Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nicoise Salad

Not often enough, I put together a Salade Niçoise, and always wonder why I don't do it more often, because it is so simple, elegant, and delicious.  We recently had this when a friend came over for dinner, and her delight in it leads me to share the recipe here.  The original recipe includes instructions for a vinaigrette dressing, so if you want to make that also, click on the link below.  I just serve it with oil and vinegar.  It does take some time to prepare each of the ingredients, but you can do any or all of it ahead of time, which helps.  Served with a crusty bread, this is a full meal.

adapted from Simply Recipes
serves 6
  • grilled tuna or salmon, about 16 oz; canned tuna or salmon is also fine
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
  • 12 small red potatoes (about 2" in diameter, about 1-1/2 lbs. total), boiled until just tender, cooled under cold water, and then cut in quarters
  • Boston or butter lettuce, enough for 6 people, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths (or a comparable amount of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin into crescents
  • 8 ounces green beans, steamed until just tender (I use the steam-in-bag type)
  • olives (kalamata if you don't have nicoise)
  • 2 cans of anchovies
  • fresh pepper
  • capers
  • olive oil
  • vinegar (I use balsamic)
Once all the ingredients are prepped, you can either put everything on a large serving platter, or you can make up individual plates.  Lettuce goes on the bottom, and than place each of the ingredients through the anchovies on top of the lettuce, each in its own pile.  Sprinkle on some fresh pepper and some capers, and then drizzle on olive oil and vinegar, as desired.

If you don't use up all the ingredients at one sitting, they will all be fine the next day as well, straight from the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Low-fat Vanilla Cream

With berries in full season, I was reminded of this simple recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.  It's a great substitute for whipped cream or crème fraiche.  The original recipe suggests low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, but I use non-fat and it's still delicious.

makes about 1 cup, serves 5-6

1/2 cup non-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt
2 T + 1 t. pure maple syrup
1/4 t. vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together.  (An immersion blender works well.)  Chill and serve.  Keeps for about 3 days in the refrigerator.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tuna Burgers with Ginger and Cilantro

When I have high quality tuna, I usually do a very simple recipe--why mess with the beautiful taste.  But I've been holding in the freezer some tuna I got from a Portland, OR supplier via Sitka Salmon Shares.  The portions came very thick and oddly shaped, a challenge to sear in a pan or broil.  I had time for some leisurely preparation yesterday, so I decided to make tuna burgers, and found this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine in my file.  It's also available on the web, so go here for enticing photos, and links to some complementary recipes (rice noodle salad and melons with ginger syrup) that also look great.  I've adapted the recipe a bit, below.  And you definitely want to serve it with the dipping sauce.  No buns--would detract from the delectable taste and add pointless calories. Note that the burgers need to chill for at least 20 minutes after you shape them, and that the sauce should stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.  So--a good meal to make ahead; just sauté the burgers right before serving.

serves 4

1 lb. fresh tuna fillet
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. chopped red onion (or scallion)
2 T. lite mayonnaise
1-1/2 t. minced fresh ginger
1/2 t. Sriracha sauce (or minced fresh hot red or green chile peppers)
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

1-2 T. canola oil (for sautéing the burgers)

Cut the tuna into 1" chunks and, in two batches, pulse 3-4 times in the food processor--until just chopped.  (Or, you can cut the tuna into a 1/4" dice.)

Gently stir in the cilantro, onion, mayonnaise, ginger, Sriracha, and black pepper. Shape into four thick patties--recipe said 1", though mine were less.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours--or longer.  I made four patties, cooked two last night, and then left the other two in the fridge so that I could cook them fresh this evening.  Still just fine!

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  (Cook on the stove rather than broiling or grilling--gives greater control over the heat, easier to keep the center medium-rare.)  Cook the burgers until nicely browned on both sides (flipping half-way through), but still pink in the center, 2-4 minutes total.  Serve with Thai-style dipping sauce.


1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 rounded T. sugar (original recipe called for 2-1/2 T; less was fine)
2 T. fish sauce
1-1/2 t. rice vinegar
2 t. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 t. minced garlic (I used jarred)
1/2 t. Sriracha sauce (or minced fresh hot red or green chile peppers)

Combine all the ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving so that the flavors can develop and blend.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Indian Keema with Peas, with a full menu

We had guests to dinner last weekend, and needed a menu where most everything could be done ahead of time.  This worked out really well!  We started with home-made baked tortilla chips, guacamole, and store-bought hummus.  (The generic brand at Hy-Vee is good enough that I don't bother to make it from scratch anymore.)  The main course was Indian Keema with Peas, served over brown rice (I highly recommend short-grain brown rice--tastier than long-grain), with a side dish of a cucumber and fennel in yogurt.  Dessert was fruit dipped in chocolate and hazelnuts.  It was a nice combination of tastes and textures.  Here are the three recipes not linked above:

