Light, Fresh and Easy Mediterranean Meal

Promise Yourself…
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

-The Optimist Creed

Three cheers for creating a recipe before the deadline passes!!!

Tonight I moderately adapted one of my favorite spring/summer dishes for the Crisco Mediterranean Inspirations Recipe and Essay contest.  The rules are pretty basic and allowed for quite a bit of freedom when it came to recipe selection. All that was required was that I use 1) at least two tablespoons of %100 Extra Virgin, Pure or Light Tasting Olive Oil and 2) a minimum of two of the following ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, olives, pasta, yogurt, legumes, fresh herbs, lentils, and cheese. Dinner tonight consisted of 6 out of the 9.

Baked Mediterranean Fish with Rosemary Feta Orzo

I haven’t really come up with a good name for the meal, but I think Baked Mediterranean Fish might do the trick. I think naming the dish was actually harder than making it. As with so many of my favorite dishes, all it involved was chopping up a bunch of veggies and throwing them on top of a protein and into the oven it goes!

Makings of Baked Med. Fish

I managed to tear myself away from chicken this time and went with a nice, light white fish. Normally, I use Cod for this recipe, but we already had Basa (a derivative of catfish) in the freezer so I just went with it. Instead of trying to defrost the light, thin fish in the microwave or just waiting hours on end for it to defrost I recommend placing the wrapped fish in a sink filled will cool water. The filets were thawed and ready to go within 20 minutes. Couldn’t be easier!

Defrost!

While the fish defrosts gather your favorite Mediterranean ingredients and get to choppin’. I tend to always use vine tomatoes, red onion, garlic, capers, and kalamata olives. Really anything can be added to the mix, but I find that these flavors and textures work best for me. As to not leave out a green vegetable in the meal, when the fish is ready, serve everything on top of a bed of baby spinach.

Product Placement

Because everything will be going into a hot oven for a while, you don’t want to too finely chop your ingredients or else you will end up with soup. I like to cut the tomato in large chunks, approximately in eighths, making sure there is a good skin to gooey inside ratio. The onion is cut into similarly sized chunks. I try to work with the onion so I make minimal cuts and can just peal the layers away, as opposed to chopping until tears are running down my face.

Cuttin' Up

Once the fish was thawed, I salt-and-peppered it, placed it into a greased roasting dish and drizzled olive oil over top.

Basa-tastic!

I love the color the dish takes on as I pile the tomatoes, onions, drained olives and cappers on top. Finally, I drizzle more light olive oil over the pan and cracked pepper for good measure.

Kaleidoscope of Yummy

The main course went into a 450° oven for 20 minutes while I heated a medium saucepan of water with olive oil, salt and three sprigs of Rosemary on high till it reached a boil. Normally when I make orzo I use chicken broth instead of water to impart a better flavor, but I didn’t have any on hand so I just threw the rosemary in in hopes that it would infuse the water with a light fresh flavor, and indeed it did! Into the boiling rosemary water the orzo went and cooked on high with the herb until the twigs began to shed their leaves, at which point I pulled out the twigs.

Rosemary Water

Let the orzo cook about 10 minutes or until it is al dente and drain the water. Once the water was removed I stirred in cubed chunks of feta and covered with the lid until it was ready to serve.

Feta³

For those not in the know…orzo is a rice shaped pasta. Orzo is a great option when you just can’t decide if you want rice or pasta, or if you are just looking for a slightly different but familiar side dish.

Orzo

I know the Baked Mediterranean Fish was a big hit in this house because of its light, fresh and unadulterated flavor. With warmer weather on the horizon this is definitely a meal that won’t weigh you down. The only thing that pairs better with this dinner than a light, bright and crisp glass of white would be a lovely patio just like this one…

Heaven

Baked Mediteranian Fish

6 vine tomatoes

1 red onion

1/4 cup capers

1 cup pitted kalamata olives

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup Crisco light olive oil

Salt

Pepper

4 basa/cod filets

3 cups baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 450°.

Line the bottom of a roasting pan with aluminum foil and grease.

Place the four white fish filets in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over the fish.

Cut tomatoes and onion into large chunks and place into roasting pan on top of the fish. Sprinkle the drained capers and olives into the pan. And add pealed and crushed garlic.

Add salt-and-pepper to taste and pour the remaining olive oil over the pan’s contents.

Place in oven for 15-25 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.

Serve over a bed of baby spinach.

Rosemary Feta Orzo

3 sprigs fresh Rosemary

3 cups water

2 cups orzo

1 tbs olive oil

salt

1 cup cubed feta

Bring water, rosemary, olive oil and salt to a boil.

