mexican monday: fish tacos & queso.

Mexican Monday was a great success this week!  While the menu generally consists of quesadillas plus a range of dips, I decided to focus only on two components this time: Fish Tacos with Green Apple Guacamole and “A More Natural” Chile Con Queso.  It was one of those meals that seemed to take forever to prep, because of all the chopping, peeling, and grating involved!  (I really need to take a cooking class on knife skills!)  The end result was SO worth it though.

I considered substituting chicken for the cod in the tacos, but ended up following the recipe almost exactly.  The chicken probably would have been fine, but the cod really complemented the other items in the taco well.  I love discovering strange ingredient combinations that just mesh.  Green apples in guacamole?  I knew that could either be weird or amazing…  and it really turned out great!  Refreshingly light and delicious.

Fish Tacos with Green Apple Guacamole

I’ve had a difficult time photographing tacos and quesadillas, so I just held it open this time!  Plus, now I can show off my manicured thumb.

This is the first time I’ve ever made queso, and in browsing through a few recipes, I noticed quickly that Velveeta cheese is a standard ingredient.  Now, I don’t mind eating things with Velveeta.  At this point, I realize that probably every queso I’ve ever had has included Velveeta… and I will continue to charge forward and dip my chips in these quesos!  However, there is something about creating the food on my own that makes me very picky about what I use.  I have weird rules for myself, like I hate using canned vegetables, frozen meat, or pre-grated cheese (this rule is not as important as the other two).   Anyway, I searched and found a recipe with more natural cheeses.

Queso substitutions:  I used a poblano pepper, a light green pepper (a medium-spicy mystery pepper), along with the jalapenos.  For cheeses, I chose a New York Cheddar along with a Habanero Pepper Jack from somewhere in the midwest.

Side-note on peeling tomatoes… is there an easy way to do it?  This is probably an odd comparison, but I almost felt like I was peeling a human!  The roma tomato was so slimy and veiny underneath.  (Sorry, that is very unappealing.)

A More Natural Chile Con Queso w/Tortilla Chips.

The queso was SO good.  We still have some left over, so I have just been loving life.  I was humbled yesterday, because the Washingtonian posted on their Best Bites Blog that Chef Jeff Tunks uses Velveeta in his mac & cheese at Passion Fish.  I adore Passion Fish and everything they do, and it is true: Velveeta does make both queso and mac & cheese pretty good.  I think I’ll stick to this delicious recipe though.  :)

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brunch at mon ami gabi.

I am always on the hunt for good brunch spots, and so I was thrilled to recently experience the fantastic restaurant in Reston that is Mon Ami Gabi!  The name means “my friend Gabi” in French, after Chef (and Owner) Gabino Sotelino.  My dear friend Lauren got married two weekends ago, and her family hosted a bridal brunch at Mon Ami Gabi to kick off the festivities.  It was the perfect choice, and I still get distracted thinking about all of the delicious sweet and savory foods that made up the meal.

We were seated in a long side room, which offered us a good amount of privacy… but also enough space to really relax and celebrate!  Lauren planned out a 3-course brunch, and selected delicious options for each segment.

Lauren's Mon Ami Gabi Brunch Menu

I chose the Warm Brie (quaintly presented in a stainless steel pan), the Classic Quiche Lorraine (which was big enough to turn into my Sunday breakfast as well), and the Chocolate Mousse (so rich, I only had three bites!).

Warm Brie

Classic Quiche Lorraine

Chocolate Mousse

Who eats mousse for brunch?  I don’t know, but even from just those three bites, I find myself craving it sometimes during the mid-morning now!

I also have a picture of the Chicken, Cheese, & Broccoli Crepe option.  Crepes always take me back to sophomore year of college, when my roommate and I would throw crepe parties whenever we had a good excuse!  Crepe-makers can be such a valuable asset to any snazzy kitchen.

Chicken, Cheese, & Broccoli Crepe

Merci, Mon Ami Gabi!  I wish you weren’t so far from Arlington, but I’ll definitely be back to visit!

dinner by peter!

We went over to our good friend Peter’s the other night for a lovely dinner!  This entry is somewhat of a guest blog entry… I’m writing it, but the dinner was all Peter’s work!  The meal centered around a Capture Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers 2009 that he had discovered recently.  Amazing.  It was crisp and citrus-y at the beginning, then got increasingly more herbaceous as it breathed and warmed to room temperature.

