A Menu for New Years Eve

I like to cook.

Almost everything I know about food is literally from watching hours of Food Network, with Alton Brown as my preferred guide. I’m not the best chef I know (that title is reserved for a friend of mine who runs a dessert food truck in Philadelphia) but I like to consider myself somewhat competent in the kitchen. I think it’s lame when a person can’t cook themselves a meal from real, fresh ingredients. It’s not a gender thing, it’s an adult thing.

Following a recipe isn’t something to be intimidated by. If you can put together a piece of Ikea furniture, you can learn to cook a proper meal. If you can’t put together a piece of Ikea furniture…

Guest of honor: Tilapia

Being sick as a dog on New Years Eve is not my preferred way to kick in the new year, but my girlfriend and I made the best of it by deciding to at least enjoy a homecooked meal. As far as the menu goes, it’s usually a combination of spur-of-the-moment inspiration and whatever one of us has left in the fridge. Tilapia is healthy and easy to cook well so that was the protein. I’ve been wanting to try incorporating coconut milk into a meal so I thought to mix it with some quinoa (keen-wah). (Side note: the cheapest and best place to buy quinoa is on Amazon). The guac called to us from the vegetable aisle, and I’m not much of a kale person but she’s a fan. We had our meal.

1c quinoa to 2c liquid. In this case, 1c water, 1c coconut milk. Heat on high, once it boils switch it to low. The quinoa will reduce on its own over 15 minutes and fluff as it absorbs the liquid.

I prefer to bake things over pan frying them because it’s less work/less smell/healthier, especially in large quantities. I don’t remember where I learned the technique but I remembered it was easy to bake fish filets in packets of foil. Add some oil, some herbs, lemon, salt and pepper, and 20 minutes later (at 400 degrees) dinner is ready.

Rinse the fish in water and pat dry with a paper towel.
A big sheet of foil, a coating of olive oil, and a sprinkling of herbs.
I'm pretty liberal with seasoning. Here it's salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, dill and lemon slices.
Center the fish in the foil and bring up the two long ends. Wrap the top of the packet.
After wrapping the top, wrap the ends. Leave enough space within the foil for the fish to steam.
Place on baking dish, just in case your foil breaks.
Repeat as necessary. 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until the fish flakes with a fork.

The best stuff to do when something is cooking is either prepare something else or clean up. As the fish cooked it was time to make some guac. Guac is nice because it’s stupid easy and hard to screw up, barring an un-ripe avocado.

Chop: avocados, onion, tomato, cilantro. Squeeze: lime. Sprinkle: salt and pepper.

Split and de-seed an avocado, spoon out into a bowl. Cut tomato into small chunks, put into bowl. Cut onion (I prefer white, which aren’t as overpowerlingly onion-y as red) into small chunks, put into bowl. Slice a lime in half, squeeze into bowl. Add chopped cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Kosher salt tastes better. Mix with a fork.

Eat with lime tostitos, which are amazing.

Mix with a fork.

Fish should be done. It should flake with a fork. The packet technique is nice because it keeps things from drying out.

Fish: done!

I don’t have any pictures of the kale, but it’s a pretty simple prep. Wash kale, dry kale. Lightly toss in a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on baking pan, bake at 200 for 10 minutes. It’s done when it gets crispy to the touch.

My girlfriend also pan-steamed some frozen corn with a little bit of water, salt and pepper. Done in a minute or so.

And plate.
The end result.

Not a bad plate, if I say so myself. Total time from start to finish was about an hour.

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to cook more, and this post is something of a test in how I’d like to document that cooking. It’s a work in progress (both the food and the medium). If I did it all over again I’d add more coconut milk to the quinoa.

Happy 2013!