Add orzo, stirring frequently. Return to a boil. When the rosemary begins shedding its leaves remove the sprigs.

Continue cooking the orzo on high until it is al dente, for approximately 8 minutes.

Strain the water from the pot. Stir in feta and cover for 3 minutes.

Enjoy!

When life hands you Ramen…

Well I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds or jewels

I never was one of those money hungry fools

- John Denver

When life hands you Ramen, make Ramsagna!

Normally when I cook I go for the gusto. I love using great ingredients and spending hours slaving away until the meal is just right, but in this moment I am feeling a wee bit duped. For $1.50 a person and about 20 minutes of prep time I can make a pretty mean traditional lasagna, only with ramen, instead of lasagna noodles.

But why would someone use ramen noodles you ask, well that’s a great question. Thank you for asking! I am entering Budget 101‘s Ramen Noodle Mania Contest! The second I found this opportunity I couldn’t help but think back to high school, when I first really discovered the joys of Ramen. I think at one point during Sophomore year I ate Ramen everyday. Don’t you know I had to get my sodium fix! I think I actually burned out on ramen well before college, leaving me fewer options for those cash strapped times after Tripple T’s, 356, and Java City raided my bank account.

For some reason the second I read Ramen Noodle Mania Contest my heart was set on making lasagna. I always enjoyed not disturbing the noodles from their perfect square until they began to unfold on their own. In my mind, if you could cook the ramen until just before it unravels you could unfold it to a sheet perfect for creating strips in lasagna. I definitely think I had a few skeptics when I discussed the idea in the proceeding hours after it first popped into my head. I was undeterred.

My original plan was to use the ramen instead of lasagna noodles, but to treat the rest of the lasagna like I normally would, including fresh basil, garlic, onions, and other fresh ingredients. Upon reading the details of the contest I quickly realized this would not be the way to go, and instead used all dry spice agents that I could find in my cabinet and canned and/or store brand ingredients that I picked up on my way home from work.

The more basic the ingredient the cheaper it tends to be, so I picked up tomato sauce and tomato paste instead of a premade pasta sauce.

Tomatoey Goodness!

Once the tomato products were combined I raided the spice cabinet, while trying not to use anything fancy that those subsisting on a ramen diet would find extravagant. I added salt, pepper, dried onions, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder.

Spice Mosaic

The biggest splurge for the meal was italian sausage. If one were really on a budget it could be easily substituted with ground beef.

Italian Sausage

Personally, I think the sausage is what makes lasagna lasagna. Ground beef is exceedingly bland compared to all of the included seasoning you get with hot italian sausage. The package I picked up just happened to be on a fairly significant sale, so the price differential was a non factor.

Sizzling Sausage

Once the sauce is made and the sausage is sizzled, line the bottom of a greased casserole dish with tomato sauce and drop a block of dried noodles into boiling water. The key is to wait until the underside is just done and then flip the noodle patty over to finish cooking. I removed them from the pot with a slotted spatula and unfolded them so they resembled a long strip and slid them in rows ontop of the sauce.

Boiling Ramen Patty

Cover the noodle layer with the ricotta. I found the best way was to scoop out the ricotta and then break it of into little bits that can be scattered about and then smoothed out.

Ricotta Layer

Next comes your sausage and/or ground beef. Make sure to evenly distribute, no one wants a piece with one spec of sausage!

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm Sausage!

Cover over the lasagna goodness with an additional layer of sauce.

Layer Upon Layer

Repeat the noodle strip process until the entire pan is covered. Unfolding the noodles and placing them was way easier than I ever suspected. We were 6 for 6 in our ramen to noodle strip conversion.

Almost Done!

Cover the noodles with your last layer of sauce, and finally, add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, and its ready for the oven.

Ready for the Oven!

Because everything is precooked, the Ramsagna only needs to go into a 350° oven for about 40 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is browned in areas.

Look it's a Ramsanga!!!

One factor I was a bit worried about was its cut-ability, as lasagna is already a bit tricky, but with a thousand strands of noodles it might be impossible to remove from the pan, and once removed it might slide all over the place. Luckily, by using a knife to cut out the piece it came out just fine, and when it cooled a little the Ramsagna held together just fine! Not to mention it tasted exactly like what lasagna tastes like in my head, only it has the texture of spaghetti.

The Insides of a Ramsagna

This truly is a super easy, cheap, and tasty meal that I would love to have again…like for lunch today!

Tonight’s Ramen Adventure is going to be a Faux Pho, check in tomorrow to see how it goes!