Tuna Salad (Minus The Mercury)
I love tuna salad. Canned white tuna, with minced celery and pickle, some mayonnaise and maybe a few capers… if I could eat that as often as I’d like, I’d end up as mad as a hatter (or maybe just as mad as Jeremy Piven) due to the elevated levels of mercury in canned tuna.
What’s a tuna-phile to do?
Fake Tuna Salad
Mash 2-3 cups of chickpeas with the tines of a fork. (You could trying using a food processor but one pulse too far and you’ve got hummus instead.) This can be a little tedious but the resulting texture is more appealing. To pass the time, I recommend Pandora’s Oldies Soul station, as pictured above. Add minced celery, pickle, mayonnaise, or whatever your mom added to tuna salad when you were a kid.
When I was a kid, I always thought my grandfather had some odd eating habits. He liked his apple pie with Cheddar cheese. He grated his own Parmesan at the dinner table (which we all politely declined, preferring the powdery stuff in the green can). And—which I thought was the weirdest of all—sometimes he would open a can of chicken broth, cook a half-dozen or so tortellini in the broth, add some of his weird cheese and eat it.
Having made gnocchi soup recently, I can now say: Granddad, you were right and I was definitely wrong. This was far and away the best soup I’ve had in ages and possibly the best soup I’ve made EVER.
I only made this because one of my followers on Twitter mentioned she was having a gnocchi soup for lunch that day and I remembered I had a bag of gnocchi languishing in my freezer (along with some chicken broth and a bag of peas, which also went into the recipe).
Put about 6-8 cups broth (I used chicken broth I’d made a while ago, but any broth will do) and several cloves of minced garlic in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer uncovered until the garlic is tender. Add a couple stalks of diced celery and continue to simmer until almost tender. Bring broth to a full boil and stir in a 12-ounce bag of frozen gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi float. Stir in 10 ounces frozen peas, cover, and turn off the heat. Add plenty of pepper and Parmesan cheese (or Argentine Reggianito which I really like these days).
I mean, they look okay (despite some truly lackluster photography on my part). My husband said they were good but I found these biscuits dry and bland.
I won’t link directly to the recipe I adapted from (for fear of starting an intermural food blog smackdown), but it went something like this:
- – 2 cups flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon dried herbs
– 4 tablespoons butter
– 1 cup of shredded cheese
– 1/2 cup sour cream
– 1/2 cup milk
Combine flour and baking powder; cut in remaining ingredients.
Mix and drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet.
Bake at 450 degrees for 12 – 15 minutes.
Having learned my lesson from the last time I made biscuits, I did my best to handle these as little as possible. I made the dough in the food processor, patted them out gently and cut them into circles with a drinking glass. The dough felt pretty moist from the cheese and sour cream, which is why I’m so baffled as to how they came out so dry. And damn, were these bland. There was a hint of cheese to them, but nothing nearly like what I expected.
So where did this go wrong? Did I screw it up somehow or was the recipe flawed to begin with? Or both?
When life gives you frozen corn, make chowder.
Okay, I haven’t been a very good food blogger of late. Truth be told, there’s been some belt-tightening going on in Maison Gezellig. Nothing dire, just finding we need to cut back on some expenses and food is one of the easiest places to start.
Unfortunately, making dinner out of whatever you find hanging around isn’t a recipe for exciting food blog posts.
Or, as it turns out, for especially alluring food photography.
Which is a shame, really, because this corn and potato chowder was one of the best things I’ve made recently. Even my kid, who usually can’t even remember where she left her shoes an hour ago, saw me editing this photo from last week and remarked on how good this soup was.
The soup was born from the packages of frozen vegetables that my husband always brings home from the grocery store. There are a few exceptions, but in general, I hate frozen vegetables. They’re always a sad reminder of how they once were before being frozen. Fortunately, for me and my freezer, this soup makes up for it.
Corn and potato chowder
Mince one medium onion. Saute in two tablespoons butter until onion is soft. Peel and grate one medium potato. Add about 2 cups broth, enough to cover the potato and onion. Simmer potato and onion until both are cooked through. Meanwhile, dice two more peeled potatoes and a couple stalks of celery. Thaw and rinse one 10 oz. box of frozen yellow corn. Once the potato/onion mixture is soft, puree with a stick (or regular) blender. (This makes the soup creamier without adding actual cream, which I never have on hand.) Add the remaining vegetables, 2-3 cups of milk, a couple bay leaves and a big pinch of nutmeg. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to be sure the milk doesn’t scald to the bottom of the pan. Salt to taste. Serve as is, or with a little grated cheese.
Photo Friday: Washington Heights Dinner
Avocado from a guy selling them two-for-$1 out of crates on Broadway
Tomatillo and cilantro from the 175th Street Greenmarket
Queso blanco from the new Mexican greengrocer on St. Nicholas Ave.
Limes from a street vendor on W181st Street
Black beans from Key Food near W187th
Halve avocados and scoop out some but not all of their flesh. Roughly chop and toss with black beans, queso blanco, cilantro, chopped tomatillos and lime juice. Serve in the meaty avocado shells.
Greenmarket Grub: San Marzano Tomatoes
What a rubbish summer 2009 was for tomatoes. I can’t remember eating even one really good tomato this year, which is just so depressing. Still, these San Marzano plum tomatoes were a flickering bright spot in an otherwise bad year.
Unlike a lot of tomatoes, San Marzanos are really meant for cooking—and if you’ve ever popped open a can of these tomatoes, you know why. Sweet and a little bitter, they’re often compared to a good bittersweet chocolate, which seems fairly apt. They’re nearly all meat inside, with only two narrow seed chambers (compared to four or more in other tomato varieties) making them exceptional for cooking. And with summer being so definitively over (if you can say we even had a summer this year), I knew exactly what to make of these tomatoes: soup.
Tomatensoep (Dutch-style tomato soup)
Chop two leeks, two onions, and one peeled carrot and saute in butter (or oil) over medium heat, making sure not to brown the vegetables. Add two pounds chopped, peeled, and seeded tomatoes and a peeled, diced potato. Add enough liquid to cover everything. (I used a combination of water, a bouillon cube and a Parmesan rind.) Add a couple bay leaves and a handful of chopped parsley. Let simmer until all the vegetables are tender, fish out the bay leaves (and cheese rind, if you used that) then blend into a puree. Add salt and/or pepper to taste, as well as some milk or cream, if that suits you.
Greenmarket Grub: Concord Grapes
This isn’t a word I use often, but I must ask: aren’t they just gorgeous?
If you’ve only ever tasted supermarket grapes (as I had until last year), you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s an intensely… grapey flavor. After one grape, you will suddenly understand what artificial grape flavor is striving towards and yet never really getting it right. Those grapes are from Wager’s Cider Mill from out near the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
I have to admit, I love the grape people. They sell from a small table on the outer edge of my neighborhood Greenmarket, and spur you to try the grapes (knowing, as I just said, you’ll be amazed at how they taste). I’ve had Concord as well as Seneca and Yates varieties of grapes from them so far, all slightly different but equally delicious.
Still, my usual Greenmarket problem arises: my urge to buy grapes can often outstrip my ability to eat said grapes in a timely manner. So, what to do with all these lovely grapes?