Sunday, August 13, 2017

I could have sworn I wrote this entry already

It's odd. I could swear I've written entries about tuna and white bean salad before. I've tried at least three different recipes for it. I can't think of a summer where we didn't have it at least twice. It's light enough for a sunny day, filling enough to be a satisfying meal, and the acid from the dressing is delightfully refreshing.

I've tried a few recipes. Several use lemon juice as the dressing, but this one from Giada Di Laurentis is the one I keep going back to, and there's only one thing I change, which you'll read below. 

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans dark meat tuna, packed in olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup small capers, nonpareil in brine, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
In a large bowl, add the tuna, reserving the olive oil in a separate small bowl. Break tuna into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans and capers. Into the bowl of olive oil, add the red wine vinegar. You should have 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil - add more extra-virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables. Add the onion and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently.Place the arugula on large decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top and serve immediately.
Honestly, you can use any kind of tuna, even tuna packed in water. You'll need 2/3 Cup of olive oil total, whether you get it from the tuna can or from a bottle.
Funny story: In the snobbier grocery store in Stamford, there is a rack of imported canned and jarred fish labeled: "Serious Tuna." It took about five years for someone who worked there to laugh when Nexx and I asked where the silly tuna was.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fishy Indulgence

When I go to restaurants, I like to get something I haven't tried before or something I wouldn't likely make at home. I don't usually try to recreate restaurant dishes, but this entry's recipe is an exception.

From 2010 to 2016, Nexx and I lived in Stamford, CT, which is home to some pretty damn fine food. One of my favorites is Remo's Pizza, if you like thin crust, go here. It's on Bedford Street, but I digress, that's not the place that inspired today's dish.

Another Italian place on the same street used to make a pasta dish I loved. Farfalle, smoked salmon, fresh salmon, and a champagne-cream sauce with chives. I ordered this regularly until they took it off the menu. The bastards.

I'm really happy with how this came out, and it was pretty easy. The only change I think I'd make is a drier champagne.

The ingredients list:

  • 8 ounces smoked salmon
  • 8 ounces cooked fresh salmon
  • 1 pound orchiette (Nexx doesn't like farfalle and I wanted a pasta that would hold a sauce
  • 1 pint (16 fluid ounces) cream
  • 8 fluid ounces dry champagne
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Capers for garnish
I cooked the salmon with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper in the immersion circulator for 45 minutes. You can also bake a salmon filet about that size at 350 F for about 25 minutes (check frequently).

While the salmon was cooking, I started the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat, then gradually whisking in the flour until I had a roux. After that, I added the cream a bit at a time until everything was incorporated and smooth, then stirred in the chives.

Now comes a challenge. How to add the champagne and not have the acid curdle the cream? First, I turned the heat down to low. Next, I popped the champagne and poured it into one of my big coffee mugs. I know that sounds weird, but I had a reason. The way I figured it, if I kept the heat low and added the champagne just a bit at a time, I could easily use the Tablespoon to access the liquid without spilling so to add a little bit of booze at a time. It worked beautifully. I kept the sauce on low while the pasta was cooking, stirring every few minutes.

While the pasta water was boiling, I removed the pin bones from the salmon filet and removed most of it from the skin by flaking it off with a fork. Nexx took the skin, put it in his favorite cast-iron pan and crisped it up with the creme bruleé torch and had a snack. I cut the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces--between 2 and 3 square inches.

I drained the pasta and returned it to the pot, added a Tablespoon of champagne and stirred in the salmon. Once it was incorporated, I added the cream sauce and then ladled into bowls.

I put black pepper and capers on the table to be added as we liked. Even if you love capers, go easy on them because they could quickly become front and center, and you'd lose the lovely interplay between fresh and smoked salmon.

I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Getting Stuffed

Hi everyone,

This entry is really three recipes in one. My original plan was simple. Stuff peppers with rice, beans, and chorizo, and top them with cheese. I had planned to use red bell peppers because they stand up nicely, but Nexx made a very good case for poblanos. Honestly, I didn't take much convincing. I adore poblanos. Let's start with the stuffing:
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided,
  • 3/4 Cup short-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 Cups water
  • 7 - 8 ounces Chorizo. I used Spanish Chorizo and it happened to come in a 7-ounce stick, I'd love the extra ounce. Spanish is harder in texture and nowhere near as crumbly as Mexican. Either one will do.
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped 
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 of the largest poblanos you can get your mitts on
  • (note for next time: 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro)
  • 6 ounces Manchego cheese.
  • 3 chicken breast
  • Ground Cumin
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers
  • 2 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
Cook rice on the stovetop or in your rice cooker (when we lived with Austin the minimalist, I used his rice cooker all the damn time. I still miss it). While it's cooking, rinse and drain your black beans. From there, skin and then chop your chorizo into pieces about 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch. I'm 5'3", this works about to be around the size of my thumbnail.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Rinse and drain your black beans. Cook chorizo on low heat for about ten minutes, just enough to get the fat to start melting and make your kitchen smell delicious. If applicable, chase your significant other out of the kitchen. If he's cooperative about it, give them some chorizo.

