Pole Caught Tuna 'wiches

Another package arrived at the house today.  It was yet another package from Open Sky.  I'd been debating trying some tuna being pitched by Tom Colicchio for some time and when I won a $50 credit at Open Sky I decided I would try it.

The tuna is from American Tuna company.  The company is made up of six fishing families from San Diego.  They are a certified sustainable commercial tuna fishery, the only one in existence.  They only process "pole and troll" caught Albacore tuna.  They actually catch the fish one at a time!

Their "Pole and Troll" method has been proven not to damage tuna or bait fish populations, not to catch any other species besides albacore tuna (No Dolphins, Turtles, Sharks, Sea Birds, etc.), and gives the consumer a safe choice by harvesting smaller Mercury Safe Albacore.

In addition they have 100% Traceability of every single albacore harvested (meaning they can trace the final canned and labeled product back to the vessel that actually caught it).  For those of you who work with me, you know how much of a challenge that can be, and how important it is.

My tuna arrived today and I just had to make a sandwich.  But what sandwich?  Of course I went right to my shelf (ok shelves) of cookbooks and pulled out my 'wichcraft cookbook.  Why wouldn't I use a Tom Colicchio recipe for tuna he's recommending?

Lucky for me there was a tuna sandwich recipe in the book.  I read it and knew I would like it.  Capers!

So I opened the tuna.  They say it doesn't need draining.  Well, I drained it anyway.  There was very little liquid but I didn't think I wanted that liquid in my 'wich.  The tuna smelled amazing.  Not fishy or oily, just like really good tuna.

I quickly mixed up the "tuna salad".  The mix is simple, tuna, olive oil, capers, diced red onions, oregano (which I picked fresh out of my herb garden!) and red wine vinegar, no mayo in this mixture!  I used a really good olive oil a friend brought me all the way from Spain.  It's so good I only use it when I will be able to taste it (no marinades or sauces).  It was perfect.

And then I had a forkful.  And another.  And I had Dave taste it.  Like grass fed beef tastes so much better than corn fed, chemical filled beef, this tuna tasted so much better than what I had been buying in the pouch or the can.  So sorry Charlie!

I didn't have any fennel in the house so I couldn't make the fennel in the 'wichcraft recipe but I did put the tuna between two slices of my homemade sandwich bread with some fresh lettuce I got at farmer's market last weekend.  I will definitely be enjoying my lunch tomorrow!

I'm not sure I will ever put mayo on a tuna sandwich again!  I'm hooked!  Pun intended!

The tuna was expensive, $7/can plus shipping.  A can at the grocery store is around $2.  But like the grass fed beef, the free range chicken and chicken eggs, and happy pork we have become addicted to, I'm not sure I can go back to grocery store tuna.  So General Mills just can't lay me off... I need to be able to buy good food!

Since I first posted this I found that you can buy this tuna online from American for about $5/can (free shipping).  They also sell it at Whole Foods so I'll have to check the prices there.  It's getting closer to that $2/can grocery store tuna!

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin from the Noble Pig

I have been wanting to try this recipe since my sister-in-law first introduced me to the Noble Pig blog.  It sounded so good!  It requires time to marinate and with our crazy schedules lately I just never found the time to get it put together so it could marinate.

I got tired of waiting for the perfect time so last week I decided it would get to marinate for as long as I had and that would just have to be good enough.  Turns out it got about 45 minutes to marinate that first time I made it.  It was so good I had to make it again this weekend.

We picked up a beautiful pork tenderloin from Otis Family Farm at the St. Paul Farmer's Market Saturday morning and started it marinating when we got home.  That way it would have a good 5 or 6 hours to marinate this time.

The marinade is simple, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, green onions, rice vinegar and garlic.  Mix it up, add pork, let it sit for 2 hours or overnight then cook it up.

The recipe calls for cooking the pork in the oven but we decided to throw it on the grill.

While the meat is cooking you reduce the left-over marinade to make a thick, delicious sauce which is then topped with some sesame seeds.  The original recipe called for the seeds to go on before the pork went in the oven.  To get that toasty flavor I just toasted them in a pan before serving.

This is another winner from Noble Pig!  The pork is tender and juicy and if you like Asian flavors you'll love this pork!

