Blogs, Recipes

Grouper Piccata

Living in Florida has many benefits, sunny days, beautiful beaches, and it also comes with the benefits of AMAZING fresh fish. 

I was lucky enough to grab some grouper fillets from my local fish market but you can also score some at your store’s frozen section. If you are unable to find grouper fillets, you can use snapper, cod, catfish or even chicken. 

This sauce highlights the fish without taking over. In this recipe, I use a simple piccata sauce with lemon and capers to create an easy meal that everyone will love! Oh, and this is a one pan dish! Hello easy clean up! 🙂

I’m not usually a Chardonnay fan but since I received a bottle of Scout & Cellar Fiddleneck Chardonnay I thought I’d give it a try. I am now a Chardonnay fan! The Fiddleneck Chardonnay is the perfect pairing to this recipe! It’s not oaky like most Chardonnays I have tried in the past. It’s light and refreshing with notes of yellow apple, candied lemon peel, and ripe pineapple. It truly is delicious with the buttery lemon flavor of the grouper piccata! 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 6-ounce grouper fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

INSTRUCTIONS

Sprinkle grouper fillets with salt and pepper. 

Dredge fillets on all sides in flour. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil in a large skillet. 

Add fillets to skillet; cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove fish from skillet.

Add garlic, lemon juice and wine to the skillet, scraping browned bits from the pan. Add the chicken broth and stir to combine. 

Cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. 

Tip: if the sauce is too bitter, just add ¼ cup of chicken broth at a time. 

Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, capers and parsley.

Serve sauce over fish.

I served mine with a side of angel hair pasta and baby broccoli.

Recipes

Family Pizza Night

Did someone say Pizza? Brian and I love making homemade pizza with the girls! 

Now of course, you can just go to the grocery store and buy the pre-made pizza dough but what’s the fun in that! While we practice the Stay at Home Order, get in the kitchen and make your own pizza dough. It’s super fun especially to do with loved ones! 

I have two recipes listed below; one for your regular pizza dough and one for deep dish pizza dough. They both are delicious!

Basic But Delicious Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for bowl to rest dough
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 cups All purpose flour, plus more to roll dough

Mix 1 cup warm water with the package active dry yeast and let the yeast bloom and foam, 5 minutes. Add EVOO, honey and salt and whisk together. 

Whisk together the 3 cups of flour and salt. 

If you have a food processor, slowly pour the honey mixture, to the food processor and pulse until the dough comes together in a sticky ball, about 20 to 30 seconds. No food processor, no worries, you can use a rubber spatula! 

Place the dough onto a floured work surface and knead, using the heel of your hand, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. This can totally count as your arm workout for the day!

Using a paper towel, pour a small amount of EVOO into a large bowl and coat the bottom and sides. Add the dough, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the dough stand until it is doubled in size, about ten minutes to one hour. The longer you allow it to stand and rise, the more flavor you will have.  I totally just sounded like Yoda! LOL! Okay back to the recipe. 

After ten minutes, plop the dough onto a floured cutting board. Punch the dough, literally, punch down on it and then puff it back up. 

We like to make several different types of pizzas so we usually make 3- to 4-inch mini pizzas. If you want just one big pizza, skip this next step. 

To make 3- to 4-inch mini pizzas, cut each dough ball into 4 piece wedges, then press or stretch into shape into a ball.

Want one big pizza? Press the dough out on the work surface into a 9 to 12 inch round, a long rectangle or an oval. Now if you used to work at a pizza place like Brian, you can get fancy and toss the dough up in the air. Or you can be like me and start at the center and work outwards, using your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick.

Here’s a little tip: let the dough relax 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired diameter. 

Use your fingertips to press down and make dents along the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Let rest another 10-15 minutes.

Looking for Deep Dish?

Brian is from Chicgao and he absolutely loves Malnatis! So one night, we tried to recreate their famous pizza. I’m not saying we nailed it but we came pretty close! If you are looking for a Deep Dish Chicago style pizza, here you go!

Ingredients

  • 3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 standard packet)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups slightly warm water
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup melted, 1/4 cup softened to room temperature)
  • olive oil for coating

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. If you do not have a stand mixer, use your hand mixer and a very, very large bowl. If you do not have any mixer, you can do this all by hand. 

Make sure you are using a LARGE bowl! The first time, we made this pizza dough, flour flew everywhere, which the girls and I turned into a flour food fight! I’m pretty sure Brian is still finding flour in places in his kitchen that flour should not be. 