Drain the chorizo on paper towels, chop your green onions. By this time, your rice is probably ready. Remove the rice to a large bowl and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. 

While the rice is cooling, wash your poblanos. After you wash them, figure out in what position they will be stable in the baking dish. You don't want them falling over in the oven. Cut off a third of the pepper (leave the stem intact) and use a small knife to de-seed and get rid of as much of the rib as you can. Take your time and be patient with yourself. You'll end up with something like this:

Add your chorizo, beans, green onions, and lime juice to the rice and stir well. Now you're ready for the tricky part. Using a small spoon, add the rice mixture to the peppers. The small spoon is key here--you can use it to force the filling into hard-to reach areas and this will help you not to have to force open the pepper any more than necessary. 

Put a Tablespoon of olive oil in a 9x13 baking dish, and spread it around so it covers the whole thing. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil, top your peppers with about half the cheese, and bake another ten minutes, uncovered until the cheese is bubbly.

I had originally planned these as a main dish, but then I thought some more protein might be in order. Plus, I like to serve meals with a lot of different textures, so I added cumin chicken quesadillas.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Salt your chicken lightly and shake cumin over the breasts until you can see about 1/4 of the meat. Add the chicken tt the pan and turn the meat over every 5 minutes until your meat thermometer reads your desired temperature. 

In between checking, cut up your peppers and your onion. You'll put these in the quesadillas.

My meat thermometer says poultry should be at 165 F. I take it out of the pan at 150-155. Juicier and still thoroughly cooked. Let chicken rest for about five minutes. Chop it into small pieces (about 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch) or shred, either works fine. (I like shredded, Nexx does not. It's a continuous bone of contention)

Melt half the butter in a skillet on medium heat while you prep your first quesadilla. Microwave the tortilla for 15 seconds to soften it. Add half the remaining cheese, peppers to taste, fold in half and zap in pan for three minutes a side. Serve.

I should have bought more peppers as we had a ton of filling left over. Actually, we had a ton of quesadilla ingredients over too. To save space in the fridge (when you live in NYC, you're always about saving space), we put the chicken, peppers, and onion into the rice mixture and stuck it in the fridge. The following day, we put it in bowls, topped the mixture with cheddar cheese and microwaved for about 90 seconds.

If you try any of the above, or come up with variations, let me know!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fowl Play

I'm very new to the sous vide process and had originally looked at it with some skepticism. Then Nexx made a few things with it and won me over. My first experiment with it was chicken breasts (and chicken tastes more like chicken when you cook it in the immersion circulator), but the flavorings I added didn't take as well as I wanted so it didn't get blogged. This time, I attacked the ingredients with more gusto. 

This was a labor-intensive day, but it was worth it overall. We cooked a pair of duck breasts. In the bag with each one went:

  • 2 teaspoons of chopped ginger
  • 3 green onions, split lengthwise
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • the peel of half an orange (I use a vegetable peeler for this)
  • 5 cloves pan-roasted garlic (like I said, labor-intensive. This took a while, but the kitchen smelled fabulous. When I made the chicken, I used raw garlic and it didn't cook enough to release its aromatic flavors)
Note to Kate: make sure you have the garlic salt instead of the garlic powder. Yes this can be (and was) added afterwards, but it should have been in there in the first place.

Duck takes 2 hours for medium rare. I don't recall what site Nexx gets his temperature settings from (look for an entry from him about his adventures with the sous vide method soon). A quick search found me this page, which I like because it also has the thickness of your meat to take into consideration.

While the duck cooked, I sautéed 8 ounces of mushrooms (this was a mix, I recommend shitake if they are affordable in your area) in the oil that I cooked the garlic in, added a about a teaspoon each of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

The duck came out two hours later and went into a hot pan for a good sear. Crispy duck fat is like elevated bacon (and no nitrates!). While it was resting (do this for at least five minutes, more is not bad), I put 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, filled the pan with bok choi, and stirred it until it wilted and started turning a lovely bright green.

About bok choi: Wash it thoroughly. Then do it again. Grit is not fun and hurts your teeth.

Once wilted, I added rice vinegar and red pepper flakes. Taste as you go to get it just as  you like it.

Slice duck into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Plate your meat and vegetables. Add salt and additional red pepper.

For next time (and there will definitely be a next time), we'll take the juices and make a pan sauce, plus top everything with green onions.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Light Summer Pasta--Linguine With White Clam Sauce

I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. I've made linguine with clams before, but I've never actually researched a recipe. I may very well be missing a basic ingredient (if you know, it, please comment here). Regardless, this came out delicious and I hope you enjoy it as much as Nexx and I did. This serves 4.

  • 12 ounces of clams. I used canned because I am too lazy to shuck clams. The brand I bought had them chopped roughly instead of minced and I liked the variety in size and texture a lot. Reserve 2 teaspoons of juice from the cans.
  • 3/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice--this worked out to be 1.5 lemons
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or more. Next time there will be more)
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
First, draft a sous chef to chop the parsley. This gives you time to put everything else together. Thank you sweetie!