Farro with Feta, Cucumbers and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I've found another great side dish from SkinnyTaste.  I love farro.  It's a nice change to rice or potatoes.  I make Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs, a Giada De Laurentis recipe, quite often, especially when it's fresh tomato season.

The recipe is Farro with Feta, Cucumbers and Sun Dried Tomatoes.

I was sure I had farro in the cupboard the night I decided I would make this so I didn't pick any up with the last minute groceries.  Well, I didn't.  I had couscous and quinoa but no farro.  I decided to just use the couscous.

I also didn't want to use sun-dried tomatoes.  They are ok, but really not my favorite.  I'd much rather have fresh tomatoes so I used some Roma tomatoes instead.

As with any couscous (or farro for that matter) this was a snap to put together.  Farro takes a few minutes more than the 5 minutes couscous takes but still a really quick side dish.  The couscous was done before I had the rest of the ingredients chopped.

This dish was as delicious as it sounds and I bet it's just as good with farro.  Next time I'm at the Olive Grove I'm going to pick some up so we can try it.

The first time I made it we had it with pork.  The only changes I made were those noted above, couscous instead of farro and fresh tomatoes instead of sun-dried.  Tonight we had it with brats on the grill and I used basil out of my herb garden instead of the parsley.  Dave and I both approve of the substitution!

Saturday Snickerdoodles

Those of you who know me personally know that when I'm stressed I cook or bake.  When I'm crabby I clean, but stress puts me right in the kitchen!  With my employer recently announcing mega layoffs and telling us we will know if we still have a job "by June 28th" you can guess I'm a little stressed.  Dave and I have been through this before.  He was laid off twice, the last time it took him over two years to find a job that doesn't pay any more than his unemployment check did.  Yep, stressed.  Yep, in the kitchen.

I'm trying to get caught up on blogging about the new recipes I've tried.  This is the first of three I'm going to try and get to (along with a new resume, you can see which is taking priority today) this weekend.

You know by now I'm a Michael Ruhlman fan.  I have a few of his gadgets I just love.  I've read a couple of his books and I have his Ratio app!  I also follow his blog.  Earlier this week he wrote about an email he received regarding his Snickerdoodle recipe.  Apparently in a version of Ruhlman's Twenty earlier than the one I have, there was a little typo in the ingredient listing for these cookies which resulted in a less than perfect Snickerdoodle.

Dave's absolute favorite cookie is a Snickerdoodle.  For me, well, they don't really call my name.  Now, a good chocolate chip cookie?  That is something I can't resist.

We spent the morning being responsible adults.  We went to Farmer's Market and the grocery store.  I made a boat load of spinach pesto and got a pork tenderloin marinating for dinner tonight.  We cleaned the house and did the laundry then had some lunch and declared it was time to relax!  The weather is miserable in the Twin Cities today.  It's cold and rainy.  We've had some really good thunderstorms.  Even the dogs just want to nap this afternoon.  In fact I have one in my lap (well, at least her head) as I type.

We were sitting watching a movie.  I was browsing Pinterest and saw Mr. Ruhlman's Snickerdoodles posted there and decided it was a perfect time to try this recipe.

Here is a link to Michael Ruhlman's blog on this nearly always perfect cookie:  Snickerdoodle:  The Perfect Cookie (Almost Always).

The recipe said it made12 cookies.  I knew  that wouldn't be enough for Dave, so I doubled the batch.  I used a tablespoon scoop and got 44 cookies out of the double batch.  That might last until Monday!

The difference between these cookies and my usual Snickerdoodle recipe is brown sugar.  There's no brown sugar in the recipe I usually use, there is in this one.  I think it definitely makes a difference.

The other difference is how the cookies are assembled.  When I made Snickerdoodles before, I rolled the dough in a ball, then rolled it in the cinnamon sugar before placing it on the cookie sheet.  Mr. Ruhlman puts the cookies on the cookie sheet then smushes them slightly with a wet towel wrapped over a drinking glass.  The cinnamon sugar is then sprinkled over the cookie.  Does this make a difference?  I don't know.  I did one tray by rolling the cookies in the cinnamon sugar just to see.  Honestly, I like the sprinked ones better!  They are less sweet and you really taste the brown sugar which I like.  Even though Dave loves this cookie, I don't think he could tell the difference.