Give those ingredients a quick toss with your mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon. 

Into the flour mixture, slowly pour the warm water and 1/4 cup of melted butter. Make sure it is not very hot or it will kill the yeast. Likewise, make sure the butter isn’t boiling hot. If you melt it in the microwave, let it sit for a few minutes before adding into the bowl. On low speed, beat (or stir) the dough ingredients until everything begins to be moistened. Continue on low speed (or remove from the bowl and knead by hand if you do not own a mixer), beat the dough until it is soft and gently pull away from the sides of the bowl and falls off of the dough hook- about 4-5 minutes. If the dough is too hard (it will be textured from the cornmeal), but if it feels too tough, beat in a teaspoon of warm water. Alternatively, if it feels too soft, beat in a tablespoon of flour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it around so that all sides of the dough are coated.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 1-2 hours or until double in size.

While we wait for the basic or deep dish dough to rise, we usually make the sauce but I’ll tell you more about the sauce soon, below.

After an hour, remove the dough and place it onto a floured surface. Roll it out into a 12-inch circle. You want to stretch it out as much as you can to make a large circle. The dough needs to be stretched out enough to cover the bottom and sides of the baking pan. Remember we are making a deep dish dough! 

Using a rolling pin as a guide, place over a 9×2-inch (23×5 cm) deep dish cake pan or cast-iron skillet. We use our cast iron. We love cast iron, check out my blog in the Tips & Tricks section and you’ll understand. : )

Using your fingers, press the dough into the skillet or pan. Make sure it is nice and tight fitting inside the pan. Trim any excess dough off the edges with a small knife. Brush the top edges of the dough with a little olive oil. 

Now for the sauce!

The sauce is just as important as the dough! Yes, you can buy the jar stuff but come on! Why not go all the way! I’m going to share with you my Sicilian Pizza sauce and then I’ll share with you the best replica Malnati’s sauce. 

Sicilian Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 tbsp butter 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic, chopped
  • 3 14 oz cans Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste 
  • 1 tbsp Italian herb
  • 1 bay leaf

Best Replica Malnati’s Sauce Ingredients. 

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, grated (about 1/3 cup)*
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional, but recommended)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes*
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

Sicilian Sauce Directions

Melt the butter and the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.

When all the butter is melted, add the onions and garlic, salt well, and saute over medium heat for about 7 – 8 minutes, until the onion rings begin to lose their shape and soften.

Add the canned tomatoes (with their juices) and bring to a simmer.

When simmering, reduce the heat and maintain a slow simmer for about two hours, stirring frequently.

Add the sugar, tomato paste and Italian herbs (if using dried herbs add now, if using fresh, add about 10 minutes before blending), stir and continue to simmer for about another hour.

Best Replica Malnati’s Sauce Directions

Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and allow it to melt. Once melted, add the grated onion, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Once the onion has slightly browned after about 5 minutes, add the garlic, tomatoes, and sugar. Turn the heat down to low-medium and allow it to simmer until it’s hearty, fragrant, and thick- about 30 minutes. You’ll have about 2 and 1/2 cups of sauce at this point. If you have more than that, keep simmering until the amount has reduced. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to be used. 

Now for the Pizza toppings, get creative! Brian and I have tried several combinations, I listed our favorites but honestly anything goes! 

Malnati’s Toppings

  • ½-1 cup of Malnati’s sauce, or more depending on how thick you like your sauce 
  • 2  cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Crumbled Italian sausage (about ½ lb)
  • Thinly Sliced Pepperoni 

Margherita Toppings

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup pizza sauce
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Parmesan cheese
  • A few fresh basil leaves

Veggie Toppings 

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper 
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion 
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

Prosciutto Pizza

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto
  • A few big handfuls of arugula

Lemon Arugula- no red sauce for this one.

  • EVOO, for drizzling
  • 6 ounces grated fontina cheese
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4-6 Prosciutto slices 
  • 2 tablespoons white truffle oil
  • 2 1/2 packed cups baby arugula
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh lemon zest, for garnishing

Recipes

Zucchini Taco Boats

Looking for an alternative to your Taco Tuesday?

These Zucchini Taco boats are made with fresh zucchini stuffed with seasoned ground beef, bell peppers, and topped with cheese and salsa. But the filling could literally be anything, from chicken and corn, to meatballs with tomato sauce! 

They are low carb and keto diet friendly. 

Start with 3 or 4 small zucchini. 

