Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grilled Tuna with Chilli Onion Salsa

Fresh, good quality tuna steaks don't really need much, just a little salt, pepper, and olive oil... but we all need a little variety in our diets right?  Whether it be fruit, or in this case, onion based, I love a tangy salsa served over tuna straight off the grill.  Tuna is so easy to grill due to it's firm texture, but be careful as it will dry out if overcooked.  It is typically served medium rare, seared on the outside and warm in the center.  Serving a sauce over the tuna does give you a bit of breathing room if it is slightly overcooked as the sauce will add moisture to your dish.

I was definitely in the mood for something with a kick, so this chilli onion salsa was just what the doctor ordered.  The tuna was perfectly cooked with a sweet crust and tender, juicy center.  Add more or less chilli but definitely don't leave it out completely!

Grilled Tuna with Chilli Onion Salsa


4 tuna steaks
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tablespoon caster sugar

For salsa:
1 red onion, minced
6 stalks green onion, white and light green parts only, minced
2 red chillis, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt

cilantro, to garnish
fried shallots, to garnish


1. Combine lime juice, fish sauce, oil, vinegar, ginger and sugar for marinade.  Add tuna and marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients to make salsa and let sit at room temperature until your tuna is ready to grill

3. Prepare grill for cooking over medium high heat and thoroughly oil.  I like to use to tongs and rub an oil soaked paper towel over grates.

4. Grill tuna for about 2 minutes on each side until the sugars have caused the outside to slightly caramelize and the it is cooked to medium rare.  Grill more or less to your liking. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Entertaining: Mozzarella & Tomato Bites

While I certainly don't mind spending some time and effort cooking, sometimes it's nice to throw something together quickly.  This appetizer is so quick and easy but, thanks to a few flavors that marry together beautifully, it still tastes incredible!  The presentation is very cute and they can be eaten in one clean, easy bite, so no need for serving plates!  Feel free to prepare the tomato bites ahead of time and store them in the fridge.  Take them out 15 minutes before serving and dress them right as your guests arrive!

Mozzarella & Tomato Bites


8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 mini mozzarella balls, halved
8 thing slices of proscuitto, halved lengthwise
16 basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
fresh black pepper


1.  Push tomato and mozzarella halves together to make a ball.  Tuck a basil leave against the ball as your wrap it with a slice of proscuitto. Secure with a toothpick.

2. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. 

Couldn't be easier!  They'll disappear in a matter of minutes!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Berry Satisfying Breakfast

It was a Saturday morning and I was craving blueberry pancakes.  As pancakes are a little closer to the baking side of things, I needed help.  I decided to consult my good friend Ina Garten (I could only be so lucky).  She never fails me for these tried and true recipes.  She had a recipe for Banana Sour Cream Pancakes that had rave reviews.  I substituted greek yogurt for the sour cream, blueberries for the bananas, used a touch less salt and a touch more sugar, threw in a couple of my tricks, and came out with beautiful blueberry pancakes.  The greek yogurt made them very rich and moist and the subtle flavor of the lemon zest added so much.  These will definitely be on my table again.  Thank you Ina for the inspiration!  Maybe next time I'll try your banana version.

Blueberry Pancakes


1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat milk, more if needed to thin out batter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
strawberries, for serving
powdered sugar, for serving
100 % maple syrup, for serving


1. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the greek yogurt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.  Do not overmix.  If mixture is too thick, add a bit more milk to get to desired consistency.

3. Heat pan to medium low and brush with butter.

4. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Place blueberries on the pancake and push into the batter.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned.

5.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced strawberries, dust with powdered sugar and drizzle over maple syrup.

Enjoy and have a great day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spinach & Gruyère Soufflé

I must admit, I was a bit nervous to prepare a soufflé as I've heard they can be quite temperamental.  I've even heard horror stories about having to tip-toe around your kitchen or you will cause it to fall flat.  Texture is king is this dish and as it's name, which is French for "to blow up", indicates, it should be pefectly puffed. 

In short, a soufflé is base of egg yolks with a sauce and beaten egg whites.  The base provides the flavor while the egg whites give it volume.  There are both savory and dessert soufflés, and probably not too surprising, I chose to make a savory one; besides, I had spinach that I needed to use up.

The presentation of this dish is just beautiful.  Mine did not come out perfectly symmetrical by any means (thanks to my uneven cooking Australian oven) but I actually loved the quirky looking outcome.  It was fluffy with a light crust on the outside, and of course had to have that rewarding creamy center.  Make sure to season well and it will explode with flavor. 

Spinach & Gruyère Soufflé


1 large bunch of spinach, stemmed and finely chopped
1 tbsp parmesan, grated
3 1/2 oz butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, warm
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 oz Gruyère cheese, grated
5 eggs, separated
salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).  Grease your soufflé dish or individual ramekins completely using upward strokes and sprinkle all sides with parmesan (supposedly these 2 tricks will help the soufflé rise).

2. To make your base (kind of a very thick bechamel sauce), melt the butter in a pan.  Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until you have a paste.  Gradually add warm milk while stirring to prevent lumps, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Stir through the spinach and cheese, allow to cool, then add the egg yolks.

4. Beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.  Fold the whites into the spinach mixture while you season.

5. Pour into prepared dishes.  Baking time varies greatly depending on what size dish(es) you are using.  For a large dish, cook for about 30 minutes, raise heat to 425 degrees F (220 C), and cook for 15 more minutes.  For individual ramekins, cook for 10 minutes, turn heat up and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  You want the soufflé golden and just set.  In the traditional French method, I prefer mine still moist and creamy in the center although some like it cooked all the way through. 

A couple of tips:   

1.  Make sure to be careful when separating your eggs not to break the yolk on the shell.  If there is even a trace of yolk in your egg whites, they will probably not whip up.

2. Room temperature egg whiles will foam more quickly and to a greater volume.

3. When you fold in the egg whites, be gentle.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Like I need another excuse to eat Mexican food...  In honor of my favorite Mexican holiday, we celebrated with slow cooked pork carnita tacos accompanied by avocado 3 ways.  I made my traditional guacamole, a roasted garlic and orange guacamole, and pomegranate and avocado salsa.  Yes, pomegranate salsa.  It's certainly not a salsa to be eaten with chips but went beautifully with the tacos.  The tangy pop of the pomegranate seeds was the perfect accent to the smoky pork and creamy avocado.  Thanks to our houseguest, we've been obsessed with all things pomegranate for the last month so I had to figure out a way to incorporate them. 

We gobbled up the tacos too fast to take any pics.  It's amazing that something that takes 8 hours to cook can be eaten up in a matter of minutes! 

Avocado 3 Ways

Traditional Guacamole


3 avocados
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp cumin


1. Cut around each avocado lengthwise and twist halves apart. Stab pit with knife and dislodge. Scoop out flesh.

2. Combine all ingredients and coarsely mash together. Season to taste with salt.

Roasted Garlic and Orange Guacamole


6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 small oranges
1 jalapeno
1 small red onion, diced
3 ripe avocados, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin
3 tbsp mint, chopped
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced


1. Roast the garlic in a dry skillet over medium heat until it is soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze out garlic and chop if necessary.

2. Supreme the oranges by cutting of the ends, standing orange up and cutting off all the rind and all of the bitter white pith.  Release segments by cutting along either side of each membrane.  Chop the oranges.

3. Cut around each avocado lengthwise and twist halves apart.  Stab pit with knife and dislodge.  Scoop out flesh. 

4. Combine all ingredients and coarsely mash together.  Season to taste with salt. 

Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa


2 avocados, peeled and diced
1 lime, juiced
1 pomegranate, seeded
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tbsp honey
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced


1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste with salt. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Go Dutch!

... with your carrots that is... I'd never be one to advocate going Dutch in other areas!  These sweet, baby carrots not only look but taste sensational.  They can be prepared in a variety of ways, but this steaming method is so easy and there's virtually no clean up!  Like all carrots, they are still a great source of beta carotene, so your stomach and your eyes will be thanking you!

Baby Carrots in a Pouch


1/2 lb. Dutch (baby) carrots
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Scrub carrots well as you won't be peeling them (there wouldn't be anything left!).  Remove leafy tops.

3. Tear off enough kitchen foil to create a pouch large enough to secure carrots and arrange on a baking tray.

4. Place carrots onto one side of the foil and sprinkle with cumin and brown sugar.  Season and add all other ingredients except the wine.

5. Fold the foil over the carrots to creat a pouch.  Fold up 2 sides to seal in carrots leaving the last end open to pour in the wine. 

6. Pour in the wine and fold the last side together to fully seal. 

7. Cook for 35 minutes or until tender.  Adjust for the size and amount of carrots.  Serve immediately.


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