Saturday, September 7, 2019

In which Kate Halves a Protein

So it's still summer, even if it is after Labor Day for the last few months that's often meant cool or cold meals, partly because who wants to heat up the kitchen and run up the air conditioning bill?

I forget how I came across this recipe, but I've been eating olives a lot and this recipe didn't have leafy greens. It's not that I don't like leafy greens, It's that I had braces from 2011 to 2013 and I didn't eat them for two years because I didn't want to pick them out from under the wires and brackets. This means now I only have them occasionally becaues I don't digest them light I used to. Arugula and spinach seem to be okay, at least.

I figured this would be good for light dinners, since during the week my biggest meal of the day is lunch, but then I looked at the recipe. Take a look:

  • (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna, drained (or use tuna in water and 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup pitted, chopped kalamata olives
  • tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Toss all ingredients into a large bowl until well mixed
This seemed to me to be not enough vegetables to tuna. You'd barely get enough to flavor the fish. I love briny things, so I wanted the olives pretty strong. I also love lemon. So I cut the tuna in half but left the vegetables and spices as listed. 

I'm really happy with it. I think I can boost the flavors with more lemon juice (or maybe some lemon zest), and I may up the vegetables and the spices by 50%. Capers have also crossed my mind.

I got three main dish servings out of the salad; I ate them with pita chips to throw in some more variety to the textures. If you're looking for adding other vegetables, putting this on a bed of shredded romaine would likely serve you very well. 

If you try it, let me know how you like it!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sauce is Done aka Another Cheat Sauce

Hi everyone,

I wasn't going to blog this one because the list of ingredients are pretty vague. I also did a long, slow cook on it and I know there's a lot of people out there with InstaPots. I'm not going to diss them, but I'm not in a hurry to get one. One, I live in a Manhattan apartment and my kitchen storage is already over capacity. Two, when it comes to low and slow, I am really fond of my immersion circulator. Give me a kitchen with three times the storage, and I will load up with an Instapot, a wok, and a tagine. And a food mill. Which, if I owned, today's recipe would be from fresh tomatoes. 

Anyway, on to this adventure in cheat sauce. I use a sauté pan and here's what went in this batch:

  • 2 cloves of garlic--actually, it was three small ones, but some of the cloves were unusable, so I'm going to call it two. Sometimes when you order groceries thing aren't perfect. On the other hand, someone carries the big, heavy, and awkward stuff.
  • 1 large shallot--a large shallot takes up most of the palm of my hand, and it at least 2 inches from its longest points
  • 2 onions about the size of baseballs. If sports comparisons aren't your thing, this is approximately one cup chopped into about 3/4-inch pieces
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 12-oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 large can tomato paste (or two of those little ones)
  • 2 6-oz packages of sliced mushrooms (because sometimes I'm downright lazy)
  • About 5 ounces of wine because it all didn't get drunk over the last few nights
  • One pound 85/15 ground beef
  • The last bit of parmesan found in the fridge, shredded
  • dried oregano to taste
  • dried basil to taste
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper (preferably freshly ground) to taste.
Like I said, it's a bit vague. Trust yourself and taste a lot.
  • in a sauté pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Throw in the garlic, and stir constantly until the garlic turns light brown so you get a nice toasty flavor
  • stir in the onions, make sure they're well coated with the olive oil. Shake dried herbs and red pepper over the veggies and stir some more.
  • in a separate pan, turn your burner up to medium-low, add 1/2 T of olive oil, add your ground beef, sprinkle it with salt and black pepper, mush it out of the shape it came in, alternate stirring between your pans until the meat is browned with minimal pink spots.
  • Add the mushrooms to your garlic and onions.
  • Add  your meat (fat and all) carefully to your sauté pan and stir. There is a lot of splash potential here. Your mushrooms will absorb some of the beef fat and juices. Yum!
  • Add your diced tomatoes (do not drain them), then your cans of sauce, and stir until everything looks evenly distributed.
  • Stir in the shredded cheese.
  • Time for the tomato paste. Scrape out the can(s) and add carefully because your pan is likely getting full
  • Add the wine to the can of tomato paste, swirl it around, and stir in.

At this point, it's stirring, adding spices, and tasting until you get what you like. I typically simmer for a couple hours (and strongly recommend buying a splatter guard). I've always liked a really thick sauce, but as you wish.

How thick do you like yours? Send pictures!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Another One That's Gina's Fault: Salmon Cakes

It's lovely when my friends support my hobbies. This past holiday season, I was gifted with a small jar of Penzey's wasabi powder. For the smell of the place alone, I miss living with easy access to a Penzey's.