I used a small cookie scoop to scoop out the middle of the zucchini, but you can also use a small spoon. I got a little close to the edge on one of them, but don’t worry about it. The meat filling will cover it up. I love using the insides of the zucchini I scooped out to add filler, so place the insides to the side.  

Pour 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa in a baking dish- I used Pace. Lay the boats on top of the salsa and sprinkle each with salt. 

Now it’s time to make the filling.  Heat a pan over medium-heat and cook the meat. You can use any ground meat, I used ground beef.  Once the meat is cooked, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the same pan and add a drizzle of EVOO.

Sauté the insides of the zucchini. Make sure to cook it down to reduce the liquid. Then add bell peppers,- any color,  I used red and yellow. Sprinkle it with chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir together and cook for about two minutes. Add the red onion and garlic. It should start to smell like it’s almost Taco time! 

Continue to cook until vegetables are softened and water has absorbed. Lastly, add the meat back to the pan, and stir together. Once it is combined, it’s time to fill up the boats. Go ahead and fill those babies up- don’t be shy! Let the meat spill over if you need to.

I love cheese and, what’s a taco if it doesn’t have any cheese on it? Cover the filled boats with shredded cheese. I used Cheddar but Monterrey Jack or a Mexican blend would work great, too. 

Place the baking dish in the 400°F preheated oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. 

This recipe  is great if you’re looking for a low-carb option for tacos, or need to get more veggies into your diet. Try them out for Taco Tuesday and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Zucchini
  • 1lb Ground Beef
  • 1/2 cup Mixed Red & Yellow Bell Peppers, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup Red Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced  
  • 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 8 ounces Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Salsa

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F

Prepare your zucchini, cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a measuring spoon (teaspoon) to hollow out the zucchini forming a boat… save the insides and set aside. 

Pour salsa into a baking dish.

Place the zucchini boats in the same baking dish and sprinkle a small amount of salt over them.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef. Once cooked, transfer to a bowl. Wipe out the same pan and add a drizzle of EVOO.

Add the inside of the zucchini, water will release. Let it cook down to reduce the liquid, then add bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir together and cook for about two minutes. Then add the red onion and garlic.

Continue to cook until vegetables are softened and water has absorbed. Add the meat back to the pan, stir together. 

Once combined, fill each zucchini boat with the beef and vegetable mixture.

Top the zucchini boats with cheddar cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes or until zucchini has softened and cheese is melted.

Serve hot! 

Recipes

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is one of my favorite Italian comfort foods.
The one thing to keep in mind when cooking eggplant, is eggplants hold onto moisture, like a sponge. So if you’re not careful you can end up with a mushy mess.

So the best method to make eggplant parmesan is to pull the moisture out of the eggplant prior to frying it.

How do we pull moisture out of the eggplant?

You sprinkle salt on the eggplant slice and let them sit for 45 minutes to one hour.The salt pulls out the moisture from the eggplant. 

It also helps to cut the bitterness of the vegetable and makes it “sweat”. You will notice little drops of moisture on the surface of the disks. Removing the moisture from the eggplant will prevent it from releasing it during cooking. 

After the 45 minutes, all you have to do is just pat them dry and dust off the excess salt and then you’ll be ready to start making your eggplant parmesan! I guarantee you will have a much crispier and less soggy eggplant parmesan dish! 

Now of course, you can bake or roast the eggplant for eggplant Parmesan, and they are tasty but frying the eggplant gives the dish a deep caramelized flavor that can not be mimicked by baking. 

I like my eggplant a tad thick so I slice mine about ¼ thick, using a sharp knife. Grab two shallow dishes, crack two eggs in one dish and whisk. I like to add some seasoning, like granulated garlic and black pepper, to my whisked eggs but that is totally up to you. Pour 1 ½ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs in the other dish. I love cheese and feel you can never have too much so I sprinkle ¼ cup of grated Parmesan into the breadcrumbs and whisk until combined. 

Take each slice, dip it into the egg mixture, roll in the bread crumbs and shake off any excess. Place the breaded eggplant slices on a plate or large baking sheet and repeat until all eggplant slices have been coated. 

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil into the skillet. I always use my cast iron skillet but any skillet will work. I have become a big fan of cast iron in the last year. Check out my Tips & Tricks page for why. 

Once the skillet is hot, slowly slide two-three breaded eggplant slices into the oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, they should be a nice golden brown. The first batch will take longer than the rest as the oil heats up. You will want to keep a close eye on them and watch out for oil splatters. 