The cookies bake up nicely but the proof is really in the flavor isn't it?  I called my taste tester up to the kitchen to see what he thought.  I'm not the connoisseur he is!  Hey Mikey, he liked them!  Ok, no shock there really but three were missing from the cooling rack before the second tray even came out of the oven.  Since then at least three more disappeared.  He just admitted to having eaten 7 of them!

I have to say I like them better than my other recipe.  The brown sugar makes them less sweet, more caramely (is that a word?) and I have to admit I have had two of them myself!  I'll be replacing my Snickerdoodle recipe with this one in my recipe database.  This is the new gold standard!

Banana Bread with a Twist

If you've been watching my Facebook page or reading this blog you now know that I am in love with the Noble Pig blog.  So far I've tried three recipes and have a long list in the queue!

The Chili-Lime Pork Tenderloin was delicious and super easy too.  Last night we tried the Salt and Vinegar Potatoes with Rosemary.  I switched this one up just a little using a Persian lime infused oil from my favorite place, The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company, so they tasted like those yummy "hint of lime" chips Dave and I love so much.  The potatoes were outstanding!  Hmmm... the potatoes with the pork would be even better!

The third recipe I tried was the Banana Bread.  I wanted to eat the picture of this bread on the blog!  The banana bread has blueberries and coconut in it.  I will admit, I'm not a huge coconut fan, but baked in things (rather than on top) it's ok.

According to the blog this is the best banana bread ever.  I'll agree it is good, but I think I'm a purest when it comes to banana bread.  I like to really taste the banana.  Occasionally I'll add some nuts or mini-chocolate chips if I am in the mood for something sweet, but I really like just plain old banana bread.  This was a bit sweeter than my regular banana bread because of the coconut.  Maybe that was it.  Four bananas are split between two loaves of bread.  My recipe calls for three bananas and makes just one loaf, hence the more bananay (is that a word?) flavor.

In any case, it was good and it was easy to put together and it makes two loaves so if you're having a brunch this would be great!  It's beautiful too!

The recipe calls for four very ripe bananas "smooshed up real good".

There are also coarsely chopped toasted walnuts and blueberries.  I used fresh blueberries.  Aren't they pretty?

These yummy bits are added to the batter along with the coconut.

The recipe makes two loaves.  The Noble Pig completely lined their pans with parchment.  I didn't.  I put a little in the bottom of each pan and just sprayed the sides with cooking spray.  I didn't have any sticking issues!

And the finished product is almost like a big blueberry banana muffin!  Oohhhhh... maybe put streusel on top next time?

Noble Pig Salt and Vinegar Potatoes with Rosemary

The Noble Pig blog is my new favorite place to find recipes!  I tried two of them today.  I'll get to the banana bread with blueberries but this blog entry is about one of my new favorite side dishes, Salt and Vinegar Potatoes with Rosemary.

Dave loves potatoes.  He grew up on a meat and potatoes diet and I don't think he's met a potato he doesn't like.  I love salt and vinegar potato chips.  We both love the hint of lime chips (I can't buy them, the bag doesn't last!) so when I saw this recipe I just had to try it.

Like with the pork I tried from Noble Pig a couple of nights ago, this recipe is simple, boil the potatoes, put them on a greased pan, squish them, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stick them in the oven.  When they come out drizzle them with vinegar and add some rosemary.  That's it!

I switched it up just a bit by using a Persian lime infused EVOO from my favorite purveyor of olive oils, The Olive Grove Olive Oil Company in Mendota Heights, MN.

These were delicious!  I will definitely be making these again.  I loved the creamy interior of the potato with the crunchy exterior.  The lime EVOO with the salt and vinegar was delicious.  I don't think it needed the rosemary!  I think these would be great with Olive Grove's chipotle oil too!

So good.  So easy!  Thank you Noble Pig!

