“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
— Julia Child
They say the heart of the home is the kitchen and I cannot help but agree. It is at my house for sure. We do everything in our kitchen and over the years, we have the best memories that one could ever hope for.
First I have to tell you that Jim’s mom graciously sold us her house when she remarried. That was thirty years ago this week. What a blessing. I doubt we would have been able to afford much at the time and my mother in law made it happen. Thanks Mom. 🙂
From the birth of our son John (Michelene was already born by this time) to the acquisition of cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, cockatiels, you name it, our kitchen has witnessed the evolution of our family. But besides pets and friends, what is really noteworthy is the volume of food that has been consumed over the years from our kitchen table.
Hundreds of pounds of Greek food- spanakopita, baklava, fish plaki, roast lamb- have graced the table. Tons of pasta, interesting soups, Thanksgiving turkeys, Jim’s famous flank steak, amazing chicken egg omelets, bacon, mounds of salads with Michelene’s heirloom tomatoes have all been a part of our food landscape.
If the walls could talk they would tell the tale of the recipes, good and not so good, and certainly the triumph of success with feeding the entire Cain family on Christmas Eve. Everyone pitches in and the noise, bedlam, fun, and gaiety is simply exquisite. This Christmas there was spiral ham, potato salad, amazing cheeses, little hotdogs in crescent rolls, shrimp cocktail, potatoes, green beans, cranberry orange relish, and my son’s smoked brisket. Oh my.
At other times, our kitchen table is the forum for discussions, problem solving, joke sharing, and hilarity over steaming plates of fish plaki and mashed potatoes. Afterwards, during cups of coffee and whatever sweets are in the house- usually something chocolate!- we finish the conversations and clean up the dishes.
I don’t have a fancy kitchen but it is well worn, tried, and true. It has everything I need including a gas oven and two refrigerators- one of which is at least twenty years old and one fairly brand new. It was my intention to take the old fridge downstairs and use it as a backup, but that has never happened. It doesn’t matter now. It’s so darn convenient to have two fridges during holiday entertaining and summer garden harvests. I really like having them both.
About seven or eight years ago, we decided to expand the kitchen and add on a real dining room. Our cousin Clint broke through the wall (a momentous occasion) and added on a spacious extra room. I have a large wooden table with two inserts that I absolutely love and we made the addition big enough to accommodate the table when both leaves are in it. Now we have a small kitchen table and the larger dining room table, perfect for when we have all those family gatherings.
My grandson is at our house every day after school and his mother (my daughter Michelene) comes about an hour later after work. It is not unusual for us to eat dinner together four nights a week; true sit down dinners with plates, silverware, warm meals, and dinner conversation. When I tell people this they almost always say “wow” but to us it feels entirely normal.
I’m going to share my fish plaki (meaning braised or baked fish with vegetables) recipe as this is one of our evening favorites. It’s very simple and when served with mashed potatoes or rice, it’s a definite winner. Believe it or not, I made this last night to test the recipe and I forgot to take a picture!! I promise you’ll love it.
Joanne’s Fish Plaki
4-6 Tilapia Loins (thawed & patted dry), or other meaty white fish
1 large sweet onion
16 oz diced tomatoes, (canned, organic, whatever you have in your cupboard)
6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 tablespoons of butter
Salt and Pepper
Hot Mashed potatoes or cooked rice to serve on the side
Peel and slice carrots into small medallions. Microwave 3-4 minutes covered or steam in a double boiler until just barely tender. Set aside.
Cut the sweet onion into medium slivers and lightly saute in a large skillet in 4 TBS of the olive oil and 3 TBS of butter over medium heat. Lightly salt and pepper them. Cook until barely soft but do not brown. Turn heat down to medium/low.
Spread the sauteed onions out flat and lay the tilapia loins on top of the onions. Lay small slices of the remaining butter on each of the tilapia loins (more or less to taste!). Salt and pepper the loins and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Pour the diced tomatoes over the tilapia, coating them as much as possible.
Cover the pan and simmer on medium to low for approximately 20 minutes. If you need to, flip the loins mid way through the cooking time to evenly cook them. When they are almost done, add the carrots on top of the whole tomatoes. Salt and pepper everything, cover and simmer for another five minutes.
Check your fish loins at this time by breaking one of them in the center. Cook more or less to taste. (I don’t like my tilapia over done)
To serve: Present fish with mashed potatoes or rice and spoon the tomatoes and carrots over top of everything. Splash alittle lemon juice over all or serve a lemon slice with the plate.
*Notes: This is a pretty healthy recipe. (well, minus the butter!) If you want more flavorful fish, lightly brown the loins in butter and/or olive oil before placing them atop of the onions (then adjust your cooking time as well). You can also add cooked green beans or peas at the end, really any kind of vegetable that would go well with the tomatoes.