There are tuna salads and Tuna Salads…and not all are created equal. The common link is usually a can of tuna. High in protein, very common and easy to find, canned tuna is one of my basic pantry staples. Combined with fresh greens, avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, boiled eggs and a can of tuna makes one of our basic go-to meals….fresh and healthy.
Cans of tuna can vary greatly in quality, taste and how they are packed. I’m a big fan of “Ortiz Bonito Del Norte“. This tuna is packed in olive oil and is line caught. Large chunks of firm tuna that are not chopped up and mealy with a sublime flavor are the hallmarks of this brand. Where do I find it? World Market where I now do a regular pantry staple grocery store run once a month. Pasta sauces, good spices, olive oils and cans of tuna, sardines and anchovies, not to mention their beer selection and candies. They are not paying me to say this. I don’t even know anyone who works at World Market, but when I find a good thing I like to share.
The can itself is a piece of art. Don’t you agree?
Top salad off with iron skillet Parmesan croutons and you’ve got a meal that takes about 20 minutes from the start to the first bite…it’s as Easy-as-This.
20 Minutes Dinner Salad with Sour Dough-Parmesan Croutons
- One can Ortiz Bonito del Norte Tuna packed in olive oil, lightly drained
- a handful of arugula or other green
- one ripe avocado, cut into chunks
- two cooked eggs, peeled and cut in half
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
- Feta cheese chunks/crumbles to taste
- a chunk of sour dough bread cut into cubes
- olive oil
- Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- any Mexican spice blend that contains oregano or any other favorite spice blend
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh lemon juice and/or your favorite vinaigrette dressing
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss chunks of sour dough bread with some olive oil to lightly coat and add to an iron skillet. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and spice blend. Stick in the open to crisp up for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven. While croutons are baking make the salads.
- Add half of each ingredient to two shallow bowls. Add a grinding of black pepper and shake of sea salt.
- Serve salads topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and/or a light drizzle of the dressing. Sprinkle crisp croutons on top. Start to finish 20 minutes!
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
While noodling around on the internet this week looking for inspiration for a “nosh of note”, I ran across a recipe for “Parmesan Cream Crackers” by Mark Bittman that was published in the New York Times cooking section a few years ago. Homemade crackers would certainly qualify as a “nosh of note” wouldn’t they? Bittman’s basic recipe has just a few ingredients and from start to finish, 25 minutes/ I had a pan of freshly baked crackers. What could be easier than that?
Encouraged I took the basic recipe and ran with it…first batch I topped with toasted sesame seeds….which thankfully you can now purchase already toasted. Would you like to know how many sesame seeds I have burned up toasting them myself? Thousands I would guess.
The simple dough needs to be rolled out thinly and cut/scored before baking. The second batch I added fresh thyme leaves and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
On a roll I whipped up a few other batches using various toss-ins and toppings such as crunchy sea salt, black pepper, espresso cocoa sea salt….
….bittersweet chocolate, chopped pistachios, orange peel and crunchy raw sugar.
Two hours later sheet pans of savory aromatic crackers covered the kitchen counters, ready to accompany a cheese platter along with a few bottles of bubbly for a New Year’s Eve with good, long-time friends…it was as Easy as This.
Note: “Nosh of note” was a quote from my friend, Nancy Vienneau, within an invite to a New Years Eve gathering at her home. Check out her blog at “Good Food Matters”.
Note: You can find the original recipe for “Parmesan Cheese Crackers” by Mark Bittman here..
Happy New Year Cheese Crackers
For basic Parmesan Cheese Crackers:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup cream + more as needed to make dough
For “Toss-ins and Toppings” that I used:
- toasted sesame seeds
- thyme leaves and pepper flakes
- espresso-cocoa sea salt mixture
- chopped pistachios and orange zest with black pepper
- bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder, raw sugar and cinnamon
- any number of other ideas pop into my head…pecans, walnuts, green tea, cayenne, any herbs, cardamom, lavender and lemon zest…use what you might have, what you like, and experiment.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- To a food processor add flour, salt, Parmesan cheese and butter. Pulse to combine.
- If you choose to add any “toss ins” do so now, although the original recipe is fantastic as is.
- After adding “toss ins”…drizzle in cream while processor is running until a dough forms. If need be, add a wee bit more cream. Dough should be smooth and silky and not at all sticky.
- Roll dough out until thin, but workable, on lightly floured surface. Add flour as needed. Transfer dough to parchment lined baking sheet. (You can also simply roll the dough out on a sheet of lightly floured parchment and then transfer to sheet pans to save a step.
- Here is where the “toppings” part comes in. Sprinkle on top and gently press into surface of dough.
- Using a pastry wheel or knife cut/score dough so you can break into individual crackers after baking.
- Bake until golden, light browned…for about 10-13 minutes depending on your oven. Cool on wire rack. You can serve these crackers warm or at room temperature and they can be stored in air tight containers for a few days. They are great with a bowl of soup or as dippers.
recipe adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman published in the New York Times.
Comfort food in a world of chaos and uncertainty is what many of us home cooks create to ease the tensions of daily life. Few foods are more comforting than soups. The ease of preparation and ingredients, the simple cooking methods…these are things we can control when there is so much going on around us that we cannot.
My version of the classic French “Soup au Pistou” is one of my comfort foods on these November days when darkness comes early and there is a chill in the air and in a small place in my heart.
Pistou is somewhat like pesto but without pine nuts. Just a blend of fresh basil leaves, garlic and olive oil all smashed together either in a mortar and pestle, or as I did in a food processor. Pistou is a sauce or condiment from the Provence region of France and you will find it simple and easy to make.
Do you ever add the rinds of Parmesan cheese to your pot when making hearty soups? Try it if you have not. It is a good way to use those flavorful rinds and will make your finished soup even more delicious.
I love cornbread so these crispy “Black Pepper-Thyme Cornbread Sticks” are good to serve with this soup. Baked in a sheet pan and then cut into sticks make them great “dippers”.
Eat well. Be kind to yourself and others.
Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup with Pistou and Black Pepper Cornbread Sticks
Ingredients for Soup:
- Splash of olive oil
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 2 leeks thinly sliced, white and pale green parts
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 zucchini squash, sliced & cut into half moons
- 1 yellow squash, sliced and cut into half moons
- 6 cups chicken broth
- one piece of Parmesan rind
- 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Ingredients for Cornbread Sticks:
- 1 package of your favorite yellow corn bread mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill) + ingredients called for on package directions)
- 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
Ingredients for Pistou:
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 garlic cloves smashed
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- For Soup: Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat & add the anchovies. Use a wooden spoon to stir and cook until the anchovies break up and dissolve.
- Toss leeks and celery into the pan. Saute for 10 minutes or until vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
- Add zucchini and yellow squash, chicken broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Add beans to pan, stir and turn heat to lowest setting to keep hot while you make cornbread and pistou.
- For Cornbread: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cornbread mix according to package directions adding the cracked black pepper, Parmesan and thyme leaves to the batter. Spread batter into a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack.
- For Pistou: Put basil leaves and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse a few times. Drizzle in olive oil just until mixture is a pesto-like consistency. I like a less oily pistou. If you prefer more oil then continue adding until it is to your liking.
- To: Serve. Cut cornbread into “sticks”. Ladle soup into bowls and add a dollop of the pistou to stir into the soup. Serve remaining pistou on the side. Enjoy.
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstying.com www.foodonfifth.com
Light olive-green Baby Lima Beans, grass Green (English) Peas, the palest yellow-green Lady Peas tossed together with emerald mint leaves, brownish-green pistachios and lime-green pea shoots lightly coated with an easy honey vinaigrette dressing.
Third Thursday Community Potluck was once again upon us and I had to make something good and fast. Digging through my freezer I found a bag each of fresh frozen baby limas, lady peas and green peas. All from the Nashville Downtown Farmer’s Market this past summer and all grown right here in middle Tennessee at local farms.
Which brings me to fundraisers and good deeds and all kinds of things like that. My friend and neighbor, Harriet Warner, sent me some information about a gathering that addresses all of the above. It is the Cumberland River Compact’s 4th Annual “Farm to Fork” dinner which brings top chefs together to celebrate local food, drink and clean water. If you would like to attend this fabulous evening of cool people who are interested in good food and keeping our beautiful Cumberland River clean and fresh go here for lots more information including menu, chefs…who, what, when and where. Or just go right here to buy tickets to be part of this great dinner party.
Now, back to my own little farm to fork dish,….peas and beans thawed, rinsed and drained…blanched in boiling water for a few minutes and again drained.
Ah ha! A jar of salt preserved lemons hiding in the back of my pantry! I know they are yellow, but might add just the right saltiness to the salad…slivered and chopped.
Mint from the backyard.
Red wine honey vinaigrette drizzled on top.
Tender pea shoots waiting to top off the salad along with some dusty green pistachios to add a bit of crunch.
All-Things-Green Salad with a Simple Red Wine-Honey Vinaigrette
- 3 cups each fresh or frozen Baby Lima Beans, Lady Peas, and Green(English) Peas
- 1 bunch of fresh mint
- 2 TBSP’s thin slivers of preserved lemon
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 2 cups loosely packed green pea shoots
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 TBSP honey
- 2 tsps Dijon mustard
- sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a bit of salt. Toss in the baby lime beans, lady peas & green peas. Cook for about 5 minutes. Pour peas and beans into a colander to drain. Rinse with cool running water. Leave to drain and cool down for 20 minutes. Place in a large serving bowl.
- Pour the olive oil, vinegar, honey and mustard in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to emulsify. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper to suit your taste. Set aside.
- Roughly chop the mint leaves and add to the bowl of beans and peas along with the preserved lemon slivers. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve drizzle the vinaigrette over all and toss gently. Top with the tender pea shoots and pistachios.
Note: This is a perfect salad for a crowd. I made it for the September Third Thursday Community Potluck dinner. You could also cut it in half for a family dinner. There was a little bit left so I ate it the next day for lunch and it was even better!
You can use edamame if you cannot find lady peas. I used summer beans and peas that I had frozen, but store-bought frozen product works great too.
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com http://www.foodonfifth.com