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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willow restaurant.

Chris and I recently went to Willow Restaurant right here in Arlington, thanks to a Groupon!  Seriously, half of the time we go out to eat,  we use a coupon from Savored (formerly “VillageVines”), Groupon, or LivingSocial.  We sat outside, because we’d sat inside last time we went… and the feel of the restaurant is completely different depending on where you sit.  Inside, it’s got a very posh vibe.  You walk up to the host desk, and you feel like you’re checking into a very expensive and ritzy hotel.  Or maybe a night club.  (Well, that might be a stretch.)  Outside, the feel is a lot more casual and informal (though definitely still classy!).  Unfortunately, although the temperature was somewhat cooler than usual that evening, it still felt extremely muggy outside!  Oh well.

Chris ordered the Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Ravioli (“Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms, Ragout of Corn, Peas, Fava Beans, Roasted Tomato, Bacon & Savory, Corn Sauce”), along with a glass of a Tocai Friulano (an Italian white variety!).

Seared Day Boat Scallops with Potato Ravioli

He loved it.  Scallops are his new favorite thing, and they were seared to perfection.  I was feeling like going veggie, so I ordered the Duo of Fennel & Spring Asparagus (“Fennel Raviolini, Potato Gnocchi, & Spring Vegetables with Gratin of Fennel & Savory, Black Truffle Butter”).  I also ordered a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  (Typical.)

Duo of Fennel & Spring Asparagus

My meal was delicious, but I was so hungry going into dinner that afterwards I wished I’d ordered fish instead.

Willow is great, but I don’t dream about the food when I’m not there.  Food critics must agree… it was on the Top 100 list last year, but didn’t make the cut for 2011.  Sorry, Willow.  It’s definitely a nice place to have right around the corner!  The overall result — and the cost — make it more of a draw with a coupon though.