The Farce

OK, it's official. I'm a fraud. I realized when my dad answered the phone after reading one of my blog posts and said, "hey, skinny bitch". Fresh off my annual doctor's appointment, I realized I was a liar. Maybe it was my fault for scheduling this appointment right after the holidays, but apparently I'm not so skinny anymore. Apparently, I need to go back to the beginning of this journey and remind myself why I started in the first place. I've been having so much fun pretending to be Jacques Pepin and quoting Larousse's Gastronomique that apparently the butter and cream seem to have snuck back into my kitchen.

So I'm back on the wagon. I have to admit, I've gone the past two days being pretty good and safe. I'm trying not to be boring and fall into the soup and salad routine, but sometimes you just like what you like, you know? It's cold here and I keep getting Delta airline offers to whisk me off to someplace sunny and warm. Cozumel, anyone? I'm not boarding a flight anytime soon, so tonight I'm turning the heat up to 85, changing from layered sweats to a tank top and shorts and bringing Mexico to me.

Before I moved to LA for that (very) short period of time, I was your typical Old El Paso, load on the cheese, toast the shell, bring on the Corona kind of girl. But my behind can't take it and neither can my jeans, so I'm going to have to rely on that West Side knowledge of a good fish taco and modify modify modify. So think Playa Palencar, a Los Lonely Boys CD, a not so lonely Papi Rico, and a light, breezy cucumber margarita.

Head over to your local fishmonger and pick up a few tilapia fillets. One fillet will fill one taco, so buy what you need. Also pick up tomatoes, cotija cheese, cilantro, plain greek yogurt (use this like sour cream... less fat more protein), red onion, and lettuce. I find that romaine works best for its stability and crunch factors, but I might try butter lettuce next go round. We'll see. Pick up whatever else you might like, black beans, corn, whatever strikes you.

Before you grill your fish, get yo' meez in place! I'm trying to be funny here, not ignorant. Anyway, ahem, prep your space...

Crumble your cheese, chop your cilantro, dice your onion, cube your tomatoes and line them all up in a nice neat little row so that all ingredients are accessible.

Work with tilapia at room temperature. I find that you'll get a better result if meats and fish are allowed to ease into a new temperature instead of being shocked into it. That's just a little tip from me to you. Make a rub from salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder and generously cover both sides of your fillet. Spray your hot grill pan with olive oil and grill it up. Let the fish grill until it's easy to flip to the alternate side. If the fish is giving you trouble and doesn't want to move, let it sit until it does. About 4-5 minutes each side.

Rinse off romaine leaves and slice about a 1/4" off the white end. We want them pretty. Fill with whatever's in your nice neat little row of ingredients and top off with the grilled fish. Done and DONE.

The Deal
(2 tacos)
Calories: 270; Fat: 12g; Protein: 38g; Carbs: 8

Legendary Lunches

Meet my new best friend. I am thrilled to even type the words.

Let me start you off with a story. When I was younger, New Orleans gumbo was a big deal in my house. I grew up in Washington, D.C. and was the only one in my family that wasn't reared in the deep South. With the exception of those Detroit and Chicago cousins, but whatever. So I grew up on Maryland crabcakes and a continental way of looking at food. When I took an Eastern Airlines flight down to NOLA with my parents, they'd routinely ask me, "Chicken or Beef?". Never will you hear that question on an American airline carrier ever again. Sad really, no matter that the food was borderline indigestible. Anyway, on the flights to New Orleans, I'd proudly opt for "neither, thanks!", knowing that in a few short hours, I'd be seated at my grandmothers kitchen on the East Bank of the francophile city that is Nouvelle Orleans. There was no way I was spoiling my appetite with rank airline food. No way.
Back in D.C., my Dad would make this big show of the prep involved with a true seafood gumbo. The process took all day, it seemed, and at the end, I got a little piece of Freddie's kitchen. A little bit of the Big Easy in a bowl. Now, I was never one to cook and by the time I graduated college, there seemed to be no need. I was moving to NYC. It was like taking my car with me. For what? Who drives in NYC? No one. Who cooks in NYC with all those fab restaurants that deliver? No one. Homecooking was something that I got at (shocker) HOME. I had no interest until that fateful Thanksgiving that I was forced into the kitchen on First Street. I mean, I had gotten into cooking, you know, the basics and a few family recipes. Well, Paul (my pops) thought it necessary for me to learn EXACTLY how my grandmother makes her gumbo and her recipe for macaroni and cheese. I sweated in the kitchen under Freddie's commands for a few hours until she let me loose. Learning all the secrets and traditions of a New Orleans Louisiana Gumbo.

Secrets. That's what's led me to this post. My dad is a big fan of secrets. He likes to keep them until the reveal gets the reaction he's looking for. It drives my mother totally crazy. I've come to learn that's the way he is and the little chuckle he gets from the reaction is pure entertainment. When I realized that his charade of an all day gumbo prep was just for show, the secrets just came spilling out. Every now and again, I'd tell him the latest recipe I'd invented, or the newest trick I'd discovered in the kitchen. My Mom still couldn't get over the fact that I was actually using a stove and oven to feed myself (and not for winter boot storage), while my Dad just gave me his usual, "mmhmm, that sounds wonderful!" routine and went about his day. Until that fateful day he unloaded The Big Secret.
"You should get together with my friend, since you're so into cooking now.... I'll set up a lunch." Who knew his "friend" was legendary chef Jose Andres!! The master behind Zaytinya, Mini Bar, Cafe Atlantico, Oyamel and Jaleo here in D.C. I couldn't believe my ears and his nonchalant tone. As if Jose was just my Uncle Tony, the dude I hadn't seen since I was 12.

So there I was, at Zaytinya in DC (coincidentally, the restaurant is housed in a building designed by my Dad) awaiting lunch with its chef. I purchased two of his cookbooks at the bar while I waited and took great pleasure in telling the bartender after she whispered to me, "the chef of those books just walked in," that he walked in to have lunch with me.
"Do you eat everything?"

So he ordered... what, I can barely recall, but it was divine. We had a lively conversation about the eating habits of Americans, the fate of the American dinner table, the seasonality of meats amongst other things.

"Next time, we have dinner, at my home" he said.
Done and DONE! I wonder what other secrets Paul has hidden...