Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pan Seared Tuna with Asparagus and Tomato, Caper, Parsley Reduction

I grew up hating fish (as in loathing it, if that verb is strong enough). As I have grown up, however, I have realized more and more that it's not fish in general that I hate--it's overcooked, frozen fish that I hate (and in all honesty, what's not to hate about it?). It has taken a surprisingly long time for me to overcome the childhood aversion. When I did, though, I came to love a well-cooked piece of fish.

This recipe was inspired by a challenge I saw on a cooking reality competition show, and then adapted from a recipe by Emeril. While it looks like I have prepared two plates, one for me and one for a special someone, in the name of full disclosure, I ate both pieces myself in one sitting. It was good.

Lesson learned. A few capers go a long way.

Pan-Seared Tuna with Asparagus and Tomato, Caper, Parsley Reduction

Serves 2: multiply as needed

  • extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup water or fish broth
  • 1 tablespoon capers, with the brine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 -4 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 sushi-grade tuna medallions (or steaks, if you're looking for a larger, heartier meal)
  • 10 thin stalks asparagus
Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot, and saute for a minute or two, until slightly browned. Add the tomato, and stir until soft. Add the water/broth, capers, and lemon juice and simmer for a few minutes, until reduced and thickened. Add the parsley and butter, stir to incorporate. Turn down the heat to low, and let it simmer while you cook the fish.

Season the tuna with salt and pepper. Cover the bottom of a wide pan with some olive oil and heat over medium high. Move the pan off-center so there is a definite hot side and a cooler side. Add the fish to the direct heat, and let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Place the asparagus in the cooler side of the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Turn the tuna, and cook for an additional 2 minutes for medium (maybe longer if you're using full steaks). Place the asparagus on a plate, top with the tomato caper sauce, and the fish. Garnish with parsley.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter Dinner for 10

I get a little bored of the traditional holiday meals sometimes, so I like to play around with them a little. I know that on Easter you're supposed to eat a big ole' plate of ham, but something about ham didn't really speak to me this year as the North Carolina weather turned blissfully pleasant, the azaleas and dogwoods were in bloom, and local, leafy greens started popping up in markets. I wanted something a little springier, lighter, and fresher. Pork, while still coming from pig, seemed to fit the bill. And at the risk of seeming trite or cliche, I kept getting drawn to multicolor, baby versions of normal foods: new spring lettuces, fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, baby zucchini, etc. What can I say? It's springtime.

Easter Lunch for 10

Spring greens with thinly-sliced white asparagus and shallots, pecorino romano cheese, edible flowers, and grapefruit vinaigrette. I don't know how essential the flowers are to the flavor of the dish, but they added some beautiful color and spring feeling. And to boot, it was kind of fun watching people wonder if they really could eat them. I won't lie to you, this wasn't the best salad I've ever made in my life, but it may be about the prettiest and most talked-about in the course of eating it, so I think it's still a good trade-off.

Entree: Thyme-braised pork loin with raspberry-balsamic reduction, roasted multi-color fingerling potatoes with parsley, orange and rosemary braised baby carrots, and grilled baby zuchini.

I dont' have much experience with pork loins, so the texture wasn't exactly what I was going for, but I'm sure I'll get it with time. The sauce was quite good, however, and complimented the lightness of the pork very well. I will also never get tired of purple potatoes.

Dessert: Sorry there's no picture, but I made SmittenKitchen's lime and coconut cake. I have made this a few times now, and the texture is great, the flavor wonderfully bright and light with a little twist of citrus. I serve it was a raspberry coulis and big dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Valentines Day Menu for 2

This was an all-out, no-holds barred display of culinary prowess meant to impress. Rather than a sit down meal, we made it course by course, eating as one was done, then moving on to the next. In all, it took about 3.5 hours to eat, but boy was it good.

Valentines Day Dinner for 2

: Blood orange jumbo scallops with sea beans: This is a really elegant appetizer, and really isn't too hard to make quickly. The presentation is really nice.

Soup: Roasted butternut squash soup with rosemary, blue cheese, and crispy shallots. I don't have a recipe for you for this one, because I don't feel like I've really nailed the flavor yet. These basic flavors--butternut squash, onion, blue cheese, rosemary, and olive oil--work together beautifully, but the soup itself was still missing a little depth. I'll keep playing, but you may have to wait until next winter. Sorry.

Salad: Mixed greens with pears, Robusto cheese, cashews, and a balsamic vinaigrette. This one was pretty basic, and the combination is an extended family favorite that shows up at just about every family potluck.

Entree: Seared New York strip steak (cooked medium) with apple cider shallot reduction, horseradish mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and pan seared wild mushrooms. I like a good steak something fierce, and let me tell you, I'm getting pretty dern good at preparing them. The sauce may have been just a touch on the sweet side, but this was a quality plate, let me tell you.

Dessert: Warm chocolate melting cake with vanilla ice cream and mixed berry coulis. This is my go-to standard, fulfill my inner chocolate yearning standby. When elegant dessert is called for, warm chocolate melting cake is there.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

This is a light, fresh dressing for a spring salad.

Grapefruit Vinaigrette


  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Thoroughly mix all ingredients together with a wire whisk or immersion blender. Serve with spring greens.