Red Snapper or Cod Veracruzana

Cod Veracruzana

This is one of many, quick fish dishes from “The Art of Good Cooking.” Fish is one of the most interchangeable proteins. For example, although cod or snapper are the recommended fish for this dish and they are commonly sold, you could use mackerel, bass, or even tilapia (very cheap but bland and a waste of time in my opinion). Traditionally made with Snapper, this dish originated in Mexico in the Veracruz state and is probably the most famous dish from the area. The combination of well known Mexican spices like cumin and chili powder with garlic, olives, and olive oil – ingredients that were supposedly brought to Mexico by the Spaniards – give this dish it’s unique spicy international taste and flavor.


3 lbs filleted red snapper or thick cod steak
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large green peppers, seeded and sliced
3 large onions, sliced
12 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped/chiffonade)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chicken or fish stock
cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste
24 mixed olives
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Dry fish fillets with paper towels. Saute fish in a little olive oil very briefly, on both sides, until it is lightly browned. Arrange fish in a broad baking dish.

In the same pan, saute the green peppers, onions and garlic in remaining olive oil. When vegetables are just soft, stir in chili powder, basil, oregano, bay leaf, and cumin.

Place tomatoes in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until they lose their shape and form a sauce. Add fish liquid to tomato sauce, then combine sauce with vegetable mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar, and cayenne or hot sauce. Spoon this mixture over and around fish. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or just until cooked through.

Sprinkle olives, fresh tomato slices, and cilantro over dish. Serve at once.

Serves 6.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking” by Paula Peck.


Quick Asian Style Shrimp Saute

Chinese Shrimp with Cucumber

Shrimp is always a tasty treat in the summertime. Put it together with refreshing cucumber and you have a light, very quick dish. I guarantee you can make this dish at least twice in the time it takes for that Chinese delivery guy to show up. But this will be much fresher.

Chinese food has actually been in America since the late 1800’s and it made it’s way to the east coast early in the 20th century. When “The Art of Good Cooking” was written in the 1960’s, Polynesian themed restaurants were gaining popularity. Surprisingly, American Chinese food is actually a strange combination of Cantonese, Polynesian, and American cuisine. This is reflected in the sweeter ingredients like sugar and pineapple, as well as the infamous MSG that was practically considered a spice in the 1960’s. This dish is no exception and was titled “Shrimp with Cucumber, Chinese Style.” It of course includes cornstarch, sugar, and sherry (optional) which are all definitely not Authentic Chinese ingredients, but more so American Chinese ingredients (which also means kids will love it!).


4 tablespoons sherry (optional)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 lbs shelled, cleaned raw shrimp
2 large cucumbers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine sherry (if using), soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Marinate shrimp in this mixture. Peel cucumbers and cut in half; scoop out seeds with a teaspoon. Cut into ¼ inch slices. Add to shrimp mixture.

Just before serving, drain shrimp and cucumbers from marinade but reserve marinade. In a heavy skillet, heat vegetable oil until it is hot. Add shrimp and cucumbers. Saute over high heat stirring constantly, for 3 or 4 minutes, or until all shrimp are pink. Add marinade. As soon as sauce thickens, serve with fluffy steamed rice. Garnish with chopped scallions.

Serves 5-6.


Stuffed Cabbage Soup

Stuffed Cabbage Soup

I love this soup. With spring ending in the next month or so, I know it’s a little late to be writing about hot soups (cold soups coming soon!) but this unseasonable cold snap we’ve had here in NYC, inspired me. The original title of this recipe from “The Art of Good Cooking” was just “Cabbage Soup,” which doesn’t sound very appealing. After brief review of the ingredients, I realized that with just a few tweaks, this could easily be a deconstructed stuffed cabbage soup. Change the beef brisket to ground beef (cheaper and easier), add rice, and this is one delicious soup. If you don’t like cabbage, you will still like this soup and you’ll be surprised at how unrecognizable the cabbage is. However, if you don’t like sauerkraut, you may not have as much luck. It adds a subtle pickled tang in the background that I personally love. Maybe I’m biased because at one point in my life I liked stuffed cabbage so much I bought the Lean Cuisine version regularly (sad but true). However, as a quick one pot weeknight meal that’s fairly healthy, this has become one of my favorite soups.


1.5 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 1/2 quarts stock or water
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 a cabbage (about 2.5 lbs), coarsely chopped, core removed
1/2 cup sauerkraut washed in cold water and squeezed dry
1/2 cup white conventional rice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
sour cream

Heat a deep soup pot over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil. Add ground beef and brown, breaking up the meat into smaller pieces, about 3-4 minutes. Remove meat from heat and set aside.