OMG! Deborah Krasner's Wine-Braised Beef Pot Roast

Perfect days are rare in Minnesota.  Today was one of those days, sunny, mid-70's (it is only May remember), low humidity, perfect.  It's also rare the I don't relish a day in my kitchen.  Today was a day I wanted to do both but the kitchen won.
We started the day at Farmer's Market, one of my favorite places in the cities, especially this time of year.  The St. Paul Farmer's Market is all locally sourced which I love.  All participants in the market have to be within a 50 mile radius of the cities.
I started at Eichten's for some cheese.  My favorite of their cheeses is the herbed gouda.  This herbed gouda, with a couple of slices of tomato makes one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches you will ever have!
I also needed eggs so we stopped at Otis Family Farm.  I asked them to bring me some bones to make stock.  They don't generally bring them because they take up a lot of space and they sell them for cheap, but if you ask, they'll bring them the next week.  So next Saturday I'll be making stock!
We picked up more spinach, rhubarb (and a rhubarb plant so I can become my own dealer!), some beautiful white and red radishes, and green onions.  There was more I wanted but I know what we can consume in a week
After Farmer's Market we hit Gerten's.  Gertens, for those of you who don't know, is probably the best nursery in the Twin Cities and lucky for us it's right here in Inver Grove Heights.  Last week at Farmer's Market I bought my summer herb plants (basil, oregano, sage, etc.) and I needed a pot for them.  An hour later we left with the required pot, a stand for it, potting soil, herb soil mix, and three plants for the front yard!
When we got home the last thing I wanted to was process all the stuff we had bought.  I wanted to be outside in the perfect weather planting.  Unfortunately for me Dave can plant, he can't process groceries or start a roast!  Oh yea, and I had 4 dozen specialty cupcakes I had to make today too!  So I started cleaning the veggies we'd bought and prepping to make all those cupcakes.
Last weekend I visited Butternut Woods Farm, our source for grass-fed, Highland beef.  Only the best beef on the planet!  I wish I could describe the flavor.  I want to say meaty and full but of course meat tastes like meat right?  When I picked up my spring box I decided the first thing I was going to make was a roast.  While at the farm they let me peruse their copy of Good Meat by Deborah Krasner.  I decided on her Wine-Braised Beef Pot Roast right then and there.
This is the beautiful roast!

There's a little bit of mise en place required for this recipe.  First, the mushrooms need to be soaked.   I’m not a mushroom fan.  I don’t like the texture but I appreciate the flavor in cooked sauces.  These are the stinkiest mushrooms I’ve ever used, but I used them anyway.  I knew they would add a good earthiness to the whole meal.  Dave loves earthiness!  The recipe calls for a cup and a half of minced onion and a cup of shredded carrots.  These are sweated in olive oil with some rosemary, bay leaves and whole cloves.

This mixture is removed from the dutch oven and the meat is browned before it’s all put back together with some diced tomatoes, tomato paste and an entire bottle of wine!  What recipe that calls for an entire bottle of wine could be bad?  I used a merlot from Chile.

Now I had two hours to work on cupcakes while the meat braised in the oven.  Six dozen custom cupcakes later (the ones with chocolate frosting are filled with fluffy frosting and the ones with the red top are filled with raspberry!) I had just enough time to make a double-batch of spinach pesto before it was time to work with the meat again!

After a couple hours, the “bits” are strained from the sauce.  The meat is simmered in the sauce as it reduces by a third.  While this is happening I made the yummiest (is that a word?) potatoes from the Noble Pig blog!  The recipe was "salt and vinegar" potatoes.  Like salt and vinegar chips?  You'll love these potatoes.  I used a lime infused EVOO so I made "hint of lime" potatoes.  You can check that blog entry out here.

The sauce was still a bit thin for our tastes even after reducing so I added a bit of corn starch/water to thicken it up and finished it with butter.  Butter wasn't in the recipe but how else would you finish gravy?  The flavor had a rich, earthy flavor.  The wine and herbs came through beautifully.

In the last few minutes I sautéed up some of the fresh asparagus we bought at Farmer’s Market this morning.
Delicious!  Amazing!  So stinkin’ good!  Was it the grass-fed beef?  Was it the recipe?  Was it the bottle of Block 8 Zinfandel from Seghesio we opened to have with the meal?  Who knows!  Who cares?  This was one of the best dinners I’ve made and I’ll definitely be repeating it!  If you’re nice, maybe I’ll invite you over!

