Tag Archives: avocado

OLIVE OIL POACHED TUNA SALAD WITH FENNEL

Our local wine shop hosts weekly wine tastings as well as periodic wine classes that emphasize wine and food pairings. So, of course, with the wine classes there is food. One of the featured dishes at the most recent class was oil-poached tuna salad. It was delicious and refreshing. I thought I would try to copy it. I found that there were lots of recipes for oil-poached fish to be found on the internet. They all sounded good although there was a lot of variation in the instructions on how to cook the fish. There were also ingredients that didn’t appeal to me. The wine class version included cooked fennel. I thought I would opt for the refreshing crunch of raw fennel.  Otherwise, I decided to wing it with my own recipe. In any event, I was determined not to replicate the tuna salad of sandwich fame that is made with canned tuna. Probably everyone has had one of those in a brown bag lunch. There is no worry: olive oil poached tuna tastes nothing like the canned variety.

RECIPE

Olive Oil Poached Tuna Salad with Fennel

Ingredients

  • fennel bulb with stems and fronds still attached
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • about 3 cups olive oil (no need to use extra virgin)
  • 10 ounces ahi tuna
  • 4 tablespoons champagne vinegar, divided
  • 6 small cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced thinly
  • 5 scallions including green tops, sliced thinly on the bias
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pimento
  • ½ cup small pitted black olives drained and cut in half
  • 1 ripe avocado, ½ inch dice
  • salt and pepper
  • Romaine lettuce leaves

Method

  1. Trim the stems and fronds from the fennel bulb. Cut the stems into 1-3 inch pieces. Chop 3 tablespoons of the fronds and set aside to add to the finished salad. Slice the fennel bulb horizontally using a mandoline. Set aside the sliced fennel bulb.
  2. In a saucepan that is just large enough to hold the tuna in a single layer, combine the chopped fennel stems and fronds, garlic, and olive oil. Bring to the boil for about 5 minutes, reduce the heat to low, and add the tuna. The hot oil should cover the tuna. Turn off the heat and poach the tuna, uncovered, basting from time to time with the hot oil and turning once during the poaching. Poach for 20 minutes. Remove the tuna to a plate. Strain the oil into a small bowl.
  3. Place the quartered mushrooms in a small container that can be firmly sealed. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and 6 tablespoons of the poaching oil. Cover tightly, and turn from time to time to make sure the mushrooms are well-marinated.
  4. Prepare a vinaigrette by combining the remaining vinegar and dry mustard in a small bowl or measuring cup. Slowly whisk in by drizzles 7 tablespoons of the poaching oil. Set aside for final assembly of the salad.
  5. With a sharp knife. cut the tuna into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add the marinated mushrooms, celery, scallions, pimento,  olives, avocado, and reserved chopped fennel fronds. Gently stir in the vinaigrette, making sure that the salad is well mixed.  Serve on Romaine lettuce leaves.
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CHICKEN PANZANELLA – CLEARING OUT THE FRIDGE

Sarah said that she wanted to cook dinner at least once while she was visiting. I agreed. Who wouldn’t want an award-winning chef cooking in the kitchen. The limit  set for the adventure was that it had to follow her High protein/low carb regimen. The other thing was that I didn’t want to go to the store again, so she decided to use what was in the pantry and the refrigerator.

She chose to make chicken panzanella. I reminded her that the dish referred to a traditional Italian bread salad. She said, “Just don’t eat the bread.” Point made.

I have not been too specific about quantities except for the chicken breasts – we only had two – and the bread – we had already started eating a pound-and-a-half loaf. Adjust the quantities of the various other ingredients to your particular likes and to the size of the group you plan to serve.

Some of the keys to success include making certain that the bread cubes are completely dried out and firm. Otherwise, they will absorb too much of the juice from the vegetables and wind up being soggy. The seedless grapes are a surprise: they make a sweet foil for the other acidic and bitter components of the salad. The avocado is also not a usual ingredient in a traditional Panzanella, but it makes a tasty addition. You can add more lettuce, but it might overwhelm the other flavors of the salad. You can use your favorite vinaigrette, but simple oil and vinegar allow you to adjust the acidity just as you prefer.

