Sunday, March 31, 2013

Linguine with Smoked Tuna

The smoked tuna we received last week from Siren SeaSA was large enough for two recipes. The Nicoise salad was the first and obvious one, this I think was the better one. If you can get your hands on some smoked tuna or if you smoke one yourself, I highly recommend checking out this preparation. I got the idea from a few recipes I found online, the best part being the use of raw walnuts for the resulting taste and texture of the dish.

Sautéing the garlic and walnuts in olive oil

Minced parsley as garnish

1/2 pound linguine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup raw walnuts, chopped
1/4 pound smoked tuna, shredded into small pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Add water to a large pot, salt, then bring to a boil. Add the linguine and cook about a minute less than the directions on the box advise. When the pasta is within a couple of minutes of being done, remove about about a 1/2 cup of the cooking water and set aside.
Over a medium heat, add oil to a medium skillet. When the oil is hot, add the smashed garlic to heat until translucent, about 30-60 seconds. Stir in the chopped walnuts and cook to heat through a bit about 1-2 minutes then add the tuna to heat a bit without cooking. Pour in the cream and stir to combine with the walnuts into a sauce.
When the pasta is done, drain in a colander, then add to the skillet with the walnut-cream sauce and a bit of the reserved cooking water to moisten. Cook for about a minute then remove from heat to serve.
Garnish with the chopped parsley.

Sponge Cake with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote

I came across this recipe in an insert in the San Francisco Chronicle and thought it a perfect dessert for a dinner we gave for some friends last week as
1. it contains no gluten, which one of our guests avoids
2. I'd never made either a sponge or angel food cake and wanted to try one
3. it relies on produce just coming into season

The potato starch substituted perfectly for flour in the dry ingredients, the compote was extremely easy to make and was a delicious accompaniment to the cake.

As this was my first sponge/angel food cake, I stayed faithful to the ingredients and directions as published in order to get the idea of the general techniques used.

'tis Spring! rhubarb and strawberries

in the saucepan with sugar and water

doesn't take long to get a nice syrup

potato starch sifted with a pinch of salt



sugar - equal amounts each for the yolks and the whites

citrus juice with vanilla and almond extracts

orange and lemon zest

yolks beaten with sugar

wet batter after adding the zest

whites beaten to soft peaks

then to stiff with the sugar

egg whites ready for folding into the yolk batter

folding the starch into the batter

final smoothing before baking

Yeah I thought this look weird too but it's apparently how you cool a sponge cake

just prior to serving

Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote:
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
2/3 to 1 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of fruit
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

Sponge Cake:
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) potato starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 large eggs, separated to yolks and whites
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote:
Although many cooks do, I didn't string or peel the rhubarb at all and it came out fine. Whatever you do, though, just use the stalks as the leaves are quite poisonous!
Combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until fruit begins to soften but still holds its shape, and juices become syrupy. Transfer to a bowl. Let cool. Stir in vanilla. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Keeps well in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sponge Cake:
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350°.
Set nearby an ungreased 10 x 3-inch round tube pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Place a long-necked bottle or a large metal funnel nearby for inverting the baked cake.
Sift the potato starch and salt onto a piece of waxed paper; set aside. I think the reason the recipe called for waxed paper as opposed to just sifting into a bowl was that the starch can be pretty sticky and harder to remove.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a bowl of a stand mixer and the yolks in a deep 1 1/2-quart bowl; set the bowl of egg whites aside. I'm not quite sure why they specify a hand mixer for the yolks and a stand mixer for the whites other than it was a way to avoid having use one or the other for both which would necessitate an extra cleaning between uses.

Using a hand-held electric mixer, whip the yolks on medium speed until thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue whipping until the yolks are thick and pale yellow in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce to medium-low speed, add the orange and lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract and whip for another minute.

Carefully fold in the potato starch until no white shows and the mixture is smooth. Toward the end, fold in the citrus zests.

Attach the whisk attachment to the stand mixer and beat the egg whites on medium speed until the whites form soft peaks. Increase the speed to medium-high while gradually adding the remaining sugar until thick, shiny white peaks form that are stiff yet moist and bend softly on top. Fold about 1 cup of the whites into the yolk mixture. Now fold the mixture carefully into the whipped whites. Don't overmix. Gently pour the batter into the ungreased pan and smooth the surface.

Bake 50-60 minutes. When done, the cake should be golden-colored on top and feel spongy, springing back slightly upon being lightly touched. A round wooden toothpick inserted in the center should come out free of cake. If in doubt, baking 5 minutes longer won't harm the cake. 50 minutes was plenty of time in my case.

Remove the pan from the oven, and immediately turn it upside down over the long-necked bottle or funnel, inserted through the tube. It's fine if the pan tilts slightly. Let cake hang until completely cool, about 2 hours; then turn the pan right side up, and place it on the counter. Though the cake is cool to the touch, let it sit for at least 1 hour longer to cool the inside completely.