When I took and experimental whiff of the powder, my brain immediately went, 'salmon,' and I thought I'd make salmon cakes. It didn't take long for the ingredients to come together in my head. I surfed the web a bit until I had a good idea of the proportions and came up with this:

  • 1 14.5 ounce can pink salmon (do not drain)
  • 3 green onions, chopped 
  • 3/4 Cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of wasabi powder
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 t light oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Shichimi Togarashi (a Japanese red pepper mix that I utterly adore)

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Carefully (as in be prepared for splashing) de-can the salmon using a fork and take apart any large chunks. Combine with the rest of the ingredients, using a rubber spatula. 

I wanted cakes, not patties, and while I know they're often fried, it made sense to me to use one of my muffin tins. Well, tin is really not the word, I have these:

I didn't press the mixture into the tin, rather I rolled it into six spheres, and then baked for 35 minutes.

For condiments, I put 2 T of mayonaise, 1t of soy sauce and 1 T of a creamy garlic hot sauce by Famous Daves in a ramekin and stirred until everything was evenly distributed. 

For serving, I put 2 cakes on a bed of butterhead lettuce and squeezed a bit of lemon over.

For a first try, I think they're pretty damn good, but I have some plans for improvement most of which can be summed up in one word: MORE. Green onions, wasabi powder, Shichimi Togarashi. I got a little of the wasabi flavor, but not quite enough. Under consideration as additives are finely chopped celery (I rarely buy celery because I need so little at a time. I should check a local salad bar) and a shallot. Also more lemon. Many of the recipes I browsed have red pepper in them, but I think that would take away from the wasabi and I don't want that. Some shishito peppers on the side, maybe.

Now, I need crabmeat to go on sale......

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Seeking perfection: Because I should be able to do Better than Starbucks: Sous Vide Egg Bites

You may have noticed people raving about Starbucks sous vide egg bites of late, and I think they're pretty damn good. They're reasonably filling, full of protein, and it's a nice change away from the typical American carb-heavy breakfast (but don't you even think about taking away my bagels).

Naturally, people started making their own, because this way there are no preservatives and you have more choices. I've been meaning to do this for a while, so today was the day. I got my proportions to start with from Inova, though I looked at multiple sites. 

I was surprised to learn that Starbucks uses cottage cheese in theirs. I mentioned this my friend Scott and he reached the same conclusion I did, "What about a nice ricotta?" So there was my first change. I also thought I wanted a few more fillings, so this is what I started with:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream (some sites say cream, some say cheese, some say both. So I embraced the power of AND)
  • 1/4 cup of whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 green onions
  • 3 pieces of bacon
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 6 grinds of black pepper
Also needed:
  • Water bath (I have a large Rubbermaid container with a hole cut out of the lit to fit around the circulator).
  • Tongs of some kind to lift your jars.
  • Immersion circulator
  • 6 4-ounce bell jars with 2-piece lids (Thank you Fae!)
  • Blender
I got a little ambitious and I'll get to that later.

First off, I set the immersion circulator for 172 degrees Farenheit (another site said 180 with a shorter cooking time, but the 172 felt better to me). I cooked the bacon instead of putting it directly into the jars. While the bacon was cooking, I chopped the tomatoes and put about 3/4 of them into the jars, figuring I'd save the other 1/4 for a topping if there was room.

Next, I chopped the green onions and followed the same procedure.

Cheese was next. I used a sharp cheddar. When the bacon was done, I crumbled it and spread it among the jars as well. I did a quick grind of black pepper over each jar.

6 eggs went into the blender, followed by the salt, ricotta, and cream. I blended on low for about 45 seconds, until it was all a lovely uniform shade of yellow just slightly darker than butter.

I poured the mixture into the jars up to the convenient line. Like I mentioned above, I got a little ambitious and had egg mixture left over. 

With the jars, you don't want to put the ring on too tight. Every site I looked at agreed. What you're going for is 'fingertip tight.' In other words, you want to be able to open the jar with your fingertips. The water pressure will take care of the rest.

Using the tongs (I have a pair tipped with silicone that I got from Target), carefully place your jars in your water bath, and set a timer for 60 minutes. Clean your kitchen. Scramble any leftovers  If, like me, your heating system is forced dry air, enjoy the extra humidity. 

When the timer goes off, turn off your circulator and carefully remove the jars onto a flat surface where you have paper towels or a dishcloth. After a minute, dry off the lids by blotting with paper towels or a clean dishcloth. They're ready to serve after about three minutes. I was pretty surprised at how quickly the jars were easy to pick up.

