Friday, October 25, 2013

Italian Tuna Sandwich (No Mayo)

Last Year's Post:  Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf with Tomato Herb Sauce
Two Years Ago:  Pork Tenderloin with Port and Dried Cherry Sauce

I love a tuna sandwich with mayonnaise, but making it with heart-healthy olive oil is a better option and more authentically Mediterranean.  The Italian flavors continue in this sandwich with sun-dried tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives, capers, lemon and fresh thyme. The lemon and thyme really shine through every bite, with the other ingredients adding pops of flavor.

It's very flavorful even without cheese, but I added some cheddar anyway because I love the taste of cheddar in a tuna sandwich.  You can choose to keep it in or leave it out according to your taste.

An advantage of substituting olive oil for mayonnaise is that you can make the sandwich in advance and don't need to worry if it sits out for a little while at work or on a picnic, plus it's lower in calories. You could also serve the tuna salad in a hollowed-out tomato or over greens if you want to cut even more calories.

You've probably noticed that nearly all the canned tuna in the stores these days is packed in water.  The advantage is that it's cheaper and lower in calories and fat than oil-packed tuna; the disadvantage is that it has less flavor.  So, you decide what's most important for your particular meal - calories or flavor.  I wanted this sandwich to be special so I used an oil-packed tuna, but I often use water-packed tuna for other recipes.

As a direct result of making this particular meal I have one word of advice.  When you open your tuna cans (or any other cans, for that matter), carefully stick the lids back into the cans with no jagged edges protruding before you put the cans in the trash, preferably upside-down.  Not that I would ever fail to follow such a simple safety precaution.

printable recipe
Italian Tuna Sandwich
Serves 4

4 sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup onion, minced
1 rib celery, chopped
¼ cup pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Juice of ½ lemon
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
12 ounces solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
Salt and pepper
Leaf lettuce
4 slices Cheddar cheese (optional)
4 Kaiser or other sandwich rolls

Cover the sun-dried tomatoes with hot water in a bowl.  Set aside until soft, about 20 minutes, then drain, chop and place in a medium bowl.  To mellow the minced onion, soak in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain well, pat dry, and add to the tomatoes.

Add the celery, olives, capers, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and thyme leaves to the bowl and mix well.  Add the tuna, breaking it into chunks with a fork, then toss everything together gently so you don’t break up the tuna chunks.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  To serve, place a leaf of lettuce on each sandwich roll bottom and top with tuna salad, optional cheddar cheese, and the sandwich top.  Squeeze the sandwich together gently.  If not eating immediately, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese - All Grown Up

We had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches umpteen times as kids - canned soup and water, plus white bread and pasteurized cheese slices.  Easy, quick, cheap, and something every kid will eat.  So when I came across these recipes I had to laugh - it was like childhood all over again except at warp speed.  I was first attracted to the homemade fresh cucumber pickles on the toasted cheese sandwiches - both the fact that they're freshly made, and that they're on a cheese sandwich in the first place.  The recipe suggested that the sandwiches go great with tomato soup, so I dug out my favorite roasted tomato soup recipe and voila!  Third grade lunch, all grown up.

One of the interesting things about the tomato soup recipe is that you can make it year-round with whatever plum tomatoes you find in the produce section because they're roasted to bring out their flavors, not to mention combined with chicken broth, tomato paste, red wine and a touch of cream.  How can you go wrong? It's a full-bodied, slightly chunky tomato soup that clearly has never seen the inside of a can.  I always use low-sodium products whenever possible, and they make a big difference in the sodium level of this recipe because chicken broth and tomato paste are both high in sodium if you use the regular products.  If you use low sodium products you'll need to add a little salt at the end but that's OK.  Definitely don't add salt until you taste the soup either way.

The cheese sandwich is equally interesting - dark rye (or pumpernickel) bread, sharp white cheddar cheese, mustard, and those homemade pickles.  The fresh cucumber pickles could also be served on any roast beef or pastrami sandwich (even burgers or brats) and are worth printing the recipe in and of themselves - fresh cucumbers briefly marinated in white wine vinegar, sugar, horseradish, Dijon, and fresh dill. 

Together with the dark rye and white cheese they have a Scandinavian feel.

We recently had this combination on a chilly, rainy day and really enjoyed the flavors.  If you made the soup in advance it would be a great and fast weeknight meal.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Serves 4

Note: because the tomatoes are roasted to bring out the flavors, this recipe can be made at any time of the year.