To remove the cake from the pan and maintain its shape perfectly, carefully slip a thin, flexible metal spatula down the side of the pan. Slowly trace around the perimeter to release the cake. When the sides are free, push up on the removable bottom of the pan to remove the cake. Tilt the cake and gently tap the bottom of the pan against the counter to loosen the cake, rotating as you do so, until the cake appears free. Cover the cake with a plate, invert the cake, and gently remove the bottom tube part of the pan. Cool completely.

To serve: Slice with a serrated knife, using a sawing action. Spoon the rhubarb-strawberry sauce alongside each slice.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nicoise Salad with Smoked Albacore Tuna

This week's Siren SeaSA drop was a delicious smoked albacore tuna loin! I was contemplating making a mayonnaise-based salad for sandwiches but another Siren-head recommended a Nicoise-type salad that sounded amazing. As Nicoise salads are one of the wife's standard summer fare, I thought I'd surprise her with one of my own.

head of Bibb lettuce, washed and split into separate leaves
3/4 cup black olives, pitted
several spears of asparagus, roasted and chopped
several yukon gold potatoes, chopped and roasted
1/2 pound smoked albacore tuna, sliced then chopped
1 egg, hard-boiled

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 preserved lemon, flesh removed and minced
fresh chives, minced
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
kosher salt
fresh-cracked black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Roasted Potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Chop the potatoes into 2-inch chunks. In a bowl coat with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put into a baking pan and cook in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until tender, stirring at least once during the cooking time for an even roasting. Remove from the oven then allow to cool a bit before serving.

Roasted Asparagus:
Slice off the hard ends of the asparagus spears.
In an overproof iron skillet, add the spears with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper along with a couple tablespoons water. Cover with foil, put into the hot oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the spears are tender and roasted, about 5-10 minutes more. Allow to cook a bit before serving.

Hard-Boiled Egg:
Put the egg into a small saucepan and completely cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the egg to sit in the hot water for 15 minutes. Remove the egg and rinse under cold water, then remove the shell and slice into even halves.

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients into a mason jar, close the lid tightly, and shake vigorously to emulsify.

Prepare the asparagus and potatoes as directed above.

The other ingredients can easily be combined into a nice presentation but when we do salads like this we prefer to just lay out the lettuce and combine them ourselves at the table, drizzling the vinaigrette on top.

Lay out the lettuce on the plate then just add what you like.

Olive Tapanade

Another delightful flavor from the Mediterranean, this is an olive paste with rather strong flavors which makes it perfect to go on bread, bruscetta, crackers, or chips. No heat required just a good bowl of high-quality olives, anchovies, and Cognac put together in the right proportions. This recipe is straight from Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Cooking.

Pitting some French olives

salt-packed anchovies and capers

before processing

1 cup wrinkled black olives
several cleaned salt-packed anchovies or 1 2-ounce canned anchovy fillets
4 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
fresh-cracked black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Cognac, brandy, or dark rum
1/4 fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Soak the olives, anchovies, and capers, to remove any excess salt. Rinse, drain, and pat dry.
In a food processor, combine the olives, anchovies, capers, lemon juice, mustard, pepper, and Cognac, blending into a paste. With the machine running, add the olive oil into the top opening in a slow stream to emulsify it all into a smooth paste.
Allow to sit for at least an hour for the flavors to congeal before serving.

Homemade Hummus

This is so easy to make I find it a tad peculiar that so many people buy it pre-made. The only 'hard' part is soaking the chickpeas over night and cooking them to the right doneness. Everything else is just throwing it all together into a food processor. Of course you could even more easily use canned garbanzos but I always taste a bit of the can in canned beans with the inevitable added sodium that I much prefer soaking the dried ones.

This recipe is based on one from Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Cooking though I modified it a bit with ideas from a couple of other sources.

garlic pounded in a mortar

lemon juice, tahini, seasonings in the food processor

cooked and peeled chickpeas

combined with the flavoring

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
kosher salt
1/2 cup of chickpea broth
3 garlic cloves
3/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
2 teaspoons pimenton
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pour the soaked chickpeas into a colander and discard the soaking water. Add them into a large saucepan with water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add a touch of the salt, cover and cook until just tender but before they get mushy, about 45-60 minutes.
Drain the chickpeas and save the resulting broth. Remove as much of the loosened skins from the chickpeas as you have the patience for. I put them on a paper towel and rub them them vigorously then pick through what's left. Put aside.
Crush the garlic with a touch of salt in a mortar with a pestle. Put into a food processor with the tahini, cumin, and lemon juice, processing them until you get a smooth white paste adding some of the saved chickpea water by the tablespoon as needed.
Add the saved chickpeas to the paste in the food processor and process until smooth, again adding the cooking water by the tablespoon as needed to smooth the texture to how you like it, adding lemon juice and salt to taste.
Serve the hummus with the pimenton, chopped parsley, and olive oil as dressing.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms

This is based on a recipe from Ciao Italia, a long time PBS cooking show hosted by Mary Ann Esposito who, I believe, is based in New Hampshire. Her accent and style so reminds me of the women all around Eastern New England back when I lived in the Boston area in the 70's. Until I started watching Lidia Bastianich, Mary Ann was my favorite Italian TV chef and I learned a lot about Italian cuisine from watching her show.
This is an old time favorite, very easy to make well, and delicious as a weeknight meal. Back in the day when a recipe like this called for chicken breasts, I would just buy the breasts alone at the store but these days I'm much more likely to buy the whole bird, cut it up into the parts, and freeze what I'm not using that day. Much more economical especially considering I'd much rather pay for the best chicken and it's not all that cheap. The original recipe recommended flouring the chicken as it calls for the breasts to be skinned. As I'm not too concerned about avoiding poultry skin, I leave it on but flour anyway for the texture.

The original recipe also called only for button mushrooms but I prefer mixing various kinds to broaden the flavor of the dish with whatever wild mushrooms are available such as chanterelles, hedgehogs, morels, crimini, etc. One of the big keys I've found in cooking mushrooms is to cook them in a good amount of fat (butter, oil), at a high heat, and to remove them only once they've given off their liquids which usually takes about 5-8 minutes. Once you've done this a few times you get to recognize the signs pretty well.

Breasts floured and ready to cook

Mushrooms after cooking

A good dry Marsala wine (d'uh) of course helps though I suppose you could use any good dry red wine to fit the bill. As they always say, only cook with what you would like drinking.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sliced assorted mushrooms (white, crimini, chanterelles, whatever)
kosher salt
fresh-cracked black pepper
2 boneless chicken breasts pounded thinly
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup dry Marsala wine
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they give off their liquid and are cooked through. Salt and pepper them to taste and transfer to a bowl.
Place each breast one at a time between waxed paper or plastic wrap and pound it with the smooth side of a mallet from the center out until it reaches a uniform thickness of about 1/8 inch. When both are thinned, put the flour into a bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Dip each breast into the flour to cover completely then tap it to allow any excess flour to fall off. Put aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in the same skillet you used to cook the mushrooms. Over medium high heat, brown the cutlets on both sides then remove from the heat.
If the pan seems dry add a little more butter. Raise the heat to high and pour in the Marsala wine. Stir, scrapping up any bits in the pan and reduce the wine to 1/2 its volume. Stir in the lemon juice. 
Return the chicken and any collected juices to the pan along with the mushrooms to reheat.
When done, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dover Sole with Orange Sauce

Here's my take on the latest drop from Siren SeaSA, Dover sole fillets, although I'm a tad late in getting the recipe posted. Fish sold locally as Pacific Dover sole here in Northern California is apparently not a true sole but more closely related to flounder. Works for me, this fish easily meeting the high standards we've come to expect from the gang at Siren. I found the base for this recipe on the Eating Well web site under the title of Pacific Sole with Oranges and Pecans, an interesting take that I probably would never have come up with on my own.
You can use either orange juice or an orange for the sauce. The latter is the preferred way to go but you'll need to supreme the orange for the best results. There's a great demonstration in this Ming Tsai video on the technique.

Which ingredient will reign supreme?

Supremed orange and toasted chopped pecans

Sole fillets

Shallot pre-chopped version

Mise en place: altogether now

I know you can just about hear the sizzling

After the fire

Butter, shallots and ...

... orange

1 orange supremed along with any juice, or 1/2 cup orange juice
10-12 ounces Pacific sole fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pecans, toasted (*) and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chopped dill

* Toasting the pecans:
Add the whole pecans to a preheated small iron skillet over medium-high heat. Move the pecans around to avoid burning them. Once they start to get aromatic and colored, remove from the heat to cool.

If using an orange, supreme it to extract the flesh the pith and membrane into a bowl. Otherwise add the orange juice to a bowl.
Clean and pat dry the sole fillets then season with the salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium heat add the oil. When hot add the fillets. If you cannot fit them all in the skillet without them touching, cook in batches. Pacific sole is quite delicate and will only take about a minute or so on each side to cook - avoid overcooking, making sure to remove them from the heat as soon as the flesh starts to flake. When the fillets are done, cover with foil while you prepare the sauce.
In the same pan in which you cooked the sole, add the butter to melt. Add the minced shallot and cook until soft and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Add the vinegar and the orange with its juice using it to loosen any bits stuck in the pan; cook for about 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat and pour over the cooked fillets. Sprinkle the chopped pecans and parsley and serve.