 

 

RECIPE

Chicken Panzanella

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • buttermilk
  • Greek yogurt
  • scallions, chopped coarsely
  • 1 pound (2/3 loaf) farm-style bread, (Sage Bakehouse), cut into ¾-inch cubes, crust on
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • snacking peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped, and lightly sautéed so that they are still crunchy
  • butter lettuce (about 1/3 head)
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • snacking cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½ inch circles
  • red seedless grapes, halved
  • avocado, diced
  • fresh garden herbs (parsley, mint, oregano, tarragon)
  • white wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Marinate the chicken breasts for 2 hours in a mixture of equal parts of  buttermilk and Greek yogurt with sliced scallions. Turn frequently.
  2. While the chicken breasts are marinating, toss the bread cubes with olive oil and salt, and dry in a 250°F oven until they are completely dry. Set aside.
  3. Lightly sauté the peppers in a hot skillet until they are slightly wilted, but still crisp.
  4. Wash, dry, and cut the lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Prepare the tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes and avocado. Wash the herbs, remove the leaves from the stems, and chop finely. Set everything aside.
  5. Drain extra marinade from the chicken breasts and grill over a hot flame until the chicken is cooked through and the marinade has turned into a golden glaze. Let the grilled chicken rest for 5 minutes, and then cut into ½ inch cubes.
  6. In a large serving bowl, combine the chicken, bread cubes, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, avocado, and herbs. Dress with white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb some of the juices from the vegetables. Serve.

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BLT+ARO

One of our family traditions – probably a tradition in your family, too – is that for birthdays, the honoree gets to select the menu for the whole day. While we were in Los Angeles, my grand-daughter celebrated her thirteenth birthday. That was a momentous occasion not only for her, but also for her younger brother and her parents. Officially, she became a teenager, but these days that is only semantics. Fortunately, she is not driving yet, but the birthday was a stark reminder that the day for that is not far away.

Included in my grand-daughter’s food selections for the day was bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches for breakfast. Of course, she got to sleep late on a weekend so it was closer to brunch than breakfast. Still, a little odd for my elderly clock, but I freely admit that they were delicious.

These were not your usual BLTs. Challah was the preferred bread. That seemed to be an odd companion to bacon, but nobody blinked.

No one in the family likes mayonnaise, so there was none. How can you have a BLT without mayonnaise?  They allowed me my own. The bacon was crisped in the oven, and the lettuce was the tender butter kind. The tomatoes were beautiful heirlooms, almost purple in color.

Everyone in the family is averse to onion as well, but they accommodated me with thick slices of red onion. They don’t like avocados, either, so they sliced a perfectly ripe avocado just for me.

We gathered around a buffet to assemble our personal creations. Mine was an elaborate BLT+ARO. Then we enjoyed a beautiful Southern California morning on the back patio.  Gifts  were opened, including a new iPhone – every California teenager needs one, I was told.

All in all a great way to start a day of celebration.

BLT+ARO

Ingredients

  • 2 slices challah
  • mayonnaise
  • 3 strips bacon, fried crisp
  • 2 large slices, heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 leaves butter lettuce
  • ½ ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 slice red onion
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Spread the slices of challah with mayonnaise
  2. Arrange the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes,  avocado, and red onion on one slice of bread. You may need extra mayonnaise between layers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Top with the remaining slice of bread for a thick sandwich.
  5. Eat with plenty of napkins handy or over the kitchen sink.

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SHRIMP-STUFFED POBLANO CHILES WITH TOMATILLO-CHIPOTLE SALSA

One of the classic dishes of Mexico is chiles en nogada: poblano chiles stuffed with shredded pork (picadillo) and topped with walnut sauce (nogada), and pomegranate seeds. Supposedly the dish was invented in the city of Puebla in 1821. The green poblano chiles, white  walnut sauce, and red pomegranate seeds symbolize the colors of the Mexican flag. In season, chiles en nogada is a popular dish throughout Mexico , especially on September 16, Mexican Independence Day.

This is not the season. Fresh walnuts are not available and pomegranates don’t appear until late summer. Still, I thought about making the dish when I located some walnut halves in the freezer I am under instructions to clear out. I also saw some nice looking poblanos in the supermarket. As well, the walnut sauce sounded too complicated, so I decided to stuff the chiles with some pre-cooked, pre-shelled shrimp from the meat counter and cremini mushrooms from the refrigerator drawer. Then I topped it all with crema, the Mexican version of sour cream. The final dish still turned out green, white, and red because I used some tomatoes in the stuffing.

As a side dish, I made a tomatillo salsa with chipotle. That took only a few minutes and gave a little extra kick for those who wanted it. Avocado slices finished things off for a festive and surprisingly light dinner.

