Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is trendy right now. We’re finding poke on menus, in specialty restaurants and even on food trucks. It is raw fish with an assortment of sauces and it is very good!
Running across a recipe for a “tuna and avocado tostada” was just another way of enjoying poke with a little Mexican twist, so, por que no? (why not).
Toss 12 oz diced sushi-grade tuna with one tablespoon each soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Stem, seed and mince one serrano pepper (two might have been better), and season with salt and pepper.
Mash one avocado with the juice of half a lime and a little salt. Spread the avocado side to side on 6 tostadas. Tope with the tuna drizzle with chipotle mayonnaise and sprinkle with shredded red cabbage and cilantro and crispy fried onions.
Notes: Make your own tostadas by baking corn tortillas in a 375° oven. Spritz the tortillas with a little cooking spray, turn at five minutes a couple of times until they are lightly browned and crisp. You can use 6″ tortillas. I used three 3″ tortillas and heaped on the poke and avocado to make a meal for one.
Make your own chipotle mayonnaise with two to three tablespoons of mayonnaise and a teaspoon or so of adobo from a can or jar of chipotles en adobo. Thin with a little water to make a drizzling consistency.
I was too lazy to fry onions and didn’t want to buy a whole can of fried onions this time. Maybe nest time!
Have the guy at the meat counter get your tuna from the freezer, not the tuna that’s been in the display case for who know’s how long! It will be frozen and easier to dice and better tasting. Remember, you’ll be eating it raw “cooked” by the citrus juices in the marinade.
Battered and fried “spicy”shrimp with sides of fries and coleslaw are a wonderful indulgence once in awhile, but you can go low-cal garlic shrimp and potatoes as well. Broiled garlic shrimp and sugar snap peas and a side of potatoes mashed with buttermilk and chives can become another treat without the guilt at 44O calories per serving (including the richness of butter). Using buttermilk in the mashed potatoes was a new experience after years and years of using half-and-half. Buttermilk adds a special touch to the flavor. Thank goodness there were enough potatoes for a small second helping.
Think outside the paper box of fried goodness and try this different approach to favorite goodies.
GARLIC SHRIMP AND POTATOES Ingredients
1¾ lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1½ lbs small red potatoes, halved
¾ cup buttermilk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon Method
Preheat broiler. Toss shrimp, snap peas, garlic, thyme and olive oil in a large bowl and set aside.
Cook potatoes in a pot of water until fork-tender – about 10 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup cooking water, drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Add buttermilk, 2 Tbsp butter, ½ tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mash, gradually adding cooking water if needed. Be sparing with liquids and don’t over-mash. Stir in half the chives.
While potatoes are cooking, spread the shrimp and snap peas in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil until just cooked through and charred in spots – 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, dot shrimp and peas with 2 Tbsp butter, sprinkle on the lemon zest and toss until the butter is melted and the mixture is well coated.
Divide potatoes and shrimp mixture among 4 plates. Drizzle with any juices (that would be herbed butter!) from the baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp chives.
Many fun meals have been made using a small, hand-held, inexpensive OXO spriralizer to make colorful and delicious vegetable “noodles”. It has become more fun with the introduction of a three-blade option allowing a choice of three sizes of noodles. This new toy and discovering a new recipe calling for zucchini noodles made experimenting mandatory.
LEMON-BASIL CHICKEN WITH ZUCCHINI NOODLES Ingredients
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (6 to 8 oz each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
½ cup torn fresh basil, plus 2 tsp finely chopped stems
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1-1/2 lbs zucchini noodles
Red pepper flakes for topping (optional)
Spread ¼ cup flour on a large plate. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredged in the flour; shake off excess flour.
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken and cook until golden and almost cooked through (5 – 6 minutes per side).
Push chicken to the edges of the skillet and add shallot and basil stems to middle of skillet. Cook about 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Stir in remaining tablespoon flour and cook 1 minute to make a roux. Add chicken broth and lemon juice, bring to a boil while scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat and simmer, turning the chicken occasionally until cooked through (165°in thickest part of breast) and sauce is thickened (3 – 4 minutes). Turn off heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons butter until melted and add the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini noodles, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until just softened (2 – 3 minutes). It is easy to overcook the noodles and make them too soft! Toss in half the torn basil. Divide among 4 plants, top with chicken, sauce, remaining basil and red pepper flakes.
