Archive for July, 2009

A composed salad served over mixed lettuce with a Dijon Vinaigrette

A composed salad served over mixed lettuce with a Dijon Vinaigrette

As a Singleton, I used to eat little pieces of this, bits of that for dinner. Standing at the fridge, I’d grab a jar of olives, tub of hummus to go with pitas in the pantry, maybe a hunk of cheese. Voila! Dinner! Perhaps that is why I have an affinity for composed salads? A little of this, a little of that. Enter Salad Nicoise – the Queen of all composed salads.

I’m sure that traditionally, Salad Nicoise is composed of a particular set of ingredients – and most often I’ve seen canned Tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs and Nicoise olives – but I think the genious in these types of salads is that you can use whatever you have on-hand that is fresh and good (ok, regardless, I’m pretty much sticking with the aforementioned list because it is just so good as is).

A really sweet trick

Tomatoes aren’t quite ripe here in the Midwest, so I’m using a pint of grape tomatoes. Halving an entire pint of grape tomatoes is a ROYAL PITA. But I recently learned a cool trick from non other than Rachel Ray when I was home sick a few weeks ago – so I can no longer say she’s taught me nothing (I kid! Personalityquirks aside, she’s actually done some rather admirable things).

Anyway, here’s the trick to slicing an entire pint of grape tomatoes in 1 minute flat:

1. Grab a small tupperware lid (takeout containers from the deli would work well) and place it with rim side up.

2. Place your tomatoes on the lid – the rim will keep them contained.

3. Put another tupperware lid on top of the tomatoes.

4. Press down pretty firmly with one hand and with your other hand, take your SHARP knive and CAREFULLY slice horizontally through the middle of the tomatoes. You may have to saw back and forth a little to get it going, but once it goes, your knife will slide through all the tomatoes at once.

How flipping cool is that??!! Ok, I thought it was. I used to slice them individually like an idiot and bemoan how long it took.

First contain your tomatoes so they don't roll around.

First contain your tomatoes so they don't roll around.

Then put a lid on them before slicing horizontally through the middle.

Then put a lid on them before slicing horizontally through the middle.

Ok, back on track

So back to the salad. You could used canned tuna for this recipe. I was a little overwhelmed in the canned tuna section at the store – so many options! – and I knew I should really get some imported brand packed in oil. But alas, my store didn’t carry that and there was no way I was going anywhere else. So I thought I’d grab a cheap tuna steak and throw it on the grill. You could get a really nice piece and sear it on each side, or be cheap like me and get a not-so-nice piece and cook it all the way through. Your choice!

Grilled Tuna Salad Nicoise

Serves 2-4 (depending on if you serve anything else with it)
Salad Ingredients:
2 lb potatoes
1/2 lb green beans
1 pint grape tomatoes – halved
6 hard boiled eggs – sliced
6 oz tuna steak
olives – I only used enough for me cause my husband hates them. Use your own discretion.
salt and pepper to taste
serve over – 5oz mixed greens

Salad Dressing Ingredients:
1/3 cup minced chives or green onions (less elegant, but it’s what I had on hand)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 t kosher salt
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t honey
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 T chopped fresh basil (kind of optional, but I threw it in)
1 t chopped fresh thyme (again, optional)

Get your grill ready
1. Make vinaigrette – in a bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic, honey, and mustard till well combined. Add oil in a small stream while continuing to whisk until emulsified. Add basil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Boil potatoes till desired doneness – approximately 15 minutes. Drain and when cool enough to touch, quarter and toss with 2 T of vinaigrette. Set aside.
3. Steam green beans till desired doneness – maybe 5 minutes. Transfer to ice bath to stop cooking process. Drain, dry, toss with 1 T of vinaigrette and set aside.
4. Salt and pepper tuna steak and grill over high heat till desired doneness. Depends on how rare you want your tuna and how thick it is – maybe 4 min ea side for medium. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice.
5. Compose your salad – toss lettuce with 2 T of vinaigrette and arrange on dinner plates. Place tuna, eggs, green beans, tomatoes, and olives on a serving platter. Add bits and pieces to your dinner plate as desired. Toss with more vinaigrette on your plate if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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apple-iphone-3gOk, so I broke down and bought an iPhone shortly before the recent Apple conference thingy (god, was that a month ago already?). So yeah, hardly new and hardly exciting.  And yeah, I was pretty aware that they were going to drop the price on the cheapy model after the conference. But whatever, I broke down and bought it – which is something I never thought I’d do. Being somewhat of a “slow adopter” (i.e. a little wary and a LOT cheap), I couldn’t figure out what benefits an iPhone could possibly give me. So now that I’ve had a month to play around with it, I’ll be honest and say it’s actually rather useful.

So now that you can pick one up for $100, maybe you are thinking of getting one too? And maybe you are wondering what kind of cool foodie apps there are out there? Well, I’ve put together a list of a few things I’ve found (and some I’ve used) in the past month. Hope you find it useful!

1. Urbanspoon – Ok, this is the one in the commercial where you shake it (in my case – pushed the button since shaking seems kind of idiotic) and it tells you nearby restaurants in your specificed price range and genre.  You can also browse by neighborhood and probably do some other stuff.  Uses Google maps for directions, so that’s good.

2. Yelp – Kinda similar to Urbanspoon but more than just restaurants. Kinda like the online version. You can take what the yelpers are saying with a grain of salt, but at least you know what is in the vicinity of your general location.  Again, more use of Google maps.