RECIPES

Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Chiles

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh poblano chiles
  • ¼ cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and quartered
  • ½ pound pre-cooked, shelled shrimp (31/40 per pound)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup scallions including green tops, sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • juice of ½ lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (optional, see recipe below)
  • Mexican crema

Method

  1. Roast poblanos over an open flame until the skin is evenly charred. Place in a zipper bag, seal, and let rest until cooled. Then remove the charred skin under running water, slit one side, remove seeds and core, dry, and set aside.
  2. In a small sauté pan over medium heat dry roast the walnuts until lightly browned and the oils have begun to be released. Stir frequently. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat, cool, chop coarsely, and set aside.
  3. In the same sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the quartered mushrooms and sauté until they are soft and lightly browned. Drain, cool, and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp,  walnuts, mushrooms, shrimp, tomatoes, scallions,  cilantro, and lime juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the optional adobo to suit your taste.
  5. Fill the prepared poblano chiles and arrange on individual plates. Drizzle with crema, and serve.

Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

Years ago, the first time I made this for my chef son-in-law, he liked it so much that he copied the recipe to the collection he keeps in his laptop. The salsa is refreshing and quite different from the usual bottled kinds. You can make it as hot as you like by varying the number of chipotles and the amount of the adobo sauce. Tomatillos, along with tomatoes, belong to the nightshade family, but they are more tart than tomatoes, stay green when ripe, and are covered with a papery husk that needs to be removed before eating or cooking. They can be eaten raw, but the tart flavor is not very good, in my opinion. Roasting them mellows the flavor. Tomatillos  used to be hard to find except in Mexican grocery stores, but now they are in nearly every supermarket. Chipotles are actually smoked jalapeños. You can find them canned in a spicy adobo sauce.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 fresh tomatillos (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped fine
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, stemmed and chopped coarsely
  • 2 chipotles (canned in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Remove the husks of the tomatillos. Then broil them for 15 to 20 minutes on a baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Turn occasionally. Remove from the broiler when the skin has dark brown spots all over and the flesh is soft and somewhat watery.
  2. In a small skillet, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Do not brown.
  3. Transfer the onion to a medium bowl. Chop the tomatillos finely and add them to the onion. Add more adobo sauce if you want the salsa to be more piquant. Stir in the vinegar and cilantro. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a condiment with a main course.

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CITRUS SALAD WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING

It is high season for citrus crops. During our recent visit to the San Francisco area, we saw many citrus trees planted in front yards as ornamentals that were drooped to the ground with big crops of oranges, lemons, limes, and tangerines. Driving through the Central Valley we saw miles of citrus groves with ripening fruit. In spite of cold weather, I believe that most of the farmers were able to avoid serious frost damage. In our local grocery store, the bins are full of oranges and tangerines, and the prices are good. No better time for a fresh citrus salad.

Of course, there are other places beside California with big crops of citrus fruits, so there is no point in restricting your sources. Florida and Arizona are producers in this country while Spain, Israel, and other Mediterranean countries also have famous crops.

Ruby red grapefruit from Texas are sweet and juicy.  Pomelos can substitute for grapefruits, and there may be other choices you might wish to try.

Avocados don’t count as citrus, but they just seem to be a perfect match for fresh oranges and grapefruit, so consider including them in your salad.

Poppy seed dressing, a sweet vinaigrette, seems to have been invented by the well-known Texas cook and cookbook writer, Helen Corbitt. She was wooed away from academic nutrition science and Cornell University to take charge of a series of fancy dining establishments in Texas, ending at the Neiman-Marcus dining rooms in Texas. In the 1950’s, her food was famous throughout Texas, and nearly every housewife had a copy of her cookbook reserved for parties and special events. It was the era of Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens, so Corbitt’s recipes provided something unique and decidedly “Texas”.

Perhaps Helen Corbitt’s most famous recipe was for poppy seed dressing. For many years, especially in Texas, it was extremely popular. Like so many foods of the ’50s, though, it fell out of favor. That’s too bad because it is the perfect foil for fruits salads, especially of the citrus variety. As with so many foods out of favor, it is hard to find a current recipe, so here is one adapted from the original in the 1957 classic, “Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook” (Houghton Mifflin, Cambridge, MA, p.47).

 

RECIPES

Poppy Seed Dressing (about 1½ cups)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons white onion pulp
  • 1 cup salad oil (your choice: vegetable, canola, walnut, other but NOT olive oil)
  • 1½ tablespoons poppy seeds

Method

  • Place the sugar, mustard, salt, and vinegar in the jar of a blender
  • Prepare the onion pulp by grating a white onion with a micro-plane. Add to the other ingredients
  • Cover the blender jar, turn on the blender, and pour in the oil slowly to blend
  • Blend in the poppy seeds, transfer to a storage container, and refrigerate until ready for use

Citrus Salad (serves two)

Ingredients

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • spring mix salad greens
  • poppy seed dressing

Method

  • With a very sharp knife, remove the skin and any white membrane from the grapefruit and oranges
  • Cut between the sections of the citrus to make membrane-free pieces of fruit
  • Halve and slice the avocado
  • Arrange the grapefruit, orange, and avocado slices on a mound of salad greens
  • Dress with the poppy seed dressing and serve immediately

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HUEVOS RANCHEROS

Daughter Sarah surprised us with a short visit, so we cooked up some of the favorites of her childhood. One of the breakfast specials was huevos rancheros. The real version takes some effort since you need to make the ranchero sauce from scratch along with a base of refried beans.