Long ago, The Gourmet Dad, by Dean McDermott, caught my attention on a Denver bookstore shelf. It promised “Easy and Delicious Meals the Whole Family will Love.” It had great recipes that included modified versions to appeal to children. A surreptitious photograph of book cover was taken to remember to look at the book in more detail after the trip.
Stumbling on that photo a couple of years later prompted a visit to Amazon and subsequent purchase of the electronic version of the cookbook. It does have some very good grown up recipes; even the kid versions sound good. The books photos attest to the plating skills of an accomplished professional chef and inspire emulation.
McDermott has a wife and five children which seems to a cadre of sous chefs in the house to help with the prep of the books “easy” meals. There are no quibbles with the “delicious” description.
The below recipe with the Fennel F-word begged to be made. Seared scallops with it made it imperative! As a single empty-nester with no sous chests around, prep for most recipes takes some time. This recipe was worth the time on multiple levels. As a desert dweller, using watercress was a new adventure well worth the price for a handful. Who knew it has a peppery bite! It is always a thrill to try something new. McDermot’s instruction on searing scallops is simple and produces beautiful results. Gaining a new skill is always appreciated.
McDermott’s original recipe is for four salad servings topped with two scallops each. Hah! Reducing the volume of apple and fennel and upping the count of scallops to six per serving and the addition of a little garlic and herb bread made in a meal instead of a side dish. No point on shorting oneself on scallops, or fennel! A bonus was some leftover roasted shallot vinaigrette for another evening.
Seared Scallops, Shaved Apples and Fennel with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
4 shallots, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus ½ cup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
Juice of 1 orange
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced Salad Ingredients
8 sea scallops
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced (may substitute Pink Lady, Gala or Jonagold)
2 fennel bulbs, stem trimmed and shaved
Juice of 2 lemons, halves reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch watercress, all but ½ inch of the stems removed
1/8 cup hazelnuts, toasted and crushed, plus 1/8 cup for garnish Method
Preheat oven to 400°
Spread shallots on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the thyme and two springs’ worth of the rosemary. Roast the shallots until tender, 10 – 12 minutes.
Allow the roasted shallots to cool, then mince them. Combine them with the remaining rosemary, orange juice, lemon juice and zest and garlic in a small bowl and mix well. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup olive oil and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Pat the scallops dry and allow them to come to room temperature. In the meantime, combine the apple, fennel, lemon juice and lemon halves in a medium bowl and set aside.
Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat. Using a sharp knife, carefully score the top of each scallop in a crisscross pattern and season both sides with salt and pepper and a drizzle of grapeseed oil.
When the pan is hot, carefully place the scallops in it with the crosshatched side down. Do not move the scallops until they release from the pan, about 3 – 4 minutes to get the best sear and coloring.
Once the crisscross side releases and is a golden brown, flip the scallops and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, baste the scallops a few times and then remove the pan from the heat. Residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the scallops to perfection.
Drain the reserved apple-fennel mixture and discard the lemon halves. In a large salad bowl, toss have the watercress with the fennel-apple mixture. Add the reserved vinaigrette and 1/8 cup of the crushed hazelnuts and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the salad on four salad plates, and top each with two scallops. Scatter the remaining watercress on top and garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.
Notes: I forgot to buy hazelnuts, so I didn’t use them this time. I wonder how pecans might work instead. The garlic cloves I uses were quite strong, but mellowed nicely in the dressing as it sat on the counter for a few minutes.
The “3 Ways to Use Chard” feature in Cooking Light magazine has been the source of some great meals over the past several days. Chard with Shaved Fennel started the binge. Fennel is always a siren’s call around here. Then came Charred Chard and Shallots, just because it was fun to say out loud and charring greens in the oven or on the grill is a taste treat that keeps greens interesting. Completing the trifecta was a Sweet Potato and Chard Salad. The clincher on that one is farro.
It wouldn’t be honest to say the chard binge is over. There’s another bunch in the crisper awaiting another chard challenge.
SWEET POTATO AND CHARD SALAD Ingredients
10 oz cubed sweet potato – about ½ inch
6 oz chopped rainbow chard
1 cup hot cooked farro
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sliced scallions
Cook sweet potato in 4 cups water over medium-high heat. Bring water to a boil and reduce to medium low for three minutes. Stir in chopped chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain well.
Combine potatoes and chard, the cooked farro, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Toss well to combine. Sprinkle with sliced scallions.
This salad will be a hit at the next potluck dinner gathering.
