Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Supper

Grilled Flank Steak with Peppers and Onions
Tex-Mex Couscous

It was bound to happen sooner or later. There was an intervention in the making.

For our family, summer means lots of water fun (requiring a bathing suit) and forcing a reality check resulting from a winter of over indulgence and hardy eating. I don't know which is worse, trying to fit into last years Esther Williams one piece skirt type bathing dress or shopping for a new one.

All the good intentions in the world haven't controlled my appetite, so my family intervened. Weight Watchers, Annelle. You're going to Weight Watchers. I'm already a lifetime member. And I've used the program several times in the last 30 years to whip myself back in shape, but things have been so crazy lately, I couldn't imagine making it work, again. Never underestimate the power of a determined family.

Long story short, most of the recipes for the next few months will be a little lighter, a lot fresher and perfect for this hot summer weather. I say 'most' because there will be indulgences. My goal is to make the indulgences worth their weight.

I do know that the Weight Watchers plan is a way of eating that can easily translate to the rest of the family. It's healthy, varied and satisfying. It you've looked at the new USDA Food Plate (, you'll notice an uncanny similarity. The only difference between a good healthy diet and the Weight Watchers diet is a firm grip on portion control.

Yes, the secret is still healthy eating with portion control, moderate exercise, and a respectable amount of water. I should have it tattooed on my arm.

Grilled Flank Steak with Onions and Peppers

(6 servings)

One and one-half lbs. Flank steak

4 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Cumin

2 tsp. Stubbs Chili-lime rub (or your favorite Tex-Mex seasoning)

Add Worcestershire sauce, oil, salt, cumin and seasoning to zip lock bag and swish to combine. Add flank steak and refrigerate for several hours.

Grill over medium coals for about 5-6 minutes per side, for medium rare. Remove meat to platter, cover with foil and set aside to rest.

2 tsp. Extra virgin olive oil

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (10 oz.) can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Chilies (I recommend 'mild')

One-half tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Stubbs Chile-lime Spice Rub (or your favorite Tex-Mex seasoning)

One-half tsp. Chipotle Chile Pepper (or just plan Chili powder)

Add olive oil to pan over medium heat. Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until becoming tender. Then add garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Finally add the can of diced tomatoes and chiles and seasoning, turn the heat down and let simmer until most of the liquid is gone.

Slice the flank steak thinly across the grain of the meat. Add to cooked vegetables.

Serve with tortillas and cheese.

Tex-Mex Couscous Salad

This is a slightly modified Weight Watchers recipe. I'll guarantee you'll prepare it again and again!

(6 servings)

three-fourths cup Original Plain Couscous, prepared as directed on box, fluffed, and cooled to room temperature

1 cup chopped tomatoes that have been seeded

1 cup peeled, chopped English cucumber

2 scallions, diced

one-third cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of one lime

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

three-fourths tsp. Salt

One-half tsp. Cumin

1 avocado, diced

When couscous is cool, add tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro and toss to mix. Add lime juice, olive oil, salt and cumin and toss again. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Dice avocado and add to salad just before serving.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pecan Encrusted Grouper

Our family has been enjoying summer vacations on the North Carolina coast since our now grown children were babies. Over the years we developed a routine of spending one day during the vacation in Beaufort, North Carolina, a little fishing village founded in 1709. Our favorite pass-time was sitting on the dock watching the boats come and go. It's such a peaceful place, but for the energetic there's plenty more to do!

The Beaufort Mariner's Museum recently opened a new exhibit featuring the Queen Anne's Revenge—Black Beard's Pirate Ship which came to its final resting place at the bottom of the ocean just off the Beaufort coast. Pirate lore is a big part of the mystique of Beaufort. If you don't believe it, take the evening Ghost Tour.

An old English double decker bus gives daily tours of the beautiful old homes, gardens, churches and cemeteries which are part of the Beaufort Historical Society. The tour ends at a small village area that has been restored to give visitors an idea of life in the seaside town during the 1700's.

There is boat building at the Watercraft Center. Wild horses graze on Shackleford Banks and Carrot Island which is only a few hundred yards across the waterway from the dock. Water taxis travel back and forth to Cape Lookout Light House just on the other side of Shackleford Banks.

There's also wonderful food. Each little restaurant has it's own specialty—oysters from Sharpies, crab cakes from Still Water, shrimp salad from Spouters, lemon meringue pie from Clawsons, Tuna Napoleon from Beaufort Grocery, Caesar Salad and a variety of small plates from Aqua, just to name a few of the culinary temptations you'll find.

I couldn't resist trying to recreate some of our family favorites. Grouper is a fish we often order, and this is how I like to dish it up at home. Thanks to Chef Charles Park from Beaufort Grocery for teaching me the basics! Hope you enjoy!

Pecan Encrusted Grouper with Browned Butter Sauce

4 Grouper filets (~6oz/each and ~one and one-half inches thick)

(You can certainly use another mild fish, even tilapia, but you will have to adjust the cooking time according to the thickness. )

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Olive oil

6 T butter, divided

one-half cup small pecan pieces (I pulsed pecan halves in a food processor several times)

12 grape tomatoes, halved

2 tsp. Grey Poupon mustard

Preheat oven to 400°.

Gently dry fish with a paper towel, then add a small amount of olive oil lightly coating each piece. Salt and pepper both sides of fish.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter in an oven proof skillet over medium heat.

Pour pecans into a shallow dish and coat each piece of fish, pressing the fish into the pecans so they will adhere.

Place coated fish pieces into heated pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, until underside is browning. Turn fish and place pan in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, add remaining butter to small pan over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes stirring occasionally. Cook until butter begins to foam. Remove from heat when it begins to brown and stir in the mustard. Set sauce aside.

Serve fish over rice with sauteed spinach. Top with browned butter sauce.

(I added a few tender asparagus tips to the sauce.)