Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuna Potato Salad with Green Beans

When I'm pressed to choose a favorite food, potatoes are always towards the top of my list. I love them as a part of every meal, from crispy hash browns to creamy mashed potatoes. Potatoes are great on their own, and also work very well as part of a dish. I love potato salad, and I think this recipe finally gives me an excuse to purely eat potato salad for dinner!

I must also point out that the dressing for this salad is amazing. It is a classic French dressing with shallots, white wine vinegar, and grainy mustard. We had a little extra left over, and I used it to dress a salad we made later in the week. It was a perfect complement for this salad, comprised of butter leaf lettuce, colorful tomatoes, wax beans, and feta cheese.

But, back to the point, this potato and tuna salad is amazing. It's a complete meal on it's own, and would also be beautiful as part of a larger spread. It is fresh and bursting with flavor, especially when you use the farm-fresh produce that is so abundant this time of year! My salad included farmer's market potatoes and tomatoes, and basil from my own back porch. Make sure to buy chunk light tuna, especially if you can find it packed in olive oil instead of water. It gives it the European flair that this salad deserves. Sit on your porch with a little chilled french wine, and you'll almost be able to taste the French countryside!

Warm Tuna and Potato Salad
from My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde

For the Dressing:

2 shallots, finely diced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp grainy mustard
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the Salad:

1 lb small red or white skinned potatoes
6 oz hericots verts (or thin green beans)
olive oil, for the pan
8 oz cherry tomatoes
6 oz tuna, in olive oil, drained
4 salt packed anchovies, filleted and cut lengthwise into thin strips
1 large bunch of basil

For the dressing, put the shallots, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper into a jar and shake, or combine with a whisk in a medium bowl. Then, add oil and shake again, or slowly whisk the oil into the bowl.

Gently cook the potatoes in their skins, in a saucepan of lightly salted, simmering water for 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, cut them in half, and place in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over, and toss to coat the warm potatoes.

Plunge the green beans lightly into salted boiling water and cook for two minutes. Drain well and add the warm beans to the potatoes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush a baking sheet with olive oil, toss the cherry tomatoes in oil, and roast for 10 minutes. Add the hot tomatoes to the potatoes and green beans.

Flake and add the tuna, along with the anchovy strips, and gently mix. Tear up the basil, scatter over the salad, and serve at once.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Barley 'Risotto'

The weather in Chicago has been kind of crazy this summer. This week it's been oppressively hot (at least in my opinion), but a couple weeks ago it was raining daily and not feeling very summery at all. I made this dish during that time, and I will be the first to admit I would only serve it in this heat if it were a chilled version. But if you're having cooler weather in your part of the country, give this a try soon. And if you're in an area with crazy humidity and too many hot days in a row, then file this away for later. Trust me, you want to try this recipe.

Barley risotto is not something I made up, and if you look at food blogs very often then you've probably seen it numerous times already. But it sometimes takes me a while to catch on to these things, which is why I'm posting a 'risotto' in July! This recipe came from my desire to use some ingredients I already had in my kitchen-- specifically, spinach, artichokes, and barley. I guess the artichokes were in a can, so I could have left them for a while, but I can't resist the combination of spinach and artichokes.

I modeled my recipe off of one I found on Smitten Kitchen, but it's a pretty flexible recipe. The absorption cooking method is the same as with a rice-based version, and there is no end to the add-ins you could use. Add whatever veggies look good at the store, or brown some sausage and mix it in towards the end. Play around with the type of wine, or try a different type of stock. This recipe is a keeper either way!

Barley Risotto with Spinach and Artichoke Hearts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted generously from Food and Wine

5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 cup pearled barley (7 ounces)
3 cups chopped baby spinach
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine if using and cook, stirring until absorbed, about one minute. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time in six additions — you’ll have a cup of stock left in the pot — stirring until it is nearly absorbed between additions. Most barley risottos are done when the barley is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 35 minutes. Stir it in until the risotto is on the loose side, then add the spinach and let it wilt and then cook for an additional minute. Add the artichokes and cook until they are warmed through, adding more stock if the risotto becomes too thick. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, passing more cheese at the table.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mediterrenean Grilled Vegetable Wraps

These wraps were inspired by a recent lunch we hosted at The Chopping Block. I love eating wraps at restaurants, but haven't messed around much with making them at home. When we made a bunch of these sandwiches at work, I realized how easy it was, and how one night of grilling could result in 3 nights of lunch or dinner. The pieces of this wrap stayed separate until it was time to make dinner, so everything was fresh tasting and ready to go. I did all the grilling at once, then peeled and sliced the red peppers, and sliced up all the other veggies. I mixed the cooked vegetables with salt, pepper, and just a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This mix of grilled vegetables went into the fridge, where it sat waiting to become a fresh Mediterranean wrap.

