Beware too many substitutions

Pasta Nicoise

When you're out of the habit of blogging, you sometimes forget to take pictures of your food until they are leftovers...

When you’re out of the habit of blogging, you sometimes forget to take pictures of your food until they are leftovers…

D made this one, so I had to get his take on this dish as a recipe.  As an eater, I loved it.  He remembered that we’d made this one before with water-packed tuna and added our own olive oil.  He said that was better than reserving the oil from oil-packed tuna.  I would agree with him.  Oil-packed tuna is kind of weird.  It spread out all over the salad instead of staying in chunks.  The texture is a little mealier.  But here’s the really important point: there’s no tuna water to give the cats.  I’m surprised they let D live.  Seriously.  I cannot imagine what he went through opening two cans of tuna, draining them, releasing the tuna aroma into the air, and listening to the incessant meow of two housecats who are. not. having. it.  Sorry, D.  So we highly recommend water-packed tuna, especially for cat owners.  This also lets you use your own favorite olive oil instead of whatever the tuna people use.  We were also out of red wine vinegar.  Well, that’s not entirely fair.  We were out of it on purpose.  I’ve been trying to use up all of the random ingredients in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  To that end, I used up the red wine vinegar about a month ago and haven’t bought more.  D used balsamic instead.  It was good, but it was better with red wine vinegar.  So it’s time to replace the red wine vinegar.  Fair enough.  One substitution was very successful.  D used up the last of the black Moroccan olives that we purchased for who knows what recipe.  I’m telling you, getting these random things out of the fridge feels very good.

Upshot: Even with the slight problems with substitutions, this is a good recipe.  It was a very nice, hearty meal.

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Dinner You Really Can Make in 15 Minutes!!!

One irksome problem that I am finding with the November 2007 issue… lots of recipes that are not online.  Luckily this one is super simple and I can relate to you easily.

Salmon Steaks (or filets) with White-Bean and Olive Saute

*adapted from page 144, November 2007, issue 47

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Here’s the deal:

Take your salmon (we were cooking for two, but the recipe is based on serving four) drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and pop them under your broiler.  My broiler is underneath my stove so I just made a little “pan” out of aluminum foil and slid them in.  The recipe suggests you line your pan with aluminum foil anyway.  I set the timer for 10 minutes, but I took them out after 9 because they were nice and opaque and getting a lovely golden crust.

Right after you put your fish in the broiler, open a can (or two) of cannellini beans and rinse them.  Add some olive oil to a frying pan and toss the rinsed beans in.  Add in a good handful of kalamata olives as you go.  I cut them in half  to spread the salty goodness.  Then I cut a lemon in half and one half of that into wedges.

After the 9 minutes, I took out the salmon and squeezed the lemon half into the bean and olive mix.  Then that was it!  I plated it up and served the fish with the lemon wedges.

I opted to go with salmon filets rather than steaks because the fish monger kindly informed me as I was trying to make up my mind that the steaks still had bones.  Obvious decision.

The end result, which literally took 12ish minutes was really good.  The fish was perfectly cooked.  It had a nice crust, but the fish inside was super moist and flaky.  The bean and olive mixture wasn’t anything that special but it also took less than 10 minutes to complete, so you can’t really complain.  I think maybe a little diced tomato and garlic might have gone along nicely with it.

Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! Fennel! (And an Acorn Squash and some salmon)

In case that title wasn’t clear, this post is about fennel.  Fennel in four different recipes to be exact.  G and I split the load again, so I’m going to start off by talking about roasted fennel and the acorn squash recipe that I served it with.

One of these days I will get some better lighting...

One of these days I will get some better lighting…

So the acorn squash is actually very similar to the way I grew up eating it.  My mom used to make baked acorn squash all winter long, except she would serve it with honey and a little butter.  Aside from the honey, the process is the same.  I found the molasses flavor of the brown sugar to be really pleasant with the acorn squash so I will probably be using it again sometime.  (Did I mention that I have a half bushel of acorn squash waiting in my pantry?)

