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 bruleƩ 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!