Pour the wine and lemon juice into a small saucepan. Add your garlic, your clams and (something I will do next time) 2 teaspoons of clam juice. Make sure your liquid covers your clams. Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Set heat to simmer and stir every couple of minutes.

Start your pasta water boiling. If you feel like it, make a salad. I cut some small cucumbers into spears and we nibbled on those while we waited for everything to be assembled.

Cook the linguine according to your package directions. Reserve a cup of the pasta water to improve stickiness. Drain the pasta, put back in the pot. Add your clam mixture, and gently toss to incorporate. I have a set of tongs that is silicone-coated and they worked great for this. Add your parsley, some pasta water if you need to. Serve with lemon wedges on the side. 

Nexx thought some cheese could be a good garnish, and I will definitely have that prepared for next time.

The leftovers were a little sticky, and there was more garlic flavor, so maybe less pasta water and more lemon/wine mixture.

Questions? Comments? Love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Make-Ahead Breakfast Muffin

I'd heard of egg muffins before and I've had baked eggs. These seemed a good idea because I tend to be in a rush in the morning before work, and these reheat in 30 seconds, are satisfying to chew and are filling too.

I came across this recipe (hat tip to the author!), and immediately thought of ways to improve it to my tastes. I also made half a recipe because I wanted to make sure I would like them before I committed to using a dozen eggs.

So the base recipe is

  • 6 eggs
  • 6 ounces of your favorite breakfast meat
  • 2 ounces cheese 
  • 1/2 Cup of chopped onion
  • 3 teaspoons of water
I used 2 bun-sized sausages that had habaneros in them, and a sharp cheddar cheese. Instead of shredding the cheese as the original recipe said, I cut it into small chunks. This way we got a bigger taste of gooey cheese in some bites. To go with the habaneros, I put in a teaspoon of dried cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon of oregano. The herbs got lost, I'm afraid. I blame the habaneros.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. If you don't have an oven thermometer, get one. Apologies for repeating myself, but I can tell you from experience it makes a huge difference. My oven is 50 degrees F cooler than what it says on the readout.

Lightly scramble your ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Using a 1/3 Cup measuring cup, spoon your egg mixture into your muffin tin (grease it lightly unless you're using non-stick or silicone). Do what you can to make sure your mix-ins are evenly distributed without making too much of a mess.

You might be wondering why I added water to the recipe. The idea was to keep the eggs moist while baking and to make the texture lighter by also having steam help cook them. I think it worked pretty well.

Bake the muffins in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes. You'll also be able to see the muffins start pulling away from the edges of the tin, and if you insert a knife it will come out clean or with only a little moisture on it..

Put the muffin tin on a cooling rack for about ten minutes. Remove your muffins and serve. We had them with yogurt as a dessert , but the damn raspberries I bought on Friday went a bit off, so the yogurt was plain. You could also serve these with a side of fruit, or if you're not in a rush, a potato of some kind.

I got some good feedback from Nexx, which is always nice, and I have some for quick breakfast this week before I get on a crosstown bus. I live in the Theatre District, sometimes referred to as Midtown West, and the ride to where I work, which is near the United Nations, is a tad annoying. A full stomach will definitely have me in a better mood.

I plan on trying some variations. Manchego, onions, bacon, and rosemary. Possibly bacon, potato, onions, and cheddar. Right now, I'm staying out of the kitchen because Nexx is threatening to make flan.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Pot Luck Dish: Quinoa Salad With No Kale Whatsoever

Apologies if I repeat myself, but I'm pretty fond of quinoa. When I first tried it, it was at a Trader Joe's and they were giving samples of it mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and basil and I loved the nutty tasty and pasta-like texture.

Today's recipe came out of my brain almost fully-formed. I've had characters come to me like then in writing the Bloody Murder Mysteries. Usually recipes take some more concentration to create.

You can make quinoa in a rice cooker, the ratio is the same. One part quinoa to two parts water. I don't have room in my kitchen for a rice cooker, so I make it on the stovetop.

  • 1 Cup quinoa. Measure it over the sink because the stuff can get everywhere if you're not careful.
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 avocados, chopped. 
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped and rinsed (this keeps it from dominating the salad)
  • 4 green onions, green parts chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed. I recommend low-sodium.
  • 1 11-ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed if it's in liquid. I recommend something vacuum-packed
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro 
  • 6-8 limes
The quinoa I buy usually cooks for 25 minutes, but follow your package directions. You should see a white outline around the edge to indicate it is done.. Make the quinoa first so it can cool while you finish the chopping.

To mix the dressing:

Thoroughly juice 5 of your limes into the olive oil Add the salt, pepper, and cilantro. Put in a sealed container. I used old glass iced tea bottles. Shake the living hell out of it. Set aside.

When the quinoa is cooled stir in your vegetables. I use a rubber scraper for this. Add your dressing and stir well. Squeeze more limes to taste, and serve with more lime wedges.

This went to a pot luck alongside some tacos and I got some compliments, which I was happy to hear. Even someone who normally doesn't eat quinoa tried some. I was nice and left some at home for Nexx who wasn't feeling well that day.

If you try this, please let me know if you make any variations. I'd love to here them.