We brought along some good ole Humboldt Fog cheese (Whole Foods and Screwtop are both carrying it right now!), and it was a GREAT match.  Peter added champagne grapes for a perfect side spread.

Capture Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers 2009, Humboldt Fog, & Champagne Grapes

Peter cares a lot about where his food comes from, which is just awesome.  He gave us all the background details, so I will include them all!

The main dish was Chicken Pesto Pasta.  The pesto was made from scratch the day before with homegrown basil, store-bought pine nuts, shredded romano cheese, parsley, and garlic. Here it is being prepped…

Peter's Homemade Pesto (photo credit: Peter)

The chicken (from Magruder’s) was marinated overnight in lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, lemon pepper, and garlic seasoning.  Yum!  Then it was sautéed with a store-bought onion, pepper, and yellow squash from Biggs Riggs Farm in Romney, West Virginia.

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Dessert was amazing, in a jaw-dropping way!!  Peter sliced up some peaches from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania and paired it with Trickling Springs Ice Cream from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  He topped it all with Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Granola!

By the way: I have not been to Pennsylvania many times, but I happened to have traveled to both Chambersburg and Shippensburg before!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peaches and Granola

Thank you, Peter!  The meal was deliciously fresh, and the Sauvignon Blanc was so memorably intriguing!  What a perfect summer meal.  :)

basic enchiladas.

Do you ever get really excited about doing something you don’t usually do, only to realize later that there’s a reason why you don’t usually do it?  Well, this happened to me with enchiladas the other night.  No, this story isn’t going where you think it’s going.  (I probably started off too dramatic.)  All I’m saying is that I don’t usually eat enchiladas, but for awhile now, I’ve been really excited about the idea of them.

Chicken Enchiladas

After finally sitting down to taste my finished product, I remembered that I actually REALLY REALLY don’t like enchilada sauce.  What a bummer!  Objectively, I think that it all came out great.  The chicken and cheese on the inside were perfect.  I think the issue was that I used sauce from a can, and it just was not the best.  I’m not going to give up on enchiladas.  Next time, I will just make my own sauce… and I will make a different kind from the canned kind.

By the way, I think it was Old El Paso canned enchilada sauce.

Here is the recipe I used.  (Adjustment: I also threw in some extra queso blanco we had in our fridge.)  I still want to promote the recipe, because it was truly great and Chris really enjoyed the meal!  He gets the leftovers this time.  :)

a sediment-al night.

Monday night, we had a dear friend over for dinner to drink a special bottle of wine that he gave us for our wedding!  A 2000 Domaine Cros Minervois Vieilles Vignes.  Most wines people buy these days are made to drink right now.  This wine is unique (for modern wine-drinking), because even at 11 years old, it was still hitting its peak!  All wines were once made this way… built to grow better with time.  Very cool.

The 2000 Domaine Cros Minervois Vieilles Vignes

I didn’t do the best job of pairing the meal with the wine (steak probably would have been a better fit), but the cheese I selected for a pre-dinner appetizer matched beautifully.  I highly recommend this French Morbier cheese, bought at Trader Joe’s!  It was stinky, pungent, and it brought out lovely dark berry flavors from the wine.  The vegetable streak through the middle of the Morbier is crazy!  (Crazy good.)

The French Morbier Cheese

Even though the meal might not have been the best choice for the wine, it sure was delicious!  I served prosciutto-wrapped grilled chicken stuffed with goat cheese & herbs, along with sautéed squash, steamed broccoli, and French bread.  The chicken was as easy to make as it is to write out!  I took chicken breast fillets, made a slit with a sharp knife, then stuffed in goat cheese (this particular cheese came already mixed with fresh herbs… you could also mix in your own!).  I tried to seal up the opening as best possible, then cooked the fillets in our George Foreman counter grill for about 5 minutes.  After that, I took the chicken out and carefully wrapped each fillet in prosciutto.  I cooked the chicken for about 2 more minutes, and the result was delicious!  It was like the prosciutto had been welded on — yum!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken, Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Herbs

It was a sediment-al night, because I have never seen such crazy sediment from a wine!  Truly an Old World style wine.  :)

Sediment!