I ate mine with a spoon right out of the jar, but there are a few options here. Run a butter knife around the edges, pop off and finish with a torch for extra color & texture. Or top with cheese and broil for a little bit.

I want more cheddar in the next batch, and really, more fillings in general. I will need to consider this while I have these for breakfast all week. Meanwhile, I have plenty of goodies for topping before I pop them in the microwave.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Things I Will Not Buy Again: Salad Dressing

I started making my own salad dressing when I lived in Tennessee. If you've spent a lot of time in the American South, you'll know that ranch dressing is featured almost everywhere. Generally speaking, dressings are often creamy and most of them, no matter how good they taste are terrible for you. The sugar content alone is enough to make you scream.

At a large party a long time ago, there was a salad on the table and of course we served ranch. One of the attendees strongly disliked ranch and asked for vinaigrette. The hostess was not about to go and buy some. I dashed into the kitchen and made this in 30 seconds. It was something I'd watched my father make multiple times

  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar (my friend had red wine in the house)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil (a light one is good here)
  • Pinch Salt
  • 4 grinds of Black Pepper (or three shakes)
  • 2 shakes dried Oregano
  • Pinch of sugar
I tend to save glass iced tea bottles for making dressing because then I can shake the hell out of it to blend and then taste. 

Yes, there is a touch of sugar in here, and if you're avoiding it altogether, you can leave it out. I do find it makes a nice addition, and you only need a tiny bit to work against the tartness of the vinegar.

The 3:1 base is good for starting all kinds of experiments.

I haven't made my own creamy dressing in a while, but it starts with mayonnaise and milk. Unfortunately, I do not remember the proportions I used, but I can tell you there were a lot of herbs and no sugar. 

It's easy. You probably have the ingredients for a good dressing in your pantry already. Feel free to mess around!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Blame the Millennials or Kate Makes Tomato Soup

A couple weeks ago, several of my friends posted this link on Facebook. The TL:DR of it is, millennials are killing canned tuna. Sales are down about 40%. I'm pretty surprised at this. As one of my friends pointed out, this is cheap, filling protein, and it's reasonably good for you. You'd think a generation that doesn't have a lot of money for groceries would jump all over it.

Anyway, it got me in mind of tuna melts, and since it's cold and often dreary outside I decided I also should make tomato soup to up the comfort food quotient. I did my usual thing of reading a lot of different recipes and came up with the following:

  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes (these happen to be roasted, but it's not necessary)
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1 T unsalted butter (it's probably okay with salted, this is what I had in the fridge)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 generous teaspoon of dried thyme (in other words, don't level it) or 1 Tablespoon fresh
  • 1 generous teaspoon of parsley (or 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon of salt. Keep some handy to add to your taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Keep some of this handy to taste as well
  • 1 Tablespoon cream for serving (optional)

In a large pot (a 2-quart saucepan is probably doable, but it will be pretty tight. I used my largest pot), cook the bacon on low-to-medium-low heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and do with as you will. Eat it. Save it for tomorrow's eggs. Put it on a salad. I put mine in the tuna salad. 

Melt the butter in the pan on medium-low heat and stir in your onions. Cook until they are translucent, then stir in your herbs. When the herbs are evenly distributed, add your tomatoes, including the juice in the cans. Stir well. Slowly add the broth, and then bring to a low boil.

I originally simmered, partially covered, for about twenty minutes and then used my stick blender on the low setting to give it a slightly rough texture. Feel free to go all the way to velvety. I happen to like my tomato soup with small chunks in it.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle cream on top if desired. 

Twenty minutes of simmering wasn't enough, I determined later. It was merely okay. For my next serving the following day, I simmered for an hour with the lid off. The difference was amazing. 

I ran out of tuna (this melt had Gruyere on it and was eaten on top of a crumpet) before I ran out of soup, so to add some protein to the third meal, I chopped up some Jarlsberg to add while I ate. Provolone also works here.

For my next time, I think I'll add a bit of garlic and maybe some lemon zest, possibly some additional herbs. More research is needed.

How do you like your tomato soup?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Things I Will Not Buy Again: Cocktail Sauce

I have a secret. I hate commercial cocktail sauce from bottles and jars. They're oversweet and not very exciting. When I go to good restaurants, theirs, well, aren't. I wanted to figure out for myself how I can improve on shrimp delivery, so I did.

  • 6oz of unsalted, unsugared tomato paste. Canned is fine.
  • 4 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar.
  • 2-4 Tablespoons of grated horseradish, again from a jar. 
Mix the ingredients in a suitable container, being sure to get everything mixed thoroughly. I used my fancy-pants $5.99 glass 2-cup measuring cup. Serve chilled, probably.