As much as we’re anticipating warm weather and the abundance of seasonal vegetables, we’re excited for the new organic market opening up in the new 12th and Paris development (which will also house a new gourmet burger joint, Burger Up).  We don’t have many details about the market, other than the speculation that it should be opening up in a month’s time.

Fish Tacos for Dinner

February 28, 2010

We found some fresh mahi mahi and figured we’d make some fish tacos for dinner.  The marinade for the fish consisted of oregano, cumin, ancho  chile powder, chopped cilantro, and olive oil.  Sliced red pepper soaked in red wine vinegar was also a key ingredient.  The x-factor ingredient would be Mexican crema.  We didn’t feel like making it ourselves, and were surprised to find it at the ever-evolving Kroger’s (Kroger also has its own brand of tortillas that come in nice packets of 10 and not the ginormous family sizes.)  It was the Nestle brand–imported.  Perhaps a bit scary, but somehow a delightful find.  (Details of recipe and source below picture.)

Another good recipe rom the reliable Epicurious.com.

After the prep and marinating, it takes less than 20 minutes to make this:

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • About 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 pound flaky white fish (such as mahi mahi or cod), cut into 4 pieces
  • Salt
  • 8 fresh corn tortillas
  • Mexican crema, homemade or store-bought
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters

Marinate the Onion
Put the onion in a small bowl and pour in enough red wine vinegar to cover well. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or up to several weeks.

Marinate the Fish
Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, chopped cilantro, and jalapeño. Mix well. Place the fish on a dish and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat the fish well on both sides. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Cook the Fish
Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade and place in the hot pan (there is no need to add more oil). Season the fish with salt. Cook the fish for 4 minutes undisturbed, then turn over, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and flake the fish into the pan with a fork, making sure to mix in all the marinade that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Set aside.

Heat the Tortillas
Place four of the tortillas on a plate and sandwich them between two slightly dampened sheets of paper towel. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Place the warm tortillas in a towel-lined basket or plate and cover. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Assemble and Serve
To assemble the tacos, place a heaping spoonful of the marinated flaked fish onto the center of a tortilla. Top with the marinated onions. Serve accompanied by Mexican crema and salsa.

Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs.

Dinner: Mussels alla Diavola

February 24, 2010

Mussels seem to be aplenty these days in Nashville’s grocery stores.  So we brought some home for dinner and used the Epicurious.com recipe below–an easy, 35-minute recipe.  Each bag sold only has 2 lbs. of mussels, and though the recipe calls for 3 lbs.–there were more than enough mussels for us.

  • 12 garlic cloves, minced (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers (1 1/4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives (3 oz), pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 lb dried linguine
  • 3 lb mussels (preferably cultivated), cleaned (see cooks’ note, below)

Cook garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with purée, tomato paste, herbs, capers, olives, and wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.

Cook linguine in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

While pasta cooks, increase heat under sauce to moderately high and add mussels, then cook, covered, until mussels just open wide, checking frequently after 3 minutes and transferring to a bowl. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.)

Serve linguine with mussels and sauce.

Cooks’ notes:

· Just before cooking, clean mussels by scrubbing them well with a brush under cold water and scraping off any barnacles with a knife. If beard is still attached, remove it by pulling it from tip to hinge or by pulling and cutting it off with knife.
· Tomato sauce, without mussels, can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.

As if the publishing gods have been reading our recent posts about Chinese food, there’s a fun article, by Calvin Trillin, in this week’s New Yorker about the roving Chinese food chef, Peter Chang.  He has a cult following south of the Mason Dixon line, where he moves across state lines without much explanation or forewarning.

Rumor had it that he was once in Nashville, but truth be told, he was actually in Knoxville.

If you’re reading this Mr. Chang (or anyone reading for Mr. Chang), please visit us in Nashville.

The good folks at nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com have confirmed rumors that Lucky Bamboo, the new Chinese restaurant on Charlotte Ave., is serving dim sum on the weekends.

Lucky Bamboo
5855 Charlotte Pike
Nashville, TN 37209-3101
615.457.3133

We’ve been waiting to visit the restaurant, waiting until they work out the service and restaurant snafus.  Customer reviews and nashvillerestaurants suggest a rough opening right now.

There’s even some hint that this might be one of Nashville’s few attempts at a “good Chinese” restaurant–as opposed to what I’ve recently noted in my last post.