3. Where The Locals Eat – ok, again like urbanspoon and yelp, but the best of the best at all price levels.  I didn’t download this one cause…well I’ve got urbanspoon and yelp. However, during my recent trip to NYC, I think this would have come in handy because sometimes you just want the best stuff, not the nearest McDonald’s.

4. Dinnerspinner from Allrecipes.com – ok so if you somehow just don’t know what to make, type in what you’ve got and what type of dish you are looking for, give it a spin and voila. I didn’t download this one either cause, well, I have so many things that I want to make that I don’t need an app to further confuse me.

5. Grubhub – For ordering takeout/delivery. To be honest, we order takeout from ONE place. That’s it. So we don’t need it. But perhaps it will work for you.

6. Locavore – Great for Farmer’s Markets, this app lets you know what’s in season and available in your area. Plus which markets are open on any given day and their times. A great idea, but it’s not free (and I just downloaded Groceryzen so want to play around a bit before buying tons of apps – I can see getting totally carried away here). And I go to exactly TWO markets and will base my purchasing decisions on what I see at the market. But this may be a pretty cool for some people.

7. Epicurious – find your fav recipes and make a grocery list. Where it fails – you can only make grocery list from recipes in THEIR database. That’s kinda lame.

8. Big Oven – more recipes, ability to search by season, use up leftovers and a few other fun things including search by flavor. I haven’t downloaded this one yet (again, since I have no problems determining what’s for dinner), but this app sounds like it has some fun features not found in other recipe sites.

9. iDinnerParty – this is for people who host lots of parties (obviously). It links up with your contacts, you can send out invites, track guests and their meal preferences, send info to restaurants. Again, sounds like a cool app for the right person.

Grocery lists seem to be the de rigeur iPhone app for the foodie minded – Here’s a good comparison (albeit a little out of date) with a number of iPhone grocery/shopping list apps listed:  http://files.macworld.com/files/downloads/grocerylists.pdf

10. Groceryguide.com – Supposedly you are able to get grocery prices for your local market. Sadly, mine is Jewel and it’s no shocker that they aren’t on the list. You stink Jewel! Ah well, Whole Paycheck isn’t on there either. Oh and neither is my local Supermercado – imagine that?!

11. Groceryzen – This had potential to be a sweet app for a food geek like me. Make your grocery list, cross reference with online recipes. Super slick. A glance at the pre-populated list and it’s got everything from Cardamom pods to Turmeric and the ability to add stuff not in their list. I thought it was nice that it didn’t have brand names – who wants to wade through fifty kinds of bread to get the one they want? I have a tendency to write stuff down on multiple pieces of paper – most of which I lose en route to the grocery (or leave in the car) so this seemed like the perfect app for me.

Where it fails – cannot import recipes (that I can tell), cannot make notes on ingredients (like – there’s a category for milk, but cannot say it’s skim, 1%, etc. Sure you could add it separately, but sometimes you wanna make notes – like potential substitutions if you can’t find what you are looking for, what the heck this ingredient was supposed to be used in – again helpful when you write it on your list and are at the store a week later going…why the heck do I need Cilantro again?), and an additional place where you write your weekly menu plan (again, which would help with my previous complaint), would be nice. Alas… After a week, I’ve figured out a few work arounds for some of my gripes, but I’m considering another app.

12. GroceryIQ – one ups Groceryzen in that you can add specific brand names to your cart. You can also add notes to an ingredient – tada! Of course, I found this one after I found Groceryzen. However, I still don’t think you can add a weekly menuplan… And since I know pretty damn well which brand I’m buying, I don’t need to break down my purchases that way. So for now, I’m sticking with Groceryzen cause wading through the thousands of products sounds kinda tedious to me.

13. Evernote – Some people get around the limitations of some of the grocery apps by using Evernote. I haven’t used it yet, but am throwing it out there as an option.

14. Springpad – Ok, this is a website, not an app. YET. But I think an app is in the works (they just launched a mobile site). Anyhoo, looks like this site is my dream app – weekly menu planning, import or type in of recipes, grocery lists, restaurant lists, ok, even a list about your pet and your upcoming vacation plans. I’ve got to figure out how to make this work on my phone…

Am I missing something exciting? What cool things have you found for your iPhone/smartphone?

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A tribute to a legend: Katharine Hepburn Brownies

A tribute to a legend: Katharine Hepburn Brownies

Admitted – I wasn’t sure I had the energy to partake in this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie. I just got back from NYC, which is always a whirlwind, and I’m more exhausted than I ever thought possible. However, I rose to the occasion because:

1. I LOVE Katharine Hepburn. Ever seen Philadelphia Story? You know, C.K. Dexter Haven (aka Cary Grant – swoon!)? My, she was yar? No? Add to your Netflix queue pronto.  It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. EVER.

2. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for oh, I don’t know, 5 years now and it’s about time I got off my butt and made it. The recipe, with a few added Dorie Greenspan tweaks (cinnamon, espresso powder – both of which I added – and nuts – which I left out), is supposedly a Katharine Hepburn family recipe.

So there you have it.

These brownies have everything that makes brownies fab – dark chocolate, a bit of espresso powder to intensify flavor and a dash of cinnamon for kick. They are chewy and dark and wonderful. And so easy to make. I could eat the whole plateful right now.  In fact, I just might…. **running off to pop Philadelphia Story in the dvd player**

Thanks to Lisa at Surviving Oz for the great pick (recipe after the jump)!


Ms. Pantry Raid

Edit: Ok, apparently there is a Katherine vs Katharine controversy. My bad! I had no idea. Post has been updated to switch Katherine to Katharine. Apologies to Ms. Hepburn. 🙂

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