Grill the peppers until they are completely charred, then put them into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let them steam in the bowl for 15 minutes or so, and then take the plastic wrap off to let them cool. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, the skins should easily peel off. Then, cut out the seeds and core inside the pepper, and slice the peppers into bite sized pieces.

Grill each vegetable until it is done. The mushrooms are easy on skewers, or also great in a grill basket. The eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini will cook at different rates, so take each vegetable off the heat when it is grilled to your taste.

Now, to assemble the wraps, start with a large tortilla. Mine were spinach flavor, and made specifically for wrapping. Smear on some hummus, and top with fresh spinach leaves. Pile on some grilled vegetables, then top with crumbled feta cheese and freshly ground pepper. Wrap like a burrito, cut into two halves, and enjoy!
I made a total of six wraps out of the following ingredients:
Wrap-size tortillas (pack of 6)
One tub of hummus
1 pack of organic baby spinach (some spinach was leftover)
2 red peppers
1 large eggplant
2 medium zucchini
1 package baby bella mushrooms
4 ounces Greek feta cheese

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

We are in the midst of summer party season, with holidays and weekend cookouts abounding. I decided to mark the beginning of my 27th year of life by having a party this year, and of course even a late-night, beer drinking party can't be done without tasty party snacks! I promised myself I would keep it simple, with bags of tortilla and pita chips. I made a regular hummus and a lemon basil version, using fresh herbs from my little "garden" out back. These two dips were a hit, served with the pita chips and fresh veggies. I knew I wanted salsa, and this vegetable filled version is quick and so much more flavorful than a jar of processed salsa from the grocery store.

I have been making this salsa since I set out on my own, and my mom made it for years before that. It's from the Colorado Collage cookbook, a great collection put out by the Junior League of Denver. I took it up a notch this time by grilling fresh corn, but it's also great with a simple bag of the frozen variety. You just toss together the fresh ingredients, let the flavors marry, then toss in fresh tomatoes right before serving. It's especially good later in the summer, when you can get local, in season corn and tomatoes. The salsa is amazing as a part of a Mexican spread, but is also great as part of any American cookout menu. It is rare to see a warm weather party at my house where this salsa doesn't make an appearance. Enjoy!

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

from Colorado Collage Cookbook
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz corn, fresh or frozen and defrosted
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup seeded and chopped tomatoes
Combine all ingredients except the tomatoes. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Just before serving, chop the tomatoes and fold into the corn and bean mixture. Adjust seasoning as needed, and serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tuna Pasta Salad

About three years ago, Joe and I made a big decision and decided to give city living a try by moving to Chicago. We liked Kansas City, but felt drawn towards a bigger city, full of people and excitement. It was quite a leap of faith, and thankfully it has worked out better than we ever expected. I always thought I was a city person-- when I was little I used to talk about owning an all black and white apartment in New York City! Now, I have to laugh at what a city slicker I've become. I love tall buildings and busy sidewalks (well, except busy, slow sidewalks on Michigan Ave where everyone walks so slow I want to scream!), and I usually want to just visit other cities when I leave this one. Some people love the open sky in the countryside at night, but it just makes me jumpy because it gets so dark out there!

I wasn't always such a fan of the cement jungle, though, because growing up in Colorado meant there were lots of outdoor adventures with our family. I went to summer camp a couple times, had a season pass to snowboard at Breckeridge and Keystone, and used to really enjoy hiking on the weekends. My mom, ever the gourmet, made sure we were fed well even when exploring the parks and hiking trails. This salad was a staple of many of our hikes, and I always get nostalgic when I make it. I love dill and don't cook with it often enough, and I think it's that herb that makes this dish taste like summer. And besides cooking the pasta, this meal avoids the oven and stove. Being a one dish combination of protein, carbs, and veggies makes it a simple dinner, and I always make extra to take to work for lunch. Doesn't this beat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your next hike or day at the beach?

Tuna Pasta Salad
from my mom... and maybe a cookbook from her collection?

4 cups cooked small pasta shells
1 1/2 cups tuna (cooked shrimp are also great for this!)
1/2 cup peas
1/2/ cup green onions
1/4 cup parsley

Combine above ingredients in large bowl.

Make dressing:
1/2/cup plain yogurt
1/2/ cup mayonnaise
2Tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper

Toss pasta mixture with dressing. Chill and enjoy!