Follow package directions for cooking farro. You can put the farro and water in the refrigerator overnight to soak and reduce it’s cooking time. This works with steel cut oatmeal, too. The texture and nutty flavor of farro made this salad extra special.
Good ol’ El Paso groceries… it took shopping in three stores to find tarragon vinegar. The Heinz tarragon vinegar was a disappointment. It was very weak and not really vinegary nor was there much tarragon flavor. Even with more than the recipe called for, it was sad. Next time I’m out of town, I’ll search for a more potent brand.
Doing fun things with greens keeps them exciting. Grilled romaine and steamed curly endive are welcome changes on the menu at my house. I found a recipe for charred chard. I enjoyed saying charred chard out loud (I’m easily amused). Saying “charred chard” three times must have been a mystical incantation because then the recipe demanded to be made.
Charred Chard and Shallots
1 lb rainbow chard
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Trim stems from rainbow chard. Divide chard leaves and shallots evenly between prepared pans. Spray vegetables lightly with cooking spray. Broil on high, one pan at a time until most of the chard is wilted and some is partially charred – 4 to 5 minutes.
Chop cooked chard into large pieces. Place chard mixture on a platter, top with golden raisins, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Do you ever really measure 1/8 of a teaspoon of anything? I keep a jar with a mix of 40% coarse ground black pepper and 60% kosher salt right by my stove for seasonings. A pinch or two of the mix does the trick for most things.
Watch the chard as it broils. You want it mostly wilted with a little char, not a pan full of ashes! The charred chard retains some texture and can be strongly flavored. It needs a touch sweetness.
I didn’t have golden raisins on hand. I used grape tomatoes on the side for sweet balance and was very happy with it. I’ll be making this again when I pick up some raisins.
The recipe suggests adding chickpeas and crumbled feta to make a vegetating main dish. I expect substituting a mildly salty vegan cheese world work, too.
Breakfast can be a challenging meal. Traditional fare is good, but one can get in a rut. Waking with a craving complicates the whole thing – what to do? A BLT sounded good, but so did simple toast and jammy eggs with bacon. Time to play with my food and get the best of both, with a twist, of course.
No recipe, just taking what was on hand and playing with it as described below.
Open Face BLT With Jammy Eggs Ingredients 2 slices 21-grain toast
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
a big handful of curly endive lettuce torn from the stem
a generous handful of sliced grape tomatoes
3 slices of ready-to-eat bacon, crisped in the microwave for 30 seconds
a generous schmear of mayo
scant Tbsp olive oil
light splash of white vinegar
light sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper
Bring enough water in a small pan to a boil; gently lower two eggs into water and simmer for EXACTLY seven minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath for two and a half minutes, remove from ice water and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a small skillet, add sliced tomatoes and sauté until soft and getting a little char. Add endive and let wilt, you might need to add a Tbsp of water (use twice as much as you think you need because is loses volume when cooked). Stir in a light splash of white vinegar and a very little pinch of salt.
Toast bread, schmear with mayo and top each with a cheese slice while toast is hot. Add cooked tomatoes and endive. Halve bacon slices and put three pieces on top of tomatoes and endive. Peel jammy eggs (start on the big end where the bubble is), place on sandwich and slice in half. Sprinkle eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
The Whyfors (Whyfor did I do that?) Think about the flavors of the ingredients and what you can do with them. Multigrain toast, mayo and sharp cheddar is a great foundation for any sandwich, open-face or closed. Traditional bacon, lettuce and tomato are a wonderful filling. Cooking sliced grape tomatoes a little enhances the sugar in them and kicks them up a couple of notches. Curly endive is tantalizingly bitter. Cooking it reduces its bitter bite and a little white vinegar takes out a little more of the bitter while emphasizing the sweetness of the tomatoes. The eggs feature cooked whites and a thickened “jammy” yolk that gives the whole sandwich wonderfully rich mouthfeel and flavor.
Modesty forbids my raving (too much) about this creation. Odds are it will be breakfast again this morning and a regular on the morning menu until the next idea comes along.
