Linguine with Roasted Red Peppers, Crabmeat & Basil

linguini with crab and roasted red peppers

This time of year, all I want to eat is fresh fish. Grilled whole, pan-seared, raw — I don’t care. Unfortunately, the markets in my town make this sort of desired eating an impossibility. Where I live, the freshest fish comes from a can. Fortunately, canned fish is rather good.

I recently discovered Wild Planet products and particularly like the salmon, sardines and dungeness crab, all of which are nice to have on hand when throwing together dinner is the name of the game. The addition of a can of crabmeat to this favorite summer pasta dish not only made it a touch tastier but also a smidgen more complete, especially for those who don’t consider a sprinkling of cheese a suitable protein. Crabmeat of course could be substituted for any other canned fish or meat or left out altogether — it is a wonderful and summery dish on its own — but crab is a particularly tasty addition.

Finally, I have some exciting news for those of you wanting to try Afeltra pasta but without direct access to Eataly. A company called Po Valley Foods is selling Afeltra pasta online — they are currently accepting orders but note that the pasta won’t be available till the 15th. In the past few weeks I have tried a variety of their other pastas including the buckwheat and the la campofilone tagliatelle and linguine (featured in this post), all of which are incredibly delicious.

Finally, finally, commenters Kellie Ann and Allegra will receive a set of Julia Child notecards. Have a nice weekend everyone.

ingredients

halved red peppers

olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes

bubbling garlic-red pepper flake oil

linguini, basil, crab and roasted red peppers

linguini, basil, crab and roasted red peppers all tossed together

linguini with crab and roasted red peppers

Linguini with Roasted Red Peppers, Crabmeat & Basil
Serves 2

roasted red peppers*, about 4 whole, cut into slivers
2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. linguine** (or less — I used about 6 oz of dried fresh linguini)
kosher salt
6 oz. crabmeat — this Wild Planet Dungeness is fantastic
big bunch fresh basil
fresh cracked pepper if desired

*You could certainly use jarred, which would save time, but if you have the time, make them from scratch — they’re so easy and delicious!
**Use whatever shape pasta you like.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a big pinch of kosher salt. (I add about a tablespoon). Place the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small skillet and turn heat to high. When the oil and garlic begin to sizzle, turn off the heat. (If you have an electric burner, as I do, remove pan from the heat source if the garlic begins to brown.)

2. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta and place in a large bowl. Immediately toss with the garlic-red pepper flake oil. Add the sliced roasted red peppers, crab meat and fresh basil to the bowl. Toss together. Taste. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid if necessary. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

yummy pasta from Po Valley Foods

Homemade Tarragon Mayonnaise + A Squeeze of Lemon = Unbelievable Lobster Rolls

lobster roll

With lobster rolls on my brain for weeks, it was high time to brush up on my homemade mayonnaise making. I took my mother’s advice and made Mark Bittman’s food processor mayonnaise, which, as my mother promised, was both delicious and foolproof thanks to a teeny hole in the food-pusher insert (see photo below). From start to finish (including cleanup), the whole process took five minutes, the mayonnaise itself coming together in less than one minute once the blades started spinning.

In preparation for the lobster rolls, I threw in some tarragon at the end, an ingredient I’ve always associated with a good lobster roll — a good lobster roll made at home I should say. It has been too many years to say for sure, but I don’t recall any tarragon present in the $3 lobster rolls my mother and I inhaled three times a day for a week straight at the various roadside stands dotting the Maine coastline during one summer road trip. Those were the best lobster rolls I’ve ever tasted, ones I’ve never even tried to replicate at home.

At home I make lobster rolls just as my mother does with nothing more than homemade mayonnaise, fresh tarragon and a squeeze of lemon. They are so simple — with the exception of the whole killing/boiling/cracking of the lobsters process — and so delicious. It never feels like summer till I’ve had my first lobster roll, at a roadside stand or not, and these, despite arriving just days before the Fourth, were no exception. Happy Fourth Everyone!

A few notes on buying/killing lobsters: The consensus seems to be that it is more humane to kill a lobster by thrusting a sharp knife through the lobster’s shell behind its eyes than by dropping the live lobster into boiling water. A little internet research led me to a youTube video featuring Eric Ripert, whose comments and demonstration finally gave me the courage to kill the lobsters before boiling them. If you have any inclination to do this, watch Ripert’s video, and then go for it. As Ripert says:

“It’s not a pleasant experience, but when you eat lobster and when you eat any kind of animal, that animal has been alive and it’s very important to be aware that we are taking that life away and that we are going to eat it, and if we do a good job, we are actually paying homage to the lives that we sacrifice.”

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, and I had the jitters before, during and after the process (they seemed to linger all afternoon in fact), but it was worth it.

Finally, Seafood Watch’s Ocean Friendly Seafood App lists wild-caught lobster from California or Florida as the “Best Choice” and trap-caught lobster from the Northeastern U.S. and Canada as a “Good Alternative.” Wild-caught lobster from Brazil is on the SW’s “Avoid” list.

lobsters

lobster meat

lobster meat

lobster meat mixed with tarragon mayonnaise

See this teeny hole? It’s this hole that allows the oil to enter the food processor in a slow steady stream, allowing the mixture to emulsify perfectly into mayonnaise.

Cuisinart stopper

mayonnaise ingredients

homemade mayonnaise

fresh tarragon

tarragon mayonnaise

You all know how to cut a lemon, right? I mean the pretty way? Not sure? Check this out. It’s not necessary to cut lemons this way but it makes for a nice presentation.
lemon slices

Unbelievably Delicious Lobster Rolls
Serves: 3, but the recipe can be multiplied as necessary

3 lobsters, about 1 lb to 1.25 lbs each
kosher salt
homemade tarragon mayonnaise (recipe below)
fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
additional lemon for serving (cut like this for a pretty presentation)

hotdog buns (or homemade brioche hotdog buns)

1. Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. (Since I do not own a lobster pot, I used my two largest stock pots.) Kill lobsters, as described above (if desired), then plunge into boiling water. Boil for 10 to 11 minutes. Remove lobsters from pots, let cool briefly, then start cracking. Remove meat from lobster, chop coarsely and place in a large bowl.

2. Spread the lobster meat out in the bowl into a single layer. Season with kosher salt. Add tarragon mayonnaise to taste. To give you an idea, my three lobsters yielded 13.5 oz of meat, and I used a quarter cup of the homemade tarragon mayonnaise. Add lemon juice — I used about half a lemon — to taste. Gently mix the ingredients with a spatula. Taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

3. Toast hotdog buns, if desired. (My buns had been baked that day, so I did not toast them