Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another Fish Story

The bad part about experimental cooking is that occasionally things go horribly wrong and you're stuck eating your mistakes.

The good part about experimental cooking is that occasionally things go really well and you get to eat your victories.

Case in point, last night's experiment with Tilapia. I thought I'd try a more western style dish using many of the same or similar ingredients from last November. Since that one turned out reasonably well (except for the peanut butter incident, which I'm still trying to live down) I thought I'd try a variation on the theme. Here, try it yourself:

  • 2 good-sized, fresh Tilapia fillets, split and divided. (Hint, most fish fillets have a thick side and a thin side, divide these out so you can ensure that they cook evenly - meaning, cut them length-wise to separate the top from the bottom of each fillet)
  • 2 sprigs fresh Rosemary
  • 1 lb fresh Snow Peas
  • 1 pkg Portobelo mushrooms
  • Sea Salt
  • Lemon Juice (your choice of 1/2 lemon or lemon-in-a-bottle)
  • Olive Oil (Better get Popeye's permission before you mess with his woman!)
  • Whole Peppercorn medley (I cheated and picked up the McCormack brand peppercorn medley with the built-in grinder)
  • 1 box Mushroom & Herb Rice Pilaf (cheating again, I know. If you want to make your own, have at it. I'll be experimenting with my own homemade version as well. I'll let you know how it turned out.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Start the water a-boilin' for the rice pilaf. I was able to time my prep and cooking based on the prep/cook time of the rice since it took the longest. In this case, boil water, dump in box contents, cover, simmer for 18 minutes. So while the water is heating up, do the rest of the prepwork and if you've timed it right, you can start cooking right as the rice goes on. If you insist on doing everything from scratch, you're on your own for timing.

Wash the 'shrooms under cold water in a colander, drain well, pat dry and lay out on paper towels. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt liberally to help draw out any remaining moisture. Set aside.

Wash the snow peas in cold water and drain. Set aside.

In an 8-inch round baking dish, pour in just enough Olive Oil to cover the bottom of the pan. I'd estimate this at about 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. Sprinkle Sea Salt and grind up the peppercorns (about 1 tsp each I suppose, just use your own judgment and do what looks good). Lay the fillets on top of this, arranged so that the thick fillets are on the OUTSIDE and the thin ones are in the CENTER. There's a reason for this: The thicker fillets will have more surface area exposed to the heat while also protecting the thinner ones from cooking too fast.

Now, squeeze lemon juice over the fillets as evenly as you can, also avoiding getting it in your eyes or into finger cuts. That hurts. Trust me. If you want, you can brush or baste some of the olive oil over the top of the fillets, just be sure to do this after you've added the lemon juice, otherwise you're just shielding the fish from the vicious onslaught of citrus-from-above. Sprinkle more Sea Salt and Pepper grindings and pinch off the leaves from one of the Rosemary sprigs and sprinkle them over the top of the fillets. You can throw away the denuded sprig unless you collect them or something.

Put the fish in the oven for 15 minutes, right as the rice goes into the pot to cook. Timing is everything.

At about 8 minutes before the rice is done, you can start sauteing the peas and 'shrooms. Fire up a nice, wide skillet with about 2 Tbsp Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Break the remaining Rosemary sprig in twain and drop both parts in with about 1 tsp sea salt and 1 tsp coarse ground peppercorns when the pan is good and hot. Dump in the snow peas and saute until they start to turn bright green, about 5 minutes or so. Drop in the mushrooms and saute another 5 minutes or so, turning, stirring and otherwise mixing things up constantly.

About this time the timer should go off for the fish. You did set the timer, didn't you? Check the fish to see if it's done, if not, back in for another 2-5 minutes while you finish off the peas and 'shrooms. You'll know they're are done when all the peas are bright green and the mushrooms turn dark and slightly soft - but not mushy! Sauteed mushrooms should still have some firmness to them. You can remove the Rosemary sprigs now, but if any leaves are left behind that's okay. Adds flavour. Ding! Rice is ready. Fluff it with a fork and make sure it's all done.

Plate everything, serve hot.

Wine pairings: Oak-aged Chardonnay or a dry Gewurztraminer.

Dessert: Lemon or Lime Sorbet

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Randomized, For Your Pleasure

Random thoughts, just in time for warm spring days...


Memo to the fatass welfare brood mare, yappin' on the cell phone and clogging the grocery store aisles with your 40 offspring: Have you gotten your economic stimulus check yet? Yes? You're fucking welcome. You need to say "thank you" more often to people like me who earned that money for you.


For all the crap we husbands take from our wives on a daily basis, we are rewarded with watching you put on panty hose. Shimmy, shimmy!!


Next time I go to a game where the team mascot is a bull, I'm carrying big letters to hand out to the whole row saying, "GO BULLS HIT 1!" Make sure they all stand real close together, no space between them.


...Jane plays with Willy,
Willy is happy again...
-Games Without Frontiers, Peter Gabriel

That has to be the most unintentionally funny lyric ever. Happy, happy Willy!


Why is it that the perforation of the paper, whether it be paper towel, tear-out for bills or toilet paper, is always the strongest part of it? You would think that with holes all through it that the paper would tear off there, but no, it always rips off in a completely different direction. If we could invent a perforated paper tank, we could conquer the world!


I have an idea for a t-shirt:

Latin name and drawing of a coffee tree with programmers hugging it. Caption below says, "It's okay to hug a tree, just be smart about which ones. Trees, like humans, are not all equal: Some are more useful than others."


I'm thinking about writing a book of bad poetry in the form of prophecies, then paying stooges to claim they came true. Let's see how many idiots fall for it.


It's a knockout!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Off Probation Now!

Okay, let me explain. No, I'm not in trouble with the Law. At least, not that I know of. Let's step into the Wayback Machine and revisit this.

Back already?

Okay, remember that letter I got from the Graduate School? It said my admission was provisional, pending my performance in class and getting some prerequisites done. Well, in the interim, they rolled the prerequisites into the regular core courses, so all I had to do was keep a B or better in my first 3 classes.

Got my final grade back today for the Management of Software Systems class. Made an A. Once again, ass kicking deferred. The final exam was crazy, though. There's open-ended questions and then there's "write me a book about ___." I wrote 26 pages, then changed the font and margins to save some trees, even still I had 21 pages to turn in. I think I heard weeping on the other end of that email.

So that's now three A's for my coursework. A 4.0 GPA. Not too shabby a start. This means that the provisional status is removed and I'm now a fully admitted Grad Student in Good Standing. Yahoo! (Or you can yell Google! Whatever trips your trigger.)

It's been hard keeping up study discipline the past three semesters. Work gets so insane that it takes time away from reading, research, writing and just plain old nose-in-the-textbook studying before test time, but that's what pays the bills, so I just cowboy up and deal with it. My boss is working on his Master's too, so he's sympathetic and helpful, too. It's good, because we can trade on-call support nights with each other for class time and such.

Besides work, I got family, community projects, lawn care (grass doesn't mow itself - but what an AWESOME genetic engineering project we could work on!!) and at some point, working off the sleep debt. Everyone has been really supportive, and I can't thank you all enough.

I've still got a long way to go, and it's only going to get harder. I hope I can stick with it. Discipline, hard work, and dedication are what it's going to take. Support from friends and family help a lot too. Onward!