After making the earlier post, I had to rush out the the kitchen an play with this idea more for this morning’s breakfast. I did a few things differently. I put the sliced grape tomatoes in a heated dry pan and let them yield some juice and take on a little char. Then I added a Tbsp of water and cooked it off to steam the tomatoes and cook them faster. When they were tender, I added the endive. I added twice as much as I did yesterday and think it would be good to add even more. I added 2 Tbsp water with the greens and cooked it off to steam-wilt them and get a little darker. When the water was cooked off, I added it and stirred the tomatoes and endive until the vinegar had mostly evaporated. Cooking the vegetables both ways tasted about the same because of the vinegar. The advantage of the dry pan and water is that there was no spatter mess as there was with olive oil. I plated one open-face BLT and one with a jammy egg. The were equally good, but I do have a weakness for jammy eggs any number of ways.
As I enjoyed this breakfast, I thought about how it might be with English muffin, Swiss cheese, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Watch this space and see what happens.
Pure luck: Found a good sounding salad recipe and had the main ingredients oh hand – fennel and red chard. A little thinking and the richness of baked feta balanced with the mild tang of a Cara Cara orange sounded like the rest of a meal.
Confession: Only dinner was meatless. It’s a start.
Wilted Chard and Shaved Fennel Salad Ingredients
1 lb. rainbow chard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
¼ cup water
¼ cup chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp fennel fronds
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp kosher salt Method
Coarsely chop chard leaves; thinly slice stems to equal 1 cup. (Reserve remaining stems for another use.)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems and fennel and cook, stirring often until starting to soften – about 3 minutes.Add chard leaves and ¼ cup water, cover until just starting to wilt – about a minute and a half. Drain. Toss with apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper.
Divide into four servings. Top each evenly with the chopped pistachios and fennel fronds.
Baked Feta Ingredients
Block feta to allow 4 oz. per person
Olive oil Method
Heat oven to 400º
Cut feta into individual servings. Brush all sides with olive oil.
Put feta on a foil-covered baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Turn on broiler and put feta under it for 2 – 3 minutes until it gets a little color. Carefully transfer to plates and garnish with a fennel frond or two. Serve warm.
Back in the late 1990’s new job responsibilities lead me to discover the Big Bend area of Texas and introduced me to a world full of splendorous topographical extremes, to folk in remote communities and to surprise pockets of sophistication where I’d least expected it. My adventures included hiking in the national and state parks, having astronomers on a mountaintop ask me to send some classical music cassettes their way because their resource was a mail order record club (this was long before the internet and Amazon) and the rustic cafe at Terlingua Ranch, reached by driving over 18 miles on gravel roads off the highway. The cook waited on the highway once a week for supplies from the Schwan’s Frozen Foods Truck. I worked with a remote frontier clinic physician assistant who used telemedicine in providing health care and arranged delivery by bus for medicines from the nearest pharmacy about 80 miles away. I have many warm memories of the people of the area and how much I learned from them and with them. I still go back as a tourist. In the ensuing 20-something years, some of the people are new to me. While things have grown and changed, the frontier spirit remains. I still love to spend time on the porch at the Terlingua Mercantile and and the Starlight Theater next door, now an amazing restaurant. And, when in Alpine, going to the Reata Restaurant is a must.
Grady Spears, a city boy turned cow puncher, chuckwagon cook and restaurateur is a man I have long admired and but not yet to met. He was the founding cook of the Riata and, with what he learned from ranch cooks, elevated cowboy cooking to cowboy cuisine. He went to Ft. Worth and opened the Chisolm Club downtown. After a tornado, he moved to the Caravan of Dreams building and opened a second Reata. I’m sure that somewhere, he is still making good old ranch hand food into amazing fare for city slickers. I was thinking about the Big Bend Bluebonnets the other day and wondering if there had been enough rain for a good bloomout this year. That lead me to the bookshelf and my three Grady Spears cookbooks. I got a hankerin’, looked up a recipe I hadn’t made in years and got to cooking. He calls it Cilantro-Nut Mash. I respect that very much. These days, people seem to call any vegetable or green leaf chopped in a food processor a pesto. Grady’s Cilantro-NutMash is what it is , so don’t you be callin’ it cilantro pesto where I can hear you!
The Cilantro-Nut Mash is a great accompaniment for chicken and fish. In the photo above, the chicken had a mild chipotle rub, was browned in a skillet and finished off in the oven while corn, green onion and grape tomatoes were season, wrapped in foil and roasted.
Cilantro-Nut Mash Ingredients
1 Cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (loosely packed)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped pecans (I like them lightly toasted)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp smooth goat cheese
Kosher salt to taste Method
Combine cilantro, cheese, pecans and garlic in a food processor. Pulse and gradually add oil. Add goat Cheese and season with salt, pulse until just slightly smooth.