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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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COLE SLAW – MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRAWFISH BOIL

A week or so ago my post provided the details of a crawfish boil in Silicon Valley. For that great event, my daughter-in-law asked me to make coleslaw. I call her the “Salad Queen” because she whips up the most delicious salads on a moment’s notice, but she claimed that coleslaw was not something she liked to make. I confess that I’m not a big fan of most coleslaw, either. That’s because they often contain the core of the cabbage head, the cabbage is in big chunks with the heavy taste of cabbage, and the salad is swimming in runny mayonnaise.

Years ago I learned the first important lesson for coleslaw from my younger daughter when she was only about ten years old. She was assigned to do the cabbage chopping for a family gathering. We thought she would be finished in just a few minutes, but a half hour later she was still chopping and the cabbage was as fine as I had ever seen it. She had also removed the core of the cabbage before she started the project. Everyone loved one of her first cooking projects.

The second lesson comes from a consideration of the origins of the word, coleslaw. It is derived from the Danish word, koolsla, meaning cabbage (cole) salad ( sla, a contraction of salade). The point of all that is you can use any kind of cabbage or even cabbage relatives you want (especially shredded Brussels sprouts, but also broccoli, rabe, or cauliflower) , and you can put anything else that catches your fancy in the salad.  Apples, carrots, celery, and chopped nuts are among the most common additives.

The third lesson for me is that a little mayonnaise goes a long way – much farther than you think. In recent times, I always add less mayonnaise than I think the dish needs. That includes tuna salad, sandwiches, and coleslaw In every instance what I have learned is that less is better, and you can always add more. Of course, homemade mayonnaise is better than bottled, and it doesn’t take too much extra time to make. Another option is not to use mayonnaise at all; freshly made vinaigrette is a refreshing substitute.

For the crawfish boil, I decided to use napa (Chinese) cabbage and red cabbage along with red onion, carrot, bell pepper, and celery for the basic salad. I used vinaigrette with a shot of sesame oil for the dressing. Here is the recipe.

RECIPE

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  •  1 large head, napa cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
  • 1 small head red cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, grated, and chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients

Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, and sugar.
  2. While whisking continuously, drizzle in the olive oil until completely incorporated.
  3. Stir in the sesame oil, and correct seasonings with salt and pepper

Dressing the Salad

  1. Pour only about half of the vinaigrette onto the coleslaw and gently stir in until the salad is completely dressed
  2. Add more dressing as needed, being especially careful not to use too much. The coleslaw should be moistened but not damp with dressing
  3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Napa cabbage

Napa cabbage

Red cabbage

Red cabbage

Red onion

Red onion

Carrots

Carrots

Celery

Celery

Green bell pepper

Green bell pepper

Chopped vegetables

Chopped vegetables

Finished coleslaw

Finished coleslaw

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(FAIRLY) QUICK SHRIMP CREOLE – CLEANING OUT THE FREEZER, PART TWO

One of the things I found in the freezer was a big plastic bag of vegetable scraps – carrot peelings, celery bottoms, onion skins and roots, bits of tomatoes – which I had been saving from a couple of months’ worth of cooking projects. For years I have made chicken stock from chicken parts and bones and beef stock from bone. But I never made my own vegetable stock until I picked up a tip from Sara Moulton on her television show, “Sara’s Weeknight Meals”. Save your scraps in the freezer, and when you have enough, put them in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for thirty minutes to an hour, cool, strain, and freeze into cubes to be used whenever you need vegetable stock. Works like the proverbial charm, and forms the beginning of today’s recipe.

The other thing I found in the freezer was a package of shrimp (21-30/pound size), and they became the inspiration and base for shrimp creole. In Louisiana, shrimp creole can be a simple country dish or a fancier version for company dinners and buffets. For that reason, some folks think it is just too complicated for a quick dinner. Too bad, because it is easy to make and fairly fast. This version took me about two hours to prepare, but that was because I was running around finding props and making images. You should be able to whip it up in a flat hour or so.  Served with cooked rice, this recipe should serve 2 to 4 persons.

Something you need to know before you start this recipe is that shrimp creole can be as piquant as you like. For family reasons, we don’t put much heat into Cajun and Mexican dishes, but if you enjoy heat, by all means use the hot sauce with abandon. For this dish – since it is from Louisiana – I suggest either Tabasco or Trappey’s.