Was it worth missing one of the few perfect days in Minnesota.  I’m going to have to say yes!
And, lucky for us, there’s some left over.  Tomorrow we’re going to seek out some good crusty rolls and make sandwiches out of the left overs.  I’m drooling over it already!

Ding Dong Cake!

OK who remembers Ding Dongs?  It's that fun treat from Hostess, a chocolate cake filled with white goo then covered in chocolate.  I, apparently, don't remember my Hostess treats very well because I thought the Ding Dongs had the swirly thingy on top.  They don't.  My husband informed me that the swirly thingy was on the Hostess CupCake.

So apparently I made a Hostess CupCake tonight, not a Ding Dong.  I like calling it a Ding Dong better so that's what I'm going to call it!

I start with a yummy chocolate cake.  Sorry Hostess but I think my chocolate cake is better than yours.

It is filled with "fluffy white frosting", my husband's personal favorite, then crumb-coated (or a little better) with chocolate butter cream.

Once that sets I topped the butter cream with a yummy chocolate ganache.  You can use a regular ganache but I prefer a yummy one.  My recipe has two ingredients, chocolate and butter!

Once that sets add the swirly thingy and you have a Ding Dong.... or a CupCake if you're going to be technical.

This one was made for a coworker otherwise I would cut into it so you can see the inside!  Maybe I can convince them to take a picture for me!

Noble Pig's Chili-Lime Pork Tenderloin

I'm guessing by now, if you're reading my blog, you know I love to cook.  I have an addiction to all things recipe-related as well.  Just this week my Good Meat cookbook arrived.  I'll be making a recipe out of that one on Saturday.  But today, it was a recipe from the Noble Pig blog.

My sister-in-law, Robyn, had mentioned this blog and I had meant to get to it.  However with year-end at work, training and fundraising for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, planning the welcome home event for over 150 members of my hubby's Air Force Reserve unit and doing my best to support the spouses of those deployed, I'm not left with many minutes in the day to read cookbooks, let alone cook.

Robyn was in town this week shopping with a friend.  We went to dinner last night at Trattoria Da Vinci in downtown St. Paul.  I highly recommend it.  They make some yummy gnocchi.  It was a great time, as it always is with Robyn and Janet and of course the topic of food and recipes came up.  Robyn has the kitchen of my dreams.  Really, the kitchen of my dreams.  I could live in that kitchen.  I made 27 six-inch wedding cakes in that kitchen so I know of what I speak.  It's not just because it's pretty.  It's functional too.

See what I mean?

Robyn brought up the Noble Pig blog again and this time I looked through it.  Yes, addicted again.  The blog is very well written, witty and the recipes, oh my the recipes!  I think I pinned a dozen of them on my Pinterest board!  I really wanted to start with the hoisin pork tenderloin but that has to marinate for at least two hours or overnight.  I didn't think I had two hours tonight, turns out I did but that's another story, so I started with the Chili-Lime Pork Tenderloin.

Dave and I eat a lot of pork tenderloin.  It's low in fat, tastes yummy and we can put a Penzey's rub on it, throw it on the grill and have dinner in a matter of minutes so this recipe really appealed to me.

It's easy.  Mix chili powder (I did a mix of chipotle and ancho) with lime juice and soy sauce.  Rub that mixture on a tenderloin that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.  Brown it on the stove, stick it in the oven and 25 minutes later dinner is ready.

In the picture on the blog they showed the pork with chips, salsa and guac.  Well that looked good to me!  We stock Spicy Wholly Guacamole and Snappy Dog salsa in this house.  We were out of chips but Dave was willing to make a run!

I can't believe how good this pork was!  It was fork tender and delicious!  And even better so stinkin' easy.  We will definitely make this again.

Though there are quite a few more Noble Pig recipes I want to try including banana bread with blueberries (gonna try that tomorrow, time permitting... I have ripe bananas!), hoisin pork tenderloin (this is on the short-list too!), pomegranate-balsamic-glazed carrots, salt and vinegar potatoes, pork medallions with pinot noir cherry pan sauce, creamy ravioli with squash lemon and chives and I could go on and on.  Thanks for the tip Robyn!  Well I think.....I know Dave will thank you!

Homemade Pita Bread

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