Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back to Blogging

I have been absorbed these last five weeks--probably just like you--in some vacation/family travel and in some household cleaning out and refurbishing. In the travels I had to chance to cook and photograph some of the "keepers" which I have been wanting to share with you. Coastal South Carolina has really good seafood. Although I don't eat tuna more than a couple of times a year--I would love to have someone tell me that my concern about the mercury content was bogus--I suspect it is not. But occasionally I just love a nicely cooked tuna dish and the one I give you below is just wonderful and easy as well.

Chilled Almond Gazpacho with Grapes (Ajo Blanco con Uvaas)
This makes a great first course soup for a dinner party. It wouldn’t quite work as a whole meal. You could serve it in small mugs or tiny bowls while your guests are standing around the kitchen, working up an appetite. I must admit that it is not to everyone’s liking. But I find it delicious, refreshing, and anything but ordinary. I think you will too.

6 ounces stale bread, crusts removed
1 cup slivered almonds
3 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2-3 cups water, but start with 2 cups
Red or green seedless grapes, cut in half
Roasted Grapes (see my August 13, 2009 blog)

1. Soak the bread in water to cover until it is softened, about 15 minutes. Squeeze the bread to remove some of the water.
2. Put the garlic in a small frying pan with a small amount of oil. Roast slowly over low or low-medium heat until they are soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them char.
Note: It is easiest to do this next step in two or three batches, depending on the size of your blender or food processor. A blender will give you a smoother consistency.
3. Measure the almonds, olive oil, water, vinegar, and salt. Take some of each, plus some garlic, and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend until very smooth. As you finish each batch, pour it into a bowl large enough to hold all your batches. Stir them together.
4. Add additional water until it is the soupy consistency you like. Check for seasonings and adjust as you see fit.
5. Chill. Right before serving, stir the soup, ladle into bowls and garnish with grapes.

6 servings
Adapted from Janet Mendel’s My Kitchen in Spain

Tuna Steaks with Onion Marmalade

4 center-cut tuna steaks, about 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or fresh parsley
Onion Marmalade (see recipe below)

1. Place the tuna steaks on a flat surface and cut out the dark streak of meat, if any. Brush with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt, thyme, pepper flakes, and peppercorns. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 15 minutes before cooking.
2. You have a choice as to cooking method: grilling, broiling, or pan searing.
3. If you are using a grill, preheat the grill and rub the rack lightly with oil. Place the fish on the grill. Cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook for another 3 minutes. The fish should have a nice streak of pink in the middle.
If you are using a broiler, preheat the broiler and place the fish on a rack about 4 inches from the heat. Cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook for another 3 minutes. The fish should have a nice streak of pink in the middle.
If you are pan frying, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a pan over high heat. When it is hot, add the fish and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. The fish should have a nice streak of pink in the middle.
Whichever method you choose, adjust cooking time to the thickness of the fish and to your taste—but try not to over cook.
4. Place each tuna steak on a warm plate, with the Onion Marmalade. Sprinkle the tuna with the chopped basil or parsley.

4 servings
Adapted from a 60-Minute Gourmet column in the Raleigh News and Observer

Onion Marmalade

4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 whole clove
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
salt to taste
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons honey

1. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onions. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions start to brown, uncover and add the vinegar, clove, Tabasco and salt to taste. Cook briefly, stirring, until the vinegar has almost evaporated.
2. Stir in the capers and honey. Cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes more. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Set aside.
3. Rewarm if necessary before serving.

6 servings
Adapted from a 60-Minute Gourmet column in the Raleigh News and Observer

You could add the following dishes to this menu and have yourself a splendid dinner party:

Roasted Potatoes
From my June 27, 2009 blog

Sautéed Spinach
From my May 31, 2010 blog

And a wonderful dessert of your choosing. Mmmmm.

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