RECIPE

Shrimp Creole

Ingredients

  • fresh or frozen shrimp (21-30/pound), shells on – allow 5 to 6 for each serving
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped, including green tops
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8  teaspoon ground bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional or to taste)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method

  1. Peel and clean the shrimp. Refrigerate the peeled shrimp until ready to add to the cooked sauce. Save the shells.
  2. Prepare shrimp stock by combining  the vegetable stock and shrimp shells in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. You should have about 1½ cups of shrimp stock.
  3. In a 4 quart stockpot, melt the bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
  4. Add the scallions, celery, and green pepper, raise the heat again to medium and cook the vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the shrimp stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, paprika, and optional Tabasco sauce. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Then add the tomato sauce and reduce heat to the simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer just long enough until the tomatoes are softened
  8. Correct the seasonings, add the sugar and lemon juice. Then add the shrimp and stir them into the sauce until they are cooked and pink – no longer than 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately over cooked rice. Allow about ½ to 1 cup of rice for each serving.

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NEW YEAR GOOD LUCK – BLACK-EYED PEAS AND CABBAGE

It is the custom in the US South to eat black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year’s Day, one for good luck and one for wealth. Some believe that not to eat these dishes will result in the opposite effect, bad luck and poverty.

Our family lived in Louisiana to get into the custom, even though we didn’t really believe the superstition. The habit has persisted even though we have lived outside the South for many years. There must be lots of other former Southern citizens in our Southwest community, because canned and frozen black-eyed peas are always sold out days before New Year’s Eve.

There are many versions of cooked black-eyed peas which qualify as good luck charms the New Year: Hoppin’ John, Texas caviar, black-eyed pea vinaigrette, and plain ol’ Southern black-eyes. The following recipe borrows from all of those classics. Likewise, the cabbage dish is an update of plain old boiled cabbage.

It may be too late for you to get your protection for 2013, but hold onto the recipes for next year. In the meantime, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

RECIPES

Good-Luck Black-Eyed Peas

Ingredients

  • 3 strips bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • water for cooking peas
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 3 ounces Canadian bacon, large dice
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 or more dashes Tabasco sauce

Method

  • Fry the bacon in a small pan over medium heat until crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and transfer the bacon drippings to a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
  • Over medium heat, put the chopped onion in the soup pot, cover, and sweat for 5 minutes until translucent and softened
  • Add the peas and enough water to completely cover the peas. Bring to the boil and then reduce to the simmer, covered, for 1½ to 2 hours or until the peas are tender.
  • Add the bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, and green chiles. Stir in the Canadian bacon.  Continue to simmer for 30 minutes more or until the tomatoes are cooked down.
  • Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and Tabasco
  • Serve in wide-brimmed soup bowls.

Braised Napa Cabbage, Red Onions and Mushrooms with Dilled Greek Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 small napa cabbage cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion sliced in thin crosswise rounds
  • 6 cremeni mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup minced dill fronds

Method

  • Combine the cabbage, onion, mushrooms, chicken stock, wine, salt, and pepper in an oven-proof covered pan
  • Over medium-high flame, bring the pan to a boil, cover, and then transfer to the middle of an oven pre-heated to 250°F
  • Braise the vegetables for 60 minutes or until they are tender. Check frequently, and add water if needed
  • In the meantime, combine the yogurt and dill in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Chill in the refrigerator while the vegetables are braising to bring out the dill flavor.
  • Drain the cooked vegetables and serve with yogurt SAUCE.

If you wish, serve the black-eyed peas with cooked rice, along with cornbread on the side for dipping.

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RED BEANS AND RICE

Whenever our children visit us with their families, as they did this Christmas season, we try to make old favorites from their childhood. Often the food is drawn from the Southwest, but all three of them grew up in Louisiana, so Cajun and Creole dishes are high on the list of favorites. Gumbo is popular, and boiled crawfish in the spring is almost required. Bread pudding and shrimp creole are also on the list, along with red beans and rice.

For as long as anyone can remember, Monday has been laundry day in New Orleans. For as long as anyone can remember, red beans and rice has been the standard Monday supper in New Orleans because it can be started when the wash is started, stirred from time to time during the day, and finished when everyone is ready to gather around the table in the evening. We didn’t live in New Orleans, but the custom is common throughout the entire state of Louisiana.

An essential part of the dish is the meat that is used in the red beans. Traditionally a ham hock is tossed in – mostly for flavor – but also for the morsels of ham that are closest to the bone. Andouille sausage is popular as is Tasso ham. Sometimes you will see whole pork chops swimming in the stew. For this version, I chose boneless pork loin which gives good flavor and tenderness without bones. The chunks of pork fit perfectly on the fork and make a single melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Usually red beans and rice have the spiciness that is famous in Cajun and Creole cooking, but because one of our family members has severe reactions to hot spices, we make it without red pepper or chiles. Not to worry, because it is easy to add your preferred level of hotness at the table with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce.

