Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tuna Salad Not-coise

Salads to me are usually an afterthought; bagged grocery store lettuce, some cheese and/or nuts if they’re around, and bottled dressing. In Ad Hoc at Home, Thomas Keller has a whole spiel about preparing salads. The tl;dr version is to select the best produce you can find, toss everything separately with the dressing, and season everything separately with salt. It’s another dish to wash, but it lends to an evenly dressed salad, instead of my usual puddle of dressing at the bottom of the bowl. This dish is basically salad nicoise, minus the nicoise.

1 Tbsp diced shallots
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1 Teaspoon oregano
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup canola oil
Salt and pepper

For the Salad:
Boston or butter lettuce
Shallot, sliced thin
Hard-boiled egg
Cherry tomatoes
½ avocado, sliced
Red potato, cut into bite sized chunks
Green beans
Tuna steak
Olive oil
Lemon juice

For the vinaigrette:
Add the shallots to the vinegar and let them macerate for about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Salad:
Marinate the tuna in some olive oil and lemon juice for about an hour. Leave it out on the counter for at least half an hour to come up to room temp. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Boil the green beans in salted water until cooked through, 5 minutes. Spoon some vinaigrette into a large bowl, and toss the lettuce to evenly coat. Place on a plate, top with sliced shallots. Toss the cherry tomatoes, the cooked potatoes, and cooked green beans in vinaigrette, and place on top of the lettuce along with the avocado and hard-boiled egg.  Lightly season everything with salt. Heat your cast-iron skillet on high until it’s nice and hot, and sear the tuna for about 1 minute per side, depending on thickness. Slice thin and add to the salad to complete.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Soft Pretzels

One of my favorite snacks growing up was soft pretzels. My mom used to always buy the frozen kind that came in the box, and I distinctly remember trying to get the salt from the little packet to stay on the pretzel (it never did). This recipe is a bit more involved than sticking frozen pretzels in the microwave, but the results are tasty. It’s not particularly wet dough, so it’s easy to shape. From my dutiful research on the internet, I’ve found that there are two keys to making successful pretzels:

1.       Feed the yeast with sugar.
2.      Boil the pretzels in lye before baking. If you’re not in a fight club and don’t have lye in your pantry, baking soda works just as well.

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 cup bread flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Vegetable oil, for bowl and baking sheets
1/4 cup baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon course grain Kosher salt

Make the dough:
Add the yeast, 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt, and 2 teaspoons sugar to a cup of water. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. The yeast mixture will foam up and look like a science experiment. While you’re waiting for the yeast, add the flours to a large bowl and blend in the butter using a pastry cutter (or a butter knife), until the butter is the size of pebbles. Add the yeast mixture, stirring to combine all the ingredients. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray, add the dough, and spritz the top with spray as well. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size.

Shape the dough:
Break the dough off into 12 equal sized portions (I used my scale – each dough ball came out to about 2 oz). Roll the dough back and forth, starting from the middle and applying pressure outward, until you have a rope shaped piece of dough about 16 inches long. Cross one end of the dough over the other, forming a not quite figure 8 (see pictures for what I hope will be a better explanation). Pick up the two ends, twist and flip up to the top, forming a pretzel shape. Let the pretzels rest on a baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.

Bake the pretzels:
Preheat your oven to 475°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar. Boil the pretzels 3 at a time, for 1 minute on each side, until puffed up. Rest the boiled pretzels on a rack. Combine one egg with 1 teaspoon of water, and beat to create an egg wash. Place the pretzels on two baking sheets, and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with kosher salt, then bake in the over for 15 minutes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Filet of Sole with Potatoes and Asparagus


I've been wanting to try out asparagus puree ever since I saw it in Michael Ruhlman's Ruhlman's Twenty book. I'm between blenders at the moment, but I was able to use a food processor to at least produce something tolerable. It's certainly a different way of serving asparagus, though in the end it's easier to just blanch/saute them.  

Ingredients (for 1 serving):

For the court bouillon:
White Wine Vinegar
1 Carrot, sliced thin
1/4 white onion, sliced thin

White Fish filets (I used dover sole)
1 red potato
olive oil
1/2  a bunch of asparagus

For the potatoes: 
Dice into one inch cubes, put in a baking dish with 2 cloves of garlic (left whole), rosemary, salt, and olive oil. Cook for 45 minutes at 425F, flipping the spuds after half an hour.

For the fish:
Put all the court bouillon ingredients besides the vinegar in a pan, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the vinegar (you don't need much; I used about 2 or 3 tablespoons worth), and bring to a boil. Add the fish filets, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

For the asparagus:
Get a good amount of salted water to a boil, and blanch the asparagus for 4-5 minutes. Remove the asparagus and plunge into a bowl of ice water and let cool. Reserve the tips for serving, and place the stalks into a blender (I was stuck using a food processor since I'm between blenders. Definitely use a blender if you can.) and puree. You may need to add some water (I needed 1/4 cup) to get everything to the right consistency. Add the puree to a sauce pan along with a knob of butter and heat.

To plate: pour the asparagus puree on the plate, top with the potatoes, then the fish. Sprinkle with chopped lemon zest.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Torta de Chorizo y Frijoles Negros

Although they’re not as ubiquitous with Mexican cuisine as tacos, tortas are a perfect example of Mexican street food. Typically they are served on a softer, round roll called a telera, but as  Philadelphian I’m a sucker for a crusty baguette/hoagie roll.  This recipe is from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. 


½ to 2/3 lb chorizo, casing removed
1.5 cans (15 oz. each) of black beans, rinsed
Bacon grease
Crusty bread

For the Salsa:
5 Tomatillos
3 Chipotle peppers in adobo
3 cloves garlic
2 shallots, chopped

Make the salsa: remove the husks from the tomatillos, rinse under cold water, and slice in half. Place under a broiler along with the garlic cloves (leave the husks on). The garlic will be ready after a few minutes, the tomatillos will take a little longer. Place all the salsa ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. You may want to add a little water into the salsa for a smoother consistency.

For the sandwich: Heat a 12” skillet over medium and put some bacon grease in there. Cook the chorizo for 6 or 7 minutes, until browned. Add the black beans, mashing them with a potato masher.

Preheat another skillet/griddle over medium. Cut your bread in half and scoop out some of the white part of the top half. Add some oil to the skillet, and add the bread, cut side down, cooking for about 2 minutes.

Spoon  the chorizo/bean mixture on the bottom part of the bread, spoon on some salsa, and add slices of avocados, tomatoes, and cilantro.