This version can be cooked up in a flash using items from the pantry like bottled salsa. You may not be able to find blue corn tortillas – they seem to be sort of a New Mexico specialty – but any kind of corn tortilla will do. We had some guacamole left over from the night before, but fresh avocado slices also make a good garnish.

Blue corn tortillas

Blue corn tortillas

RECIPE

Green chile sauce

Green chile sauce

Huevos Rancheros

Ingredients

  • 2 blue corn tortillas (yellow, white, or any other color will do)
  • 2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped white onion
  • 2 eggs
  • butter
  • green chile sauce, heated
  • 3 tablespoons guacamole

Method

  • Heat the tortillas on a dry hot skillet until they bubble a bit and are lightly covered with brown flecks. They should remain soft and flexible
  • Place one tortilla on a plate. Arrange half the cheese and onions on top. Cover with the second tortilla topped with the remaining cheese and onions.
  • Heat the plate in an oven at 200° or in a microwave for 20 seconds or so until the cheese is melted.
  • In the meantime, fry the two eggs in a skillet with butter.
  • When the eggs are cooked to your preference, transfer them to the stacked tortillas
  • Surround the eggs with the heated green chile sauce and garnish with guacamole.
  • Serve immediately.
Huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros

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TOSTONES AND GUACAMOLE

When our son, Peter, was in graduate school, he stayed in a run-down house with a number of Colombiano students. The house was on Hillmont Street, so they named the house “Casa Hillmont”. During his time at Casa Hillmont, Peter’s Spanish skills improved markedly, but he also learned to cook Colombian comfort food. One favorite was and is tostones. Tostones are the one way I know of to use plantain. This banana relative usually sits neglected in the produce section of the grocery store. Neglect those plantains no longer because tostones are easy to make,  delicious as a snack, and a great substitute for corn chips with guacamole.

Plantain slices ready to fry

First frying of plantain slices

Smashing a cooked plantain slice with a can

Tostones ready to serve

Guacamole is a Central American dish which has been imported to the American Southwest and eventually to the whole world. Probably that’s because it is easy to make The mellow flavor of the obligate avocado balanced against citrus and chile accents is hard to resist, especially with a corn chip and cold margarita in hand. According to Diane Kennedy, the legendary Mexican cookbook writer, the word comes from two Nahuatl (Aztec) words, ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (mixture). Other authorities say that the word ahuacatl actually means “testicle” referring to the shape of the fruit and its tendency to grow in pairs. More than that, the Mesoamericans reportedly believed that eating the fruit contributed to sexual prowess. Those interesting facts aside, it is easy to eat a bowl of fresh guacamole by oneself.

Ingredients for my version of guacamole

There are probably as many recipes for guacamole as there are cooks who make it. Most traditional recipes include chopped tomato. For me, the version which tends to be favored in Santa Fe is the best. It uses coarsely mashed avocado, lime juice, a little chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Garlic and cilantro are acceptable additions, and chile depends upon your tolerance for heat. I do balk at one addition that you sometimes see – mayonnaise. The Aztecs never used mayonnaise! Honestly, I prefer guacamole with a kick, but because my wife has zero tolerance for chile, I make it without any zest and then sneak a little chile into my portion.

Guacamole in a molcajete ready to serve

The recipes to follow should be enough for two people. For larger groups, just increase proportions accordingly.

RECIPES

Tostones

  • cooking oil
  • 1 ripe plantain, unpeeled and cut in ½ inch  slices (about 12 slices)
  • salt
  • Add the oil to a ½ inch depth in a heavy pan and heat over a medium-high flame. Do not let it smoke
  • Peel the plantain slices and place them in the heated oil. Brown lightly, turn, and brown the other side
  • Remove the slices to absorbent paper, and using the flat end of a large can, smash each of the cooked slices
  • Immediately return the slices to the heated oil and continue frying them until they are browned on both sides
  • Remove again to the absorbent paper, sprinkle with salt, and serve while still warm

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped finely
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped (optional)
  • cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
  • hot sauce (eg Tabasco or Cholula) to taste (optional)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped (optional)

Method

  • Place the avocado flesh in a medium bowl and mash coarsely with a table fork
  • Add the lime juice and combine with the mashed avocado.
  • Stir in the chopped scallions, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve
  • Add optional ingredients according to your own taste

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