 

RECIPE

Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry small red beans
  • water to cover the beans for cooking
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 1 bunch green scallions including green stems, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves or ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Louisiana hot sauce to taste
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed in a fine sieve with cold water
  • 1½ cups water

Method

  • Pour the beans into a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a ver slow boil. Cover and cook the beans for 1½ to 2 hours or until they are tender. Stir the bottom occasionally and add more water if needed.
  • When the beans are tender, transfer them and the cooking liquid to a large bowl Rinse and dry the pot. Then return the pot to a medium flame and add the olive oil.
  • When the olive oil is just shimmering, add the chopped onions, lower the heat and cover so that the onions “sweat” (become soft and translucent and give up some of their moisture). Do not let them brown.
  • Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are throughly wilted. Then transfer them and their juices to a plate.
  • Return the pot to the stove. Add the cubes of pork and brown them. Use more oil if needed.
  • When the meat is evenly browned, return the beans and their liquid, along with the vegetables, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the scallions, bay leaves, and thyme.
  • Simmer the mixture, covered, for an additional hour. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and, if desired, hot sauce. Remove the bay leaves
  • While the red beans are cooking, prepare the rice by combining the rice and water in a small covered pot. Bring to the boil. Stir. Cover and reduce the flame to very low. Do not remove the cover, but cook for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. The water should be completely absorbed, and the rice should be fluffy with individual grains.
  • Serve by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with the red bean mixture, and serve with additional hot sauce.

Should serve 6 to 8

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CRABMEAT TECHE

Bayou Teche is one of the most important waterways in Louisiana. It is an ancient riverbed of the Mississippi River before it changed its flow several thousand years ago. Bayou Teche runs over a hundred miles before it empties into the Atchafalaya River, another former route of the Mississippi. The bayou served as the watery route of entry for the Acadians from Canada during their forced migration into Louisiana. The bayou flows through the heart of Cajun country, including some of its most famous towns and cities. Breaux Bridge is well-known for its zydeco, dance halls, and crawfish. St. Martinville is quaint and home to great Cajun food. New Iberia is close by Avery Island, the home of the famous Tabasco Sauce.  So, with a name like “Crabmeat Teche,” this dish must be pure Cajun.

The original recipe comes from the classic, “River Road Recipes” first published by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Junior League in 1959 and self-described as “The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine”. Many of the recipes reflect the times, calling for canned mushroom soup, flavored gelatin, and lots of convenience foods. At the same time the book is a trove of honest-to-goodness Louisiana recipes, and for that reason you can usually find a copy of the cookbook in most Louisiana homes you visit.

The recipe for Crabmeat Teche was contributed  by Mrs. Roy Dabadie. I guess she lived in Baton Rouge at the time, but with a name like that, I shouldn’t be surprised if she originally hailed from someplace along the Bayou Teche. The  recipe used some of the convenience foods of the time, so I have made some small revisions. Nonetheless crabmeat Teche is still a 1950s casserole, but it tastes a lot better than tuna noodle bake.

Baked crabmeat Teche casserole

You’ll need a fresh vegetable to complement the casserole. I made a simple salad to go with it: sliced seasonal tomatoes, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil, coarsely-grated mozzarella cheese and your favorite vinaigrette.  It seemed to be an ideal foil for the rich casserole.

Caprese salad

RECIPE

Crabmeat Teche

Ingredients

  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 4 slices very dry toast (dry enough to crumble easily)
  • 3 cups fish stock or chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, pulverized between your hands
  • Louisiana hot sauce, to taste
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound can crabmeat, picked over for shells
  • ¾ cup cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • paprika

Crabmeat Teche

Method

  • In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, and garlic in bacon drippings until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, crumble the dry toast in 1½ cups of fish stock. When the stock is completely absorbed and the toast crumbs have softened, add them to the skillet along with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, celery salt, and oregano. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently until well combined. Adjust flavoring with hot sauce to taste.
  • Add the parsley and remaining 1½ cups of fish stock, stirring until well combined.
  • Add crabmeat, and mix thoroughly. Then pour the mixture into a well-buttered casserole.
  • Sprinkle the  top with cracker crumbs, dot with butter, and sprinkle with paprika.
  • Bake  for 20-30 minutes at 350° in the middle of a pre-heated oven. IF casserole is made ahead and refrigerated, increase baking time to 45-60 minutes.

Serving of crabmeate Teche with caprese salad

Serves 4 to 8, depending upon serving size

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