1.5 lbs fresh plum tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
¼ teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
¼ cup dry red wine
¼ cup heavy cream
1/4 cup low sodium tomato paste
Sugar to taste (approx 2 teaspoons, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste (approx 1 teaspoon salt if using low sodium tomato paste and low sodium chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Core tomatoes and halve lengthwise. Place cut side down on a shallow baking sheet with sides and brush generously with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes until the edges are charred, about 20 minutes. Scrape tomatoes, oil and herbs from pan into a food processor and process until not quite smooth.

In a saucepan, cook onion in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in roasted tomato puree, broth, and wine, then whisk in tomato paste. Add the cream while whisking. Taste and add sugar if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring soup to a simmer. Thin with additional chicken broth if desired.

Open-Faced Cheese Sandwiches with Fresh Cucumber Pickles
Makes 4 sandwiches

Note: these cucumber pickles would also be great on ham or roast beef sandwiches, or burgers and brats.

½ English cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
4 slices dark rye or pumpernickel bread
4 slices sharp white cheddar cheese
Butter and Dijon mustard

Place cucumber slices in a strainer; sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat well. Let stand for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine vinegar, sugar, dill, 1 teaspoon mustard, and horseradish in mixing bowl. Add cucumber slices and toss to coat. Let cucumbers stand a minimum of five minutes, or cover and chill up to one day. Cucumbers will softer slightly as they marinate.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with Dijon. Heat 2 teaspoons of butter in a large nonstick pan or griddle over medium heat. Add bread, mustard side up, and top each slice with a slice of cheese. Toast until cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown and crisp on the bottom.

Divide sandwiches among four serving plates, top with cucumbers, and serve.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rustic Greens and Potato Pie

Last Year's Post: Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage
Two Years Ago:  Savory Breakfast Scones

We all know that dark leafy greens are really good for us, but getting them into your diet is sometimes the hard part.  We also know it's good to eat vegetarian once in a while.  This rustic pie is a delicious option to meet both of those goals.  It's very flavorful and has a rich, creamy texture from the potatoes and cheese.   It's warm, earthy and hearty, perfect for a fall dinner on a cool night.  Serve it with a bright salad of corn, cherry tomatoes and green onions to balance all those earthy flavors.

It would make a wonderful meal for any vegetarians you might happen to know.  Or, you could always add cooked sausage or bacon to the pie if you're serving people who really want meat - and they'll still get the nutritional value of the greens.

I always like to talk about ingredient substitutions.  In this recipe you can use any combination of greens that you want - I chose half kale (bold flavor) and half spinach (milder flavor) but chard, collard greens or mustard greens would also work.  Regarding the cheese, I think you could substitute pretty much any cheese you want for the Gruyere - blue cheese would be an especially interesting choice.  If you go for blue cheese, for some reason a little voice in my head tells me that chopped walnuts would be a good addition.  Blue cheese and walnuts go well together.

This type of rustic pie is also called a galette or a tart.  As I mentioned, it's hearty enough to be a dinner entree, or you could cut it in small pieces served cold for a tapas party.  I particularly like this type of rustic pie because you don't have to be overly perfect with the pie crust - if the edges crack when you roll it out, no big deal - it's just that much easier to fold over the filling. 

The key is to make sure the greens have released their liquid and the liquid has evaporated prior to taking them off the heat, otherwise the filling may give up a little liquid when you cut the pie.  One tip is to set the greens aside for a few minutes to cool.  Drain any liquid that may have accumulated in the bottom of the bowl or pan before adding to the potatoes.  By the way, this goes for any greens added to any pie or quiche - you'll often see recipes for chopped spinach that tell you to squeeze all the liquid out prior to adding it to the other ingredients.  Same principle.

After that it's really easy to add the filling to the pie crust, fold the edges up and over, brush with a little egg and bake.  Although I didn't try it myself, I don't see any reason why you couldn't prepare the pie in advance and refrigerate it covered with plastic wrap, then bake it after coming home from work.  It might take a few more minutes in the oven since it's cold.

If you've been having a hard time figuring out how to get those dark leafy greens into your diet, this might just be the way.

printable recipe
Rustic Greens and Potato Pie
Serves 4-6

Note:  A simple salad of cherry tomatoes, corn and green onions dressed with a little olive oil is an excellent accompaniment.

