Archive for April, 2010

I’m crazy-excited about this post for two reasons!  First, this is one delightful spring dinner that is easy (only five ingredients, including a side dish!), delicious and makes a very dramatic presentation – which the Crazy Cook totally loves.  (The Lazy Cook might give it points for health and nutrition, but she would surely run screaming from the zucchini slicing, which is not hard, just takes a few minutes and a tiny bit of practice).  Secondly, it’s featured as a guest post on MakeItBetter.net – which is a really cool Web site dedicated to make your lifestyle better and easier, especially if you live on the North Shore of Chicago. 

So: with spring here, I’m finally getting excited about lighter, brighter dishes that celebrate colorful vegetables and promise to fill you up but not weigh you down.  This zucchini-wrapped fish fillet looks and tastes just like spring and bursts with flavor.   The only “trick” is using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to shave thin strips of zucchini – which is really quite easy and fun to do!  This is adapted from Gourmet (August 2007).  Try it and let me know what you think!

Lovely thin slices of zucchini envelop a halibut fillet for a spring delight!

Serves 4.

Prep time:  15 minutes

Cook time: 7-9 minutes


3 zucchini, at least 7 inches long

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons dried basil (or 16 whole basil leaves if  you’ve got ‘em)

4 5.5 ounce pieces halibut fillet (preferably wild caught)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1)      Slice each zucchini lengthwise and starting at the center (the non-peel side), slowly draw the Y-shaped peeler across, pressing the peeler evenly the length of the zucchini like so:


You’ll want about 10 long slices of zucchini per fillet.  Overlap them onto each other, and then brush with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and about ¼ teaspoon dried basil, or one whole leaf (I was fresh out of fresh basil this day, and the dried worked fine).

About 10 zucchini slices oughta do the trick.

2)      Place a halibut fillet across the zucchini slices, like this, and brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and another ¼ teaspoon of dried basil, or one more whole basil leaf.

3)      Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan (room enough to fit four of these beauties) with a lid. 

4)      Now, carefully fold over the zucchini, from the top down, and roll the whole thing over, so your “seam” is on the bottom and it looks like this:

Et voila!

5)      Using a spatula, transfer each lovely little zucchini-wrapped fish bundle into your pan.  Once all four are in, put the “hat” on (I always call pot lids hats) and cook undisturbed for 7-9 minutes.  Yes, it’s true!  No flipping is involved!   How easy is that?  Cook’s Note: If your fish fillets are thinner, cook a bit less, maybe 6-7 minutes.  These were about 5.5 ounces each, and 8 minutes did the trick.  Plus, once you remove them from the pan, they’ll continue cooking a bit from the residual heat. 

6)      When they are done, remove them to plates with a spatula.  Now make a snappy little pan sauce: turn down the heat to medium-low and add a splash more olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk it all about until it’s heated through and top each fillet with a bit of sauce.

I like to serve this with fluffy couscous simmered in vegetable stock, garnished with some pine nuts or fresh herbs (parsley or basil) or sliced almonds.  Basmati rice or quinoa would also be nice side dishes.  If you have left-over zucchini, you can always slice it up and sauté it in the same pan and serve that alongside as well.  Enjoy!

Shopping List:

4 5.5-ounce halibut fillets

3 zucchini

Dried or fresh basil

1 lemon

Couscous, rice or quinoa, for side dish

For more Crazy Cook ideas and recipes, please visit www.lazycookcrazycook.com



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If you gave the Lazy Cook a couple of zucchini and some cherry tomatoes, she might just eat them as crudités, but the Crazy Cook here has a much more ambitious and delicious idea.  This Provencal vegetable and goat cheese tart  is the ultimate  in savory spring-time flavors.   I love this because it’s both light and rich at the same time.  Imagine sauteed zucchini and onions topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, all baked on a bed of happy, tangy, creamy goat cheese resting on crispy, light-as-air puff pastry.  Sounds good, oui?  With a little green salad on the side and a glass of good, buttery Chardonnay or a bright Sauvignon blanc, it’s one of my favorite dinners.  Plus, it’s vegetarian.  And as an extra bonus, left-overs are great chilled or at room temp for a take-to-work lunch of which your office mates will be v. jealous.

Bursting with fresh zucchini and tomatoes, this tart is a jumpstart on summer!

All you need is one sheet of frozen puff pastry, two zucchinis, an onion, a bit of olive oil, some cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, pesto and some green olives.  This is adapted from a Bruce Sherman recipe  in the July 2007 issue of Food & Wine, and one of the best things about it is its versatility – you could top it with anything, from zucchini and tomatoes, to asparagus, peppers, broccoli – pick your favorite veg combo.

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 425F and make sure your goat cheese is at room temp so it’s soft and easy to spread onto the pastry. 

1) Heat 2 Tbls. olive oil in a large skillet (one with a lid). Add sliced zucchini and onion and salt and pepper to taste.  Saute for about 10 minutes.  Then remove from heat and put the hat on, so everything gets nice and tender (but not mushy).

2) Meanwhile, dump your little log of goat cheese (I use a 4- or 5-ounce package) into a dish and add about 2 Tbls pesto.  If you don’t have pesto, just use herbed goat cheese and skip the pesto.  Mash it all about until the pesto is incorporated.

3) Now, take your puff pastry and unfold it straight onto a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat silicone baking mat.  Roll it out a bit to a 13-inch square, and transfer it on the parchment or mat to your baking sheet. Prick the dough all over with a fork like so:

Making holes in the puff pastry keeps it from exploding into a mountainous mess.

4) Now, with the back of a spoon, spread your goat cheese mixture onto the dough, up to about an inch from the edges.

The back of a spoon is the easiest way to spread the goat cheese onto the pastry.

5) Top with your delicious sauteed zucchini and onion mixture, spreading it into a mostly single layer.

Spread this in a single layer-ish onto your goat-cheese covered puff pastry

 and then top with sliced cherry tomatoes.  Turn up the edges and pinch the corners together with your fingers. 

Layers of zesty zucchini and tangy tomatoes get your tart started!

6) Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the edges are a delicious golden brown.  Sprinkle with chopped green olives for a little extra ZING, slice and enjoy.  Makes four generous, entree-sized servings, but you could also make smaller slices for an appetizer or cocktail treat.  Happy spring and bon appetit!

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Our office is filled with foodies and the Lazy Cook and Crazy Cook were  live on the scene to capture our most recent cook-off event: soup!  (Full disclosure: we have a lot of crock pots in our office for some reason, and it’s easy to bring and serve hot chili, stew and soup. But we’re looking at branching out for future events: food on sticks, salads, sandwiches, whatever!  We welcome suggestions!)

Mexican Black Bean Soup Gets Its Simmer On

At least 10, maybe 12 soups were on parade, including two made by the Crazy Cook.  I’ve made this Mexican Black Bean Soup before, but added some extra ZING with my adored chipotles in adobo sauce, and I also dove into Hungarian Goulash.  I traveled to Budapest about five years ago and while there, adopted Hungarian Goulash as the thing I had to have every day, just as I have to French Onion Soup as many times as possible when in Paris.  

Peter Fleischer, a dual Chicago-New Orleans resident, treated us to his special Louisiana Gumbo (which was AWESOME), and others made amazing potato-leek soup, lamb stew, Guinness beef stew, nacho soup – it was a cavalcade of culinary accomplishments.   But most important of all, we  all had a really good time together slurping, savoring and socializing over soup.  I highly recommend the office cook-off as a way to get to know one another through cooking! 

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