Indian Keema with Peas
adapted from Craig Claiborne's Gourmet Diet (Times Books, 1980)
4 servings

1 t. minced garlic
1 T. chopped fresh ginger
3/4 c. chopped onion
2 t. vegetable oil
1 T. curry powder
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1/4 t. ground coriander seeds
1/4 t. ground cumin
1 lb. ground lamb (beef could also be used)
1 c. chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1 T. lime juice
1 t. sugar
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 t. crushed hot red pepper flakes
1 c. peas, defrosted if using frozen

Approximate how much garlic, ginger and onion will yield the given amounts.  Using the food processor, first mince the garlic, add in the ginger, and then the onions.  Add the oil and blend to a fine purée.

Sauté the mixture in a skillet and cook, stirring often, until the mixture almost starts to brown.  Add the curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander and cumin and stir to blend.

Add the meat and cook, breaking up any lumps.  When the meat is no longer pink, pour off any accumulated oil, then add the tomatoes, lime juice and sugar.  Add a generous grinding of pepper and the hot red pepper.  Cover closely and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the peas and continue cooking until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes.

Serve with rice, brown or white.  

adapted from Craig Claiborne's Gourmet Diet
5 servings

1 large cucumber, about 1-1/2 lbs.
1/2 small fennel bulb
2 cups plain yogurt (I use non-fat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion or scallions
1 t. finely chopped garlic
2 T. white vinegar
1-1/2 T. sugar
1 T. olive oil
2 T. finely chopped fresh dill (or 1-1/2 t. dried)

Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half length-wise, and scrape out the seeds.
Cut the cucumbers until thin, half-moon slices--about 4 cups.
Trim the fennel bulb and cut it in half.  Cut one half crosswise into thin slices--about 1 cup. 
Combine the sliced cucumbers and fennel with the rest of the ingredients, blending well.  Chill for an hour or longer.

adapted from a loose recipe, source unknown
serves 4

4 ounces semisweet chocolate (bar or chips)
4 cups whole strawberries, with stems, washed and patted dry
16 dried apricots
2 ounces hazelnuts, finely chopped (other nuts would be fine also)

Set out a cookie sheet with a piece of waxed or parchment paper.

Chop the chocolate in large pieces (if using a bar) and heat until melted.  (I do this in a microwave.)  Set the bowl with melted chocolate in a pan of just-boiled water, so that it doesn't harden while working.

Pick up one piece of fruit at a time and dip it into the melted chocolate, coating about half of each piece of fruit.  Then immediately dip the tip in the chopped hazelnuts.  Place the dipped fruit on the waxed paper, and continue with the rest of the fruit.

Let the dipped fruit stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, to let the chocolate harden.  This can be done a couple of hours ahead of time.  If the kitchen is warm, I bring the tray into the basement to keep it cool.

I haven't tried this with other fruit, but it could be nice--maybe pineapple, clementines, or cherries.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spicy Red Fish Stew

I had some friends over for dinner tonight, and this dish was a big hit.  It's a good dish when having guests, as most everything can be done ahead of time.  The last step is cooking the fish in the stew, which only takes five minutes, so it can be done just before you want to sit down to eat.  It also makes a full meal when served with bread and a salad.

Spicy Red Fish Stew

serves 6
adapted from
(I have incorporated a number of suggestions from the comments on the recipe.)


  • 3 large roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped--I used the contents of a 12-oz jar, minus a half-cup, which I put in the freezer. (Or you can roast your own fresh peppers.*)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 shallots, chopped (or 6 shallots and a small red onion) 
  • three 14-1/2 ounce cans chopped tomatoes in juice (include one can of fire-roasted)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • juice of a half-lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small 
  • 2 carrots, diced small (about 1/4") 
  • 1/2 to 3/4 t. dried crushed red pepper (or 1 T. chili pepper sauce)
  • 3/4 t. cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 pounds halibut or cod fillets (or other white fish), cut into 1-inch pieces (can use 1 lb. 12 oz) 


If using fresh peppers: Char bell peppers in broiler until blackened on all sides.*  Enclose peppers in paper bag 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and chop peppers.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until very soft, about 6 minutes.

Stir in peppers, tomatoes with juice, wine, lemon juice, garlic, celery, carrots, crushed red pepper and cumin. Simmer 10 minutes (or until carrots are soft) to blend flavors.  (If making ahead, stop here and do rest just before serving.)

Stir in cilantro and lemon peel.

Add fish; simmer until just opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Season stew to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and serve.  Have Sriracha sauce available on the table.

*Set broiler on high.  Line pan with foil.  Put rack on second shelf.  Broil about 2 minutes each side.  Slowest part is taking of the skin—rub with edge of knife where doesn't just slide off.