1 pie crust (homemade or store-bought)
¾ lb small boiling potatoes, such as Yukon Gold or Red Bliss
1 medium onion
2 pounds cooking greens, such as chard, spinach, kale, collards, or a mixture
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ounces Gruyere cheese
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup ricotta
1/8 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into 1 ½” pieces; place in a medium saucepan.  Add cold salted water to cover by 1”.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer the potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, finely chop the onion (about 1 cup).  Thoroughly rinse and spin dry the greens, remove the tough stems, and chop the leaves (about 24 cups).  (The tougher the greens, the finer you should chop.)

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until hot.  Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add half the greens and cook for 4-6 minutes, until wilted.  Remove the greens with tongs to a medium bowl.  Repeat with the remaining greens.  Return the first batch of greens to the skillet and cook everything for 2 minutes more, or until any liquid that collected in the skillet has evaporated.  Set aside.

When the potatoes are done, drain and mash using a potato masher.  Combine the potatoes and greens in a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly.

Roll the pastry out to make a 12” round.  Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate; press against the sides of the plate allowing the excess to hang over the edges.  Put the pie plate in the refrigerator while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Grate the Gruyere (about ½ cup) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 cup); fold the cheeses into the potato mixture along with the ricotta, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly beat the eggs, reserving one tablespoon.  Stir the rest of the eggs into the potato mixture and spoon the filling into the pie plate.  Gently fold the overhanging pastry over the filling, pleating as necessary to make it fit.  It will make a border covering the edges of the filling but the center will be uncovered.  Brush the pastry with the remaining 1 tablespoon egg.

Bake the pie for about 40 minutes or until the filling is heated through and the pastry is golden.  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Arroz Con Pollo

Last Year's Post: Spicy Homemade Peanut Butter
Two Years Ago:  Gingered Turkey and Spinach Salad

Arroz Con Pollo (air-oz cohn poy-oh) is a traditional dish from Latin America and the Caribbean.  The translation from Spanish is "chicken with rice" but that's not nearly as fun to say.  Although there are many variations, chicken, rice, saffron, tomatoes and olives are standard.  This particular recipe also has peas and I switched out bone-in skin-on chicken pieces in favor of boneless skinless chicken thighs, which are healthier and easier to eat.

The taste reminds me somewhat of paella because both dishes have rice and saffron, but paella traditionally is seafood-based.  Another difference is the addition of the citrus juices used to marinate the chicken, a technique common in Latin America.  Although I don't consider this dish to be particularly fancy, it's very flavorful and a departure from your everyday chicken recipes, plus the fragrance from the saffron is wonderful.

It's not at all difficult but including the marinating time, this dish takes a little over two hours to prepare so if you need to have dinner on the table fast after work you might want to either make this in advance or plan to serve it on a weekend.  It reheats perfectly by the way, and leftovers make great work lunches. I love having leftovers for lunch - they're usually much healthier and more interesting than whatever you'll find in your cafeteria or the nearest fast food place, plus it's a lot cheaper.

click here for a printable recipe

Arroz Con Pollo
Serves 6-8

For chicken
3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For rice
1 lb onions, chopped (2 1/2 cups)
2 green bell peppers, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes, including juice
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (12 fl oz)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups long-grain white rice (3/4 lb)
1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed; 5 oz)
1/2 cup small or medium pimiento-stuffed green olives (2 oz), halved crosswise
1/4 cup drained chopped bottled pimientos (2 oz), rinsed

Prepare chicken:
Purée garlic, orange juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Put chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour purée over them, turning to coat. Marinate chicken, covered and chilled, turning occasionally, 1 hour.  Transfer chicken, letting excess marinade drip back into bowl, to paper towels, then pat dry. Reserve marinade.  Heat oil and butter in 6- to 7-quart pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 or 3 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken as browned to a plate, reserving fat in pot.

Prepare rice and bake arroz con pollo:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.

Sauté onions, bell peppers, and garlic in fat in pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits from chicken, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

While vegetables cook, heat saffron in a dry small skillet over low heat, shaking skillet, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.

Add cumin and salt to vegetables and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in saffron mixture, bay leaf, tomatoes (including juice), broth, water, and reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Add all chicken pieces and gently simmer, covered, over low heat 10 minutes. Stir in rice, then return to a simmer. Cover pot tightly, then transfer to oven and bake until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Scatter peas, olives, and pimientos over rice and chicken (do not stir) and let stand, pot covered with a kitchen towel, until peas are heated through and any remaining liquid is absorbed by rice, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf.