Happy spring. What a wonderful time of year and not just because the weather improves, the flowers bloom and the birds sing. As a cooking enthusiast I am thrilled those ridiculous diets that so many agree to in a fit of New Year Resolution mania, fall away. The New Year’s resolution that swears off carbohydrates forever. The plan to lose 56 pounds a month by converting three meals to three shakes, no, make that three cookie bars a day. It even looks silly on paper, Cookie bars for dieting?!? Stop the nonsense and come to the dark side. We eat lasagna so we’re so much more pleasant to be around.
Don’t get me wrong, many diets have been born from solid theory. Somewhere along the line however, they are molested into a ludicrous plan that lacks sustainability. The American diet is filled with an almost unlimited supply of over processed carbs. On the surface, it is a super smart move to eliminate some carbs from our diets but they take it too far. Recently I picked up a low carb cookbook and was floored at the nonsense it touted. They measured the diced tomato and onion at ¼ cup each with a side note mentioning NOT to use a ½ cup each. The side note stated that there are carbohydrates in tomatoes and onions. A separate entry specifically identifying that tomatoes and onions are problematic in the carbohydrate category. Really? Is that a joke? We look at someone grossly overweight, a mountain of misshapen flesh, lumbering slowly down the street and say to ourselves, “Well, it’s those onions, man. And he needs to lay off those tomatoes too. They’re going to kill him”.
This isn’t an AA program where you need twelve steps to eliminate this enemy from your life. Carbohydrates naturally occur. They aren’t the enemy. Inactivity, laziness, lack of daily exercise, those are the enemy.
The other diet that could make me slap seemingly intelligent people is the bar diet. They eat a cookie bar for breakfast and a cookie bar for lunch then a sensible dinner. First off, the cookie bar is a 2 inch by 4 inch by 1 inch rectangle. Your cell phone is significantly larger than this “meal”. It’s called calorie restriction through lack of food. Add to that these so called health bars have an ingredient list so long it barely fits on the wrapper and I challenge you to pronounce more than 50 percent of the ingredients. Good rule. Can’t pronounce it? Don’t eat it.
So take my advice. Go for a walk. Go for a run. Lift weights until your muscles buckle. Then come home, make yourself this delicious dinner of Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce over a bed of rice with your favorite greens. Eat it and enjoy.
Eat, Drink, EXERCISE and be Merry,
Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce
Small bag of shredded sweetened coconut (7 ounces)
2 fillets of haddock or other firm white fish trimmed to uniform pieces for even cooking
1 egg and 1 tbsp water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon (zest and juice)
2 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (Coconut milk will work here but it is significantly better with the cream)
½ cup plus a splash of Malibu Rum
2 Tbsp non peril capers drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cornstarch
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Zest your lemon into a bowl and juice your lemon over the zest. This softens the zest so you don’t feel it in the final product. Set aside. Sprinkle the entire bag of coconut on a clean, dry, unlined cookie sheet so it is in a thin layer. Place in the oven and babysit. Don’t walk away. Do not open email or check face book. You don’t have the luxury of forgetfulness here. Open the oven every 3 to 4 minutes to check and make sure the coconut is toasting perfectly and not scorching. You will have to take the sheet out of the oven once or twice to shake and maneuver the darker coconut out of the corners and lay back into a thin layer again until it is perfect shades of tan and brown with only flecks of white coconut remaining.
Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees. When the coconut cools, 10 minutes or so, take out two shallow dishes or pie plates. Place the egg in one dish, whisk egg and water together. Place the toasted coconut in the second dish. Dredge the fish into the egg wash and press into the coconut. Coat both sides thoroughly. Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium high. Add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering put each fillet in the pan. It will only take 3 or 4 minutes per side depending on how thick your fillets are but fish cooks quickly. Once cooked remove to a plate and place in your oven while you cook the sauce which only takes about 7 minutes more. Wipe out the inside of the skillet with a paper towel removing the remaining oil and bits of coconut that fell off. Still at medium high heat add the butter. Once melted add the Malibu Rum, the lemon, the lemon zest and the cream. Simmer for a few minutes. Place the cornstarch in a small cup and add some of the liquid from the pan to warm and make slurry. Once the cornstarch is incorporated in the liquid pour into the pan with the rest of the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes. This will thicken the sauce. Add the capers and a sprinkle of white pepper. The sauce is done when it coats the back of a spoon. Place the fish over a bed of rice and drizzle the sauce on top.
This is an extremely quick dish once you have the toasted coconut. I make toasted coconut for this dish plus some other desserts so I actually toast large batches and store it in Ziploc baggies.