Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Macadamia-Crusted Tilapia with Papaya Salsa

I can never get enough fresh fruit in the summer, and tropical salsas are a great way to sneak this warm weather favorite into a main course.  Eager to try something new, I picked this Macadamia-Crusted Tilapia with Papaya Salsa recipe because it starred a lesser-known nutritional powerhouse: papaya. Only 60 calories, one cup of cubed papaya has 2 1/2 grams of fiber, approximately a day in a half supply of vitamin C, a third of a day's vitamin A, and significant sources of folate and potassium. Accompanied by mango and pineapple for a tropical twist, I knew this salsa was going to be good.

Good could not be more of an understatement. This dish was outstanding. I literally felt like I was eating at  a 3 star Michelin rated restaurant. The tropical fruit flavors burst out of the salsa via lime juice, jalapeno and rice wine vinegar for some extra acidity, and fresh mint contributed to a garden-picked feel.  This juicy citrus topping was the perfect contrast for the fish - while its crunchy nut outside was crisp, it revealed a light and flaky interior.  Of course, macadamias are a warm weather nut mostly associated with Hawaii, only adding to the dish's tropical feel.
You could probably skip the pan-sauteeing in this recipe and just bake your fish, but that might eliminate the nutty crust which I found to be one of the best parts of the dish. To create the healthiest dish possible, I eliminated the olive oil from the salsa- it doesn't need it- and used whole wheat flour and egg whites to coat my fish fillet. I took the liberty to engage in a lot of substituting here and encourage you to do the same- based on your favorite herbs, mint can be substituted for cilantro or basil, and tilapia can be swapped for any white flaky fish- yellowtail, red snapper, or mahimahi are good alternatives.  Cashews are a solid option if you can't find macadamia nuts.

Macadamia-Crusted Tilapia with Papaya Salsa (derived from Epicurious)
Yield: 6 servings

1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 large eggs or 3 egg whites
3 cups macadamia nuts
6 6-ounce tilapia/yellowtail/red snapper/mahmahi fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil (or use an olive oil spritzer)


1. Combine first 12 ingredients in large bowl and stir to blend. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place flour in shallow bowl. Whisk eggs in small bowl to blend. Finely grind nuts in processor. Transfer nuts to another bowl. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Coat fish with flour. Dip fish into eggs, then macadamia nuts, coating completely. Heat 2 tablespoons oil (or a generous spray with the olive oil spritzer) in each of 2 heavy large skillets over medium heat. Place 3 fillets in each skillet; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fillets to large baking sheet.
3. Bake fish until just opaque in center, about 7 minutes. Divide salsa among 6 plates. Top with fish and serve.

Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Pick A Papaya." Nutrition Action Health Letter 39.5 (2012). Print.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cucumber-Lime Paletas

Paletas are authentic Mexican ice pops, derived from the Spanish word palo, meaning "stick." The most popular kind, paletas de agua, consist of fresh fruit, water, and sweetener; frequently with a Mexican flourish such a spice or flowers. Although generally a smooth consistency, paletas "often include chunks of some sort to provide texture and trap different flavors," explains Fany Gerson, paletas cookbook author and owner of La Newyorkina.
I came across Fany's paletas on the highline this past Saturday. Craving something cool and sweet in the hot sun, I was immediately intrigued by the array of interesting flavors: mango-chile, coconut-lime, avocado, tamarind, hibiscus, and Cucumber-Lime; which this recipe is derived from.

Immensely satisfying on any warm summer day, the pop's bold and extremely fresh flavors produce the most refreshing treat. Flecks of lime rind and diced cucumber- providing the texture contrast Fany described in her book- only enhanced the robust freshness.  Clearly, fresh is the key word here: emulating the family-owned artisan preparation one would find in Mexico, La Newyorkina hand makes all of their products in small batches using the highest quality seasonal ingredients. While mostly local, some ingredients and purees not found in the US are imported by local artisans in Mexico.

I invested in popsicle molds last year, but you can easily make these frozen little treats in ice cube trays too. Alcohol such as tequila or mezcal makes a great addition to the ingredient combinations, but remember: alcohol does not freeze, so if you add too much you'll end up with a cocktail instead of a paleta!

Cucumber-Lime Paletas (adapted from Paletas de Limón)
Yield: 8-10 ice pops

2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
3 (1-inch) strips of lime zest
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 8 small limes)
2 large cucumbers, divided
Optional: cayenne pepper, diced jalapeno, tequila, mezcal

  1. Combine the water, sugar, and lime zest in a small nonreactive saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve (optional, I skipped this step and just removed the lime zest), then stir in the lime juice.
  2. While sugar mixture is cooling, chop 1 whole cucumber + half of the second (do not remove the skins.) Puree cucumber until smooth in a food processor or blender. Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer, pushing out the juice and pulp mixture with a spoon. Dice the remaining half cucumber and set aside.
  3. Add strained cucumber juice/pulp to sugar mixture.
  4. If using conventional molds, divide the mixture among the molds, distributing the diced cucumber pieces evenly amongst the molds after pouring in the mixture. Snap on the lid and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. If using glasses or other unconventional molds, freeze until the pops are beginning to set (1½ to 2 hours), then insert the sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. If using an instant ice-pop maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. To loosen frozen plastic molds, you may have to run the under warm water for a bit before pulling out.


Gerson, F. (2011). Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Saved Ice & Aguas Fresca. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press (Random House, Inc.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Carrot Cake Cookies

Consider this Carrot Cake Cookies recipe a hybrid of carrot cake and oatmeal raisin cookies, and what's not to love? Chewy like your classic oatmeal raisin cookie but full of texture from the shredded carrots, these cookies bring satisfaction to both your sweet tooth and nutritive cravings.
Natural sweetness  from the raisins and pineapple eliminate the need for a cream cheese frosting glaze - if you really crave it though, use low or fat-free cream cheese to preserve the healthiness of the recipe. (You can adopt the one from my Baked Apple Cider Donuts.)

The only fat in these cookies come from the walnuts and canola oil- thanks to no butter or egg yolks, they consist only of  heart-healthy monosaturated fat. Whole wheat flour and rolled oat add a generous dose of whole grains, while the shredded carrot bulks up the cookie in both volume and nutrients. Orange zest- which possess high concentrations of the LDL cholesterol-lowering compound flavonoids- add a subtle citrus that is further enhanced by the pineapple.  In fact, these cookies are so healthful that I would recommend eating them as a dessert, snack or breakfast if you're on-the-go. They don't really expand while cooking, so if you stay true to the 1 tablespoon batter scoop you will get a bite-sized cookie- adjust accordingly if you want bigger!
Carrot Cake Cookies (from Shape Magazine)
Yield: 30 cookies

1 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 egg whites
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil - I used canola
1/4 c. pineapple, drained and crushed (I doubled this to 1/2 c because I love pineapple)
1/2 c. fat-free milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. raisins
1 c. carrots, grated
1 tbsp. orange zest
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. Combine the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, oats, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg -in one bowl. 
3. Add the wet ingredients - egg whites, oil, pineapple, milk and vanilla - to the dry, stirring together. Stir in raisins, carrots and walnuts. 
4. Drop by tablespoonful onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes.

Manthey, John A., and Karel Grohmann. "Concentrations of Hesperidin and Other Orange Peel Flavonoids in Citrus Processing Byproducts." J Agric. Food Chem 44.3 (1996): 811-14. Web. 2 May 2012. <http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf950572g?prevSearch=orange%2Bpeel&searchHistoryKey=>.