I have also made roasted fennel before, but I usually serve it with fish.  This time I served it with a pork loin I made using a maple mustard glaze.  The fennel was a delicious complement to the pork flavor.  I’ll definitely be combining them again.

Next I made a Fennel and Potato Bake.

Still bubbling!!!

Still bubbling!!!

I have to say here, the recipe requires you to thinly slice two fennel bulbs.  If you have one, I would recommend using a mandoline for this.  Slicing with a knife is a bit rough because the fennel keeps falling apart and it is really difficult to get even slices.

The recipe itself is pretty simple, though it requires a decent amount of prep time if you are doing all the slicing with a knife (seriously folks, use a mandoline).  You just sprinkle some asiago, salt and pepper between layers of fennel and potato then pour a little cream over the top.

The outcome is awesome.  The texture is super satisfying and the flavor is amazing! As soon as I get a mandoline, I’m making this again!

Passing the torch to G!

Thanks, B!  First, of all, fear the mandoline.  I once came home from school to find nothing but a mandoline, some carrots, a lot of blood, and no mom.  This is back before cell phones.  She had cut off the tip of her thumb using a mandoline.  She was fine.  It was just a slice of skin, and it grew back.  How’s that for a good story for a cooking blog?  Anyway, it scared me off of mandolines for life.  I use a knife or the slicing blade on a food processor.  Mandolins on the other hand, are a lovely instrument.  😉

I made the linguine with fennel and tuna and the Fennel, orange, and parsley salad.  I served the fennel and orange salad as a side with the Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze, so I’ll talk about that too.  And you’ll find out why “steaks” is in quotes.

Linguine with fennel and tuna

It's difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture...

It’s difficult to photograph this many shades of off-white and biege in one picture…

I adjusted this recipe by using thin whole wheat spaghetti instead of linguine.  Other than that, I followed the recipe as written.  It winds up being nice.  I don’t believe I’d ever had cooked fennel before.  It takes on a more subtle and nutty flavor than the sharp anise flavor you get with fresh fennel.  The capers added a nice briny bite.  The tuna grounded the whole dish and gave it some richness.  I like that even the bites that didn’t have a little of everything still tasted like something.  Too often with these Everyday Food pasta recipes, you get a mouthful of plain noodles and wonder why you bothered.  I’ll get to the whole wheat pasta with kale and fontina later…  The biggest problem with this recipe is how unappetizing it looks.  Aside from the green fennel fronds, it’s all kind of beige.  Ick.

Fennel, orange, and parsley salad

Salmon “steaks” with hoisin glaze

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

Salmon and fennel, new best friends

There’s also a video of this recipe online.  It looks like it’s from the old PBS show.  I miss that show.  The video teaches you how to segment an orange.  She (Allie?) points out that you can use the stalks to make stock.  That’s a good tip.  Mostly the video just serves to make me nostalgic for the PBS show and wish I had a knife sharp enough to segment an orange that quickly and cleanly.

The fennel salad is very nice and bright.  The recipe called for black olives, which I found confusing.  When I think “black olives” I still think of the dopey little olives you get on a pizza.  Taking a look at the picture in the magazine, it was clear that these were no pizza olives.  But what were they?  D wound up buying something at the store from the olive bar.  They were terribly salty.  The video says to use Kalamata olives, which makes perfect sense.  So why don’t you say that, Everyday Food?!?!  This recipe also represents the last gasp of the parsley from our garden.  Sunrise, sun barely shine on garden resulting in stilted growth and wan looking plants with no fruit on them, sun set.

As for the salmon, I really wish I would have bought salmon steaks.  That’s what the recipe actually calls for.  We had a giant side of salmon instead.  It was fine salmon, it’s just that when you broil a piece of fish that’s not uniform thickness, you wind up with an overcooked end and an undercooked end.  The glaze is awesome.  Why am I not putting hoisin sauce and orange juice on more things?  That could have been the dressing for the salad…  Of course, now that I have the 1/2 a jar of hoisin sauce, I’m facing the dreaded condiment glut in the fridge.  If I cook my leftover rice noodles, can I put hoisin sauce on them and kill two orphan ingredients with one stone?