Line a large sheet pan with foil, this will make for an easy clean up. Add a layer of eggplant slices then dollop 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce on top of the eggplant slices. The idea isn’t to smother the layers with sauce. On top of the eggplant slices, sprinkle a generous amount of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. The more cheese the better, in my opinion. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top. I use the broiler for 5 minutes to get the cheese nice and brown – you don’t have to, but if you do, watch it carefully!

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh basil. It reminds me of my grandparents’ backyard when I was a child. My grandfather, Papa, always had a basil plant in his backyard. Here’s a great tip for cutting basil. Stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Then make thin slices from one end of the basil cigar to the other. Sprinkle on top of your eggplant parmesan and serve. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil, for lightly pan-frying
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 cups whole milk mozzarella shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves sliced, for garnish (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Salt both sides of your eggplant slices and place them in a large colander in the sink. Let the liquid drain for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When your eggplant slices have finished draining liquid, brush off the excess salt.

In 2 shallow plates, add breadcrumbs to one and whisk eggs and in the other. Dip both sides of the eggplant slice into egg mixture then cover with breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess. Place on a plate or large baking sheet and repeat until all eggplant slices have been coated.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil into the skillet. Once the skillet is hot, add two-three eggplant slices at a time to the skillet and cook on both sides until golden brown, remove and set on a large plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until you’ve pan-fried them all.

On a large sheet pan, add a layer of eggplant slices then using dollop 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce on top of the eggplant slices. The idea isn’t to smother the layers with sauce. On top of the eggplant slices, sprinkle a generous amount of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top. I use the broiler for 5 minutes to get the cheese nice and brown. 

Serve hot and top with sliced basil.

Tips & Tricks

The Wooden Spoon

My first tip is make sure you have a wooden spoon or several!

My Meme, grandmother, use to always say a wooden spoon is a must have in the kitchen!

And yes, just like the episode of Everyone Loves Raymond, we had the large wooden spoon and fork on the kitchen wall in my Meme & Papa’s house. But that was not the wooden spoon, she was speaking of.

Why Wood?

Wooden spoons don’t quickly heat to scalding temperatures, melt, or scratch pots and pans. A wooden spoon can be used to stir any dish in any type of pot/pan. It can muddle lime and mint for a Mojito, stop a pot of pasta from boiling over, and fold together the wet and dry ingredients of cookie batter.

While all of these facts already tip the scale in favor of wooden spoons, there is also an emotional reason to use them.

Wood retains memories in a way that metal and plastic cannot. It shows signs of use. It changes color and texture, wears and ages, even changes shape.

I can look at one of my wooden spoons and see a slight bent from cooking my first Christmas meal, or the dark spot from the sangria I made for my friends last summer. And when I use the wooden rolling pin that belonged first to my grandmother, then to my mother, and now to me, I cannot help but feel that I am cooking in the company of all past meals that the rolling pin helped roll and with the help of all the hands that have done the rolling before me.

Now I have taken her advice, and have several wooden kitchen utensils. They are my go to!

DIY Projects

About Me

Hi!
Welcome to Whisk Away Kitchen!

I am excited to share with you my favorite recipes as well as tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

For several years I have wanted to start a food blog. Since food sparks creativity in me, I knew that I wanted this blog to be all about having fun in the kitchen, delicious food, creative cocktails and tips & tricks I’ve learned along the way! So with the encouragement of my family and friends, “Whisk Away Kitchen” was born!

I am lucky enough to have the recipes of my Sicilian and Spanish grandparents. I love taking an old family recipe and adding a new spin on it to keep it current and fresh. One of my favorite things to do after a long day is to get lost in the kitchen, creating dinner for family and friends.

This blog is all about being creative in the kitchen & fun. I’m here to show you that it is okay to switch things up, making good homemade food really isn’t all that difficult, it’s actually fun!

I hope I will inspire you to be “whisked” away into your kitchen and cook what you see here, and most importantly have some fun!

Exactly who am I?

My name is Erin. I’m a Tampa native, Elementary school Assistant Principal, cook, blogger and foodie. I love to cook for family and friends any chance I get. From a young age, I watched my Sicilian grandparents, great grandma and Spanish gradma work their magic in the kitchen, and once I picked up my first whisk, I was hooked! I do most of my cooking in Tampa with my boyfriend, Brian, a.k.a Bear, and my pup, Bodie. Cooking has always been a welcome creative and stress release for me. When I’m not working, you can find Bear and I in the kitchen creating something yummy! My hope is to inspire you and bring you closer together!

I’m so thankful you are here to join in my cooking adventure.