Drain all but about a tablespoon of fat from the soup pot. Heat over medium and add onion and garlic. Saute until onions are almost translucent. Add shredded cabbage, sauerkraut, some salt, and pepper. Saute another 3-4 minutes to soften. Add stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add rice. Reduce to a simmer and cook until rice is just barely softened. If using cornstarch, stir a half cup liquid from soup pot into cornstarch. Then stir mixture back into soup. Add lemon juice.

Serve with dollops of sour cream.

Serves 12 to 14.



Vegetable Risotto

Vegetable Risotto

In true Paula Peck fashion, this seemingly vegetarian recipe actually includes bacon. It definitely adds a smokey deep flavor to the dish. Possibly so rich it could be eaten as a meal by itself. However, the bacon can easily be omitted for a slightly lighter, more vegetarian friendly version. I use what I know as the traditional method for making a risotto: stock or liquid is added a little at a time, allowing to absorb after each addition. Her recipe from “The Art of Good Cooking” is a little more like rice pilaf, where most of the liquid is added all at once and put in the oven until the liquid is absorbed. I personally like to watch the rice and texture as it softens to ensure the rice doesn’t overcook. I’m more comfortable with this stove top method and prefer to save the oven for pilaf but I have included both instructions below.
This is also a great recipe for using all of that wonderful spring produce that should be available any day now. Feel free to swap out the vegetables for whatever you have on hand.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
3 small zucchini, halved and sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 – 10oz package frozen cut beans
2 cups arborio rice
3 1/2 – 4 cups stock or a mixture of stock and tomato juice
salt and pepper
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

Combine butter, bacon, and olive oil in a deep, heavy pot. When hot and bacon is sizzling, add onion, garlic, potatoes, and carrot. Saute over high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and saute for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add dry rice and saute for a few minutes longer.

Stovetop Method
Meanwhile warm stock over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat.
Add stock to rice mixture, about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy. About 20 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Original/Oven Method
Add 3 cups of liquid (stock, tomato juice, or any combination), along with a good amount of salt and pepper. Place in 350 degree oven, uncovered, and allow to simmer until liquid is almost absorbed. Add a little more liquid, and continue to cook, uncovered until rice and vegetables are tender. A bit more or less, liquid maybe needed. Check seasoning and stir in grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8



Pastitsio Pastetseo Potato Patato


Titled Pastetseo in “The Art of Good Cooking,” with only a brief introduction stating that the recipe may be Greek or Syrian, I wanted to know more about this multilayer lamb casserole with the strange name. I naturally turned to google but was surprised that nothing came up. Unable to resist the excessive layering of ground lamb, pasta, cheese, sauce, and eggplant, I moved forward with this recipe for Pastetseo and figured I would continue my research on it’s name and origin another time. It wasn’t until later, when I happened to be enjoying the delicious leftovers of this casserole that reminds me of a gourmet hamburger helper (but way better), that I came across an article about a Greek Easter feast in a magazine I was flipping through. A full page photo of a casserole and a recipe next to it titled “Pastitsio” caught my eye. The ingredients were almost the same, give or take few minor ones, and the eggplant was missing (one of best parts, in my opinion). Mystery solved. Googling “Pastitsio” brings up tons of photos, recipes, and info. This moussaka like casserole appears to be Greek, but even with the correct spelling online, the exact origin seems debatable since Cyprus, Egypt, and Malta all seem to have similar versions. Since I still haven’t found any recipes online that include eggplant, I’m not sure where this addition came from but it definitely gives this Pastitsio another unique layer of flavor that in my opinion makes it better than any of the others out there. Enjoy.


1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound ground lamb
1 28oz can plum tomatoes, slightly drained
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1 large eggplant, peeled, sliced 1/4″ thick, lightly salted, and sauteed in olive oil until tender and brown
1 recipe Cheese Custard (recipe follows)
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until soft. Add the lamb and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Break up meat and tomatoes with a spoon or fork and cook until mixture is almost dry. Season well with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add eggs and 1/3 of a cup of grated cheese.

Combine the mixture with cooked, drained macaroni and pour into a deep well-greased baking dish. The dish should be about half full. Place slices of sauteed eggplant over the meat-macaroni mixture.

Pour the Cheese Custard (below) over all. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and an additional 2 tablespoons melted butter (optional). Bake for 45 minutes or until custard is set and browned. Serves 4-6.

Cheese Custard


1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk, heated
3 beaten eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper

Melt butter in saucepan. Add cornstarch and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Add hot milk and cook until slightly thickened. Pour some of the thickened hot sauce into the beaten eggs, beating constantly. Then pour egg mixture into the rest of the hot sauce, beating while you pour. Remove from flame and beat in ricotta cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper.


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