and then. Remove lid, stir and continue cooking uncovered to allow most of excess stock to cook away. Stir in the vinegar (if using) and serve.

For the Pork Chops…

4 – Center Cut Bone-In Pork Chops, about 1/2” thick, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp – Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp – Plain Non-Fat Yogurt
1 Tbsp – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
3 Tbsp – Olive Oil
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

Sprinkle the pork liberally with the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder then with kosher salt and set aside (at room temperature) for 20 minutes.

In a large skillet heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Gently lay the pork chops into the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Cook chops 3 minutes to brown then turn the chops and cook 3 minutes more. Move the chops to a foil or parchment lined sheet and place into the 350 degree oven to finish.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 Tbsp. of flour. Continue stirring until the flour is blended with the remaining oil then return the pan to the heat. Cook, stirring for one minute more then add the chicken stock. Using a whisk, stir the stock until well blended then allow the sauce to come to a boil, stirring occasionally.

When the sauce has thickened somewhat, whisk in the mustard and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce becomes quite thick. Remove the pan from the heat and turn off the burner. Remove the chops from the oven and place on plates or a platter. With the pan still off the heat, whisk in the yogurt until well incorporated then spoon the sauce over the chops.

Serve with the cooked greens and sweet potatoes.



I Love Shrimp and Grits!

I love shrimp and grits and in my travels around the South I have enjoyed more than my fair share of some fine versions of this recipe. Unfortunately shrimp and grits dishes are nearly always loaded with salt and fat. Between the ham or bacon (or ham and bacon), heavy cream, and butter I would not call this dish particularly heart healthy. However if you think about it the main ingredients are not all that bad.

Shrimp – Surprisingly, ounce for ounce, shrimp are packed full of low-fat, low calorie protein, they are a good source of selenium, vitamins D and B12 and they actually provide more good cholesterol than bad! Note: If you are using frozen shrimp always buy shrimp that does not contain sodium triphosphate.

Grits – Grits are a very good source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and iron.

Cheese – Cheese is one of the best sources of calcium in the world and it’s rich in phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin A. This recipe contains cheddar cheese; did you know that aged cheeses like cheddar are actually good for people that are lactose intolerant? This is because aged cheeses contain very low levels of lactose and can be an important source of calcium for people that suffer from lactose intolerance.

My point is, while I don’t want to turn my blog into a “diet” or “nutrition” blog, I believe you can eat smart without having to sacrifice flavor and enjoyment. In this recipe I still use a little fat but every single ingredient brings health benefits to the table, the fat that it does contain is good fat, and your taste buds will still have a little fun!

Shrimp and Grits

Notes: There is no extra salt added to the recipe because the extra sharp cheddar and the blackening seasonings add enough salt for my taste. The Chipotle Tabasco brings a nice smokiness and the granulated garlic just seems to round out the flavor. If you prefer a “clean eating” style meal, feel free to use low fat cheddar cheese. I like to serve these with fresh spinach sautéed with chopped shallots and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

2 ½ Cups – Homemade chicken stock (or low-sodium canned broth)
¾ Cups – Quick cooking grits
¾ Cups – Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp – Plain nonfat yogurt
¼ Tsp – Granulated garlic
½ to 1 Tsp – Chipotle Tabasco sauce, depending on your taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 Lb – Large shrimp (About 20), peeled, deveined, and patted dry
1 Bunch – Green onions, sliced on the bias (at an angle) in half inch slices
1 Clove – Garlc, peeled & minced
3/4 Tsp – Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic
1 Tbsp – Olive oil

Turn one burner on high and another on low. On the first burner bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large sauce pot with a tight fitting lid. Slowly whisk in the grits, chipotle Tabasco sauce, granulated garlic, and ground black pepper. Move the sauce pan to the burner that is set to low, whisk once more and cover. Stir occasionally and cook 7 or 8 minutes until the grits are thickened.

Toss the shrimp with the Blackening Seasonings.

Place a large sauté pan on the first burner (still on high) adding the olive oil as the pan gets hot. Stir in the garlic and keep stirring until you smell the garlic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the shrimp and cook without moving for the first minute. Shake the pan to loosen the shrimp and cook one minute more without moving. Add the green onions and toss (or stir) with the shrimp, remove the pan from the heat and set aside. (The shrimp will continue cooking with the pan off of the heat.)

When the grits have thickened remove the sauce pan from the heat and fold in the yogurt and the cheese. Continue folding until the cheese has thoroughly melted and blended with the grits. Serve 4 to 6 shrimp per serving over a generous mound of grits.