Chinese Food in Nashville

February 20, 2010

In America, there’s good Chinese food and bad Chinese food.  Let me explain:  good Chinese food is served up by restaurants that attempt to offer un-Americanized or regional Chinese food. They don’t do buffets, and they don’t put sushi dishes or rolls on their menus.  They can come across as rude to English-speaking customers.  They often have untranslated menus in Chinese characters.  They offer feet, innards, and things not available at Harris Teeter, Kroger’s, Whole Foods, Publix, or Trader Joe’s.  There are a variety of Chinese vegetables.  They may have algae-infested tanks of crustaceans, fish, and eel.  Service is dependably lousy.  They don’t apologize or explain to customers their way of business; customers deal with it.  Nashville has no such restaurant.  A sad reality.

What we do have, however, are bad  Chinese restaurants.  This means buffet lunches, “chicken McNugget on a stick” (as heard from a fellow diner recently), sauces in packets, chicken breasts only, broccoli as your only vegetable, a brown rice option, and vegetarian egg rolls.  These restaurants serve up food they think Nashvillians imagine what Chinese food should be.  We have a variety of such restaurants.  It’s all a matter of figuring out:  which are the good bad-Chinese-food restaurants?

Probably the most well-known and consistent example of a bad-Chinese-food restaurant is PF Chang’s on West End.  Desperate for any kind of Chinese food when we first moved here, we ate there a few times.  First impression:  there’s nothing more offensive than a waiter coming up to our table and asking if we’ve ever had Chinese food before–only to then explain it’s served family style.  [Ask if we’ve been to PF Chang’s before, and that’ll go over better.]  I don’t need you to explain the sauces at the table either, thanks.  Second impression, we once asked a server if they had bok choy that night.  She turned to us and asked incredulously, “What, you think this is a real Chinese restaurant?”  Confirmation that this is another bad-Chinese-food restaurant.  Golden Coast, August Moon, Chinatown, et al. fall under this category–albeit at a cheaper price.

There are days when I’m craving Chinese food, and I drive all over town.  I’m hoping for the best bad-Chinese food that will churn my stomach the least.  I return most often to:

China Spring (next to the Melrose Kroger)
2613 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37204-3042
615.386.3892‎

It’s a buffet-ed lunch, though with an interesting lunch crowd.  Their buffet’s meat dishes are all variations of chicken, save the beef and broccoli.  For lunch or dinner, you can always order off the regular menu and get decent dishes.  Not a sit-down dinner place, but more of a take-out dinner option.  Strip-mall architecture and decor.  Nevertheless, they at least play Chinese music, and the food is cooked with fresh ingredients.  The gentleman who works the cash register can be charmingly snarky.  To-go portions are quite bountiful, and their low-mein is worth a try.  So goodly bad, it doesn’t have its own website.

Another Visit to Thai Phooket

February 20, 2010

A second visit:

Thai Phooket
207 Woodland
Nashville, TN 37213
615-248-7933

We had a friend in town, and figured we’d have an easy, delicious meal at Thai Phooket, which we were more than enthusiastic about our first time there. Our second visit, however, was quite disappointing.  Right when we sat down, the out-of-place roadhouse felt too cold. The whole place was a walk-in cooler, even when the waiter brought out a heater for our table.  He recommended some apps, and the only interesting one was shrimps on a stick, wrapped with egg noodles–fried to a crisp.  The sweet-chili sauce, though, tasted generic.

For entrees, we let the waiter recommend some dishes.  Again, we had the whole tilapia, flash fried and then steamed with ginger and served in a rich sauce .  This time, however, the tilapia was not fresh.  We also had a duck dish that was supposed to be steamed–as described on the menu and reaffirmed by the waiter.  But when it came it, the duck had been chopped and fried.  Not what we expected, and fried to the point of diminishing any quality of the duck.  We also had skewered breasts, which were grilled and topped with a sauce.  The dish was fine.  But none of the dishes stood on their own.  They seemed like redundant meat dishes with slightly different types of sauce and the same garnishes.

The new skinny on Thai Phooket:  Wide-ranging, ambitious menu, compared to Nashville’s other Thai restaurants.  But it can be inconsistent with food quality and prep.  Hit or miss on certain dishes, and uncomfortable in the winter.