Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuna salad with quinoa and tomatillos

There once was a time when some bloggers referred to me as a queen of fish. With the arrival of the princess of fish, I regret that I have been neglecting my royal fishy responsibilities, and not posting much about fish lately. Little princesses take quite a bit of time. But I am glad to report that I have another tuna salad for you to try. Come to think of it, it's quite good with any fish leftovers too, not just canned tuna.
I used red quinoa, since that's what was on hand. It has a slight crunch and is very tasty, but you can make it with regular quinoa, wild rice, black rice, and even couscous.

I don't have time for a real "recipe" right now, but here is what's in it and I am sure you can improvise the rest.
  • Canned tuna, drained (I prefer to use one in oil)
  • Cooked quinoa, cooled
  • Sliced tomatillos (tomatoes make a good substitute)
  • Thinly sliced red onions
  • Cilantro (parsley, basil, and mint can all be good)
  • Lime juice
  • Salt and pepper
Sometimes I wonder how many interesting tuna salads one can come up with...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Farro Beet Risotto

Testing recipes, using measuring cups, and taking decent pictures of food is still far away, but I am making baby steps to coming back to work. I taught my first class this weekend. It was the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish one since that's the stuff I thought I knew like the back of my hand. It was hard to believe that a few days before class as I was starting to panic about the concept of teaching again. "I don't think the part of my brain that's responsible for anything but breastfeeding and diaper changing is still alive," I told Jason. But he persuaded me that somehow I'll know what to do when the time came.

Things went surprisingly smoothly, so I guess I didn't have to panic that much. Babulya came to visit and took care of Sammy while I was shopping and making handouts on friday, and on saturday during class Sammy had whole 2 adults taking care of her (Babulya and Daddy). It reminded me of the Russian proverb "7 nannies have a kid without an eye," but since we had only 2 nannies, no harm came to Sammy.

I also made a pretty good farro risotto yesterday. This isn't exactly a recipe since I haven't measured anything when making this dish yesterday, but here is the rough idea. In case you haven't worked with farro before, it's a really delicious and easy going grain that is the ancestor of modern wheat. Unlike a traditional risotto made with rice, this one doesn't require much stirring so it's perfect for cooks with no attention span or time (just like me :) It doesn't overcook easily, so you can get that al dente texture even if the baby cried and you got a bit distracted.

For the beets:
Trim the beets and scrub really well, but don't peel. Cut into wedges, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the middle of the oven at 400F for 40 minutes or until tender. I also threw in some very finely sliced skin of preserved lemon in with the beets before roasting. They got crispy and really yummy.

For spinach:
Toast pine nuts in a medium saucepan over medium heat stirring often until golden. Remove to a bowl and reserve. Add spinach to pan and cook stirring until wilted. Add to the bowl with pine nuts and stir in golden raisins. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For farro:
Cook 1/2 red onion (or whatever onion you have) in olive oil over low heat until translucent. Rinse farro in a sieve and add to the onion. Turn up the heat to medium. Stir until farro is coated with oil. Add a little dry white wine and wait for it to absorb. Add chicken stock or water (about 3 parts liquid to 1 part farro) and cook stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed and farro is cooked to your liking. I prefer it a bit al dente. Season to taste with salt and pepper and combine with roasted beets, spinach mixture, and a little butter.

Since I haven't been very good with food pictures lately, I thought I'll at least post a good picture of Sammy.

And here we are after her walk with Babulya and my jog with Jason. This was the first time we went jogging together after I gave birth, and I could actually keep up with him. He was really nice and went much slower than usual, but still, I was very excited to start working out for real.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuna salad for hungry moms

Ok, I am going to try this thing called super speedy blogging. No food styling (yes, that's a plastic red plate you are seeing), no interesting romantic stories and no complicated, well tested recipes. This is fast food Helen's way :) Why? Because if I don't do it this way, it never gets done these days.

Sammy and I just came back from our walk, and while she was working on a big and lovely poop on the changing table, I make this quickie little salad. Who knew combining 2 cans could taste so good! Though I have a feeling it had something to do with super ripe tomatoes we got from our CSA.

Tuna salad for hungry moms

Serves 2 hungry moms

1 can tuna in oil
1 can beans of your choice, rinsed
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped broccoli florets
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
Chopped basil
Salt and Pepper

In a medium bowl, combine tuna, beans, onion, broccoli, lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. The salad can be made up to this point a day in advance. Right before serving, arrange tomato on a plate, sprinkle with basil, top with tuna salad. Gobble up before the baby needs to be fed or changed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tomatoes Confit

What do you do with 15 Lb of tomatoes? That's the amount we've been getting from our CSA lately on weekly basis. Some people make sauce, some put them in cans for the winter. I make tomatoes confit. It's an idea I got from Saveur couple of years ago and fell madly in love with it. It's one of those cool techniques that makes the tomato taste even more tomatoey, more pure and distilled. Confit is the technique of cooking something slowly in fat to preserve it. Traditionally, the fat is duck or goose fat. But in case of tomatoes, it's olive oil. These tomatoes keep well in the fridge for quite some time. I've never had them last more than 2 weeks just because it's so tempting to add them to fish, pasta, gnocchi, and my absolute favorite, on slices of rustic bread with buffalo milk mozzarella and basil. But I imagine they can last longer than that, and would probably even freeze well.

5 Lb tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp Kosher salt (or 3/4 Tbsp table salt)
1 tsp sugar
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
5 sprigs of oregano or rosemary
1 cup olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional -- only needed if tomatoes aren't very ripe)
  1. Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Drop tomatoes in water a few at a time for 10 seconds. Remove tomatoes from water with a slotted spoon and set aside until all tomatoes are blanched this way. Make a small, shallow cross on the bottom of each tomato to break its skin and slip the skins off. Remove the green part where the stem was attached with a paring knife. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise (through the equator) and scoop out the seeds with your fingers.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250F. Combine salt and sugar and mix well.
  3. Lay out tomatoes in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet cut side down. Sprinkle with half the salt and sugar. Turn tomatoes over and sprinkle with remaining salt and sugar.
  4. Lay the garlic cloves and oregano or rosemary sprigs between tomatoes.
  5. Combine oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over tomatoes.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven cut side up for 1 hour. Turn tomatoes over using 2 spoons (they'll be fragile). Don't worry if some break -- they'll still taste great. Return tomatoes to the oven for another 3 hours or until they start to brown slightly.
  7. Remove from oven and cool completely. Move tomatoes to a jar, cover with oil, and refrigerate. Don't worry if the oil solidifies after being in the fridge for a few days -- that's normal. Use within 4 weeks or freeze.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blogging -- I remember doing it once...

You know something's wrong when I can't get excited about a hunk of big-eye tuna or deliciously sweet hamachi. Oh sure, I've been sleep-deprived for 2 months now and functioning on only half of my brain power. But still... Not only did I not want to look at sushi. I could barely get myself to sit up in bed and that's not a good situation to be in when you have an 8 week old baby. Turns out I got mastitis -- a really nasty breast infection. Symptoms include fever, chills, breast that feels on fire, and aversion to sushi and all things edible.

Luckily, it happened on Labor day weekend, so Jason was home to take care of us. It was also lucky that it didn't happen the week before when Jason gathered all the usual suspects for my 30th birthday surprise party. It was a wonderful celebration, obviously involving food. The highlights were Jason's baguettes, tomato onion tarts, and my Mom's pirozhki.

I have so many stories to tell you. So much has been happening here. But the problem is that I am just too tired, and it's been a long time since I've got an uninterrupted few hours. I think parenting is the hardest job I've ever had! I can see all you parents laughing now -- "Ha! That silly little yuppy. She thought she could do it all. Well, she'll learn pretty quickly how hard it is."

Oh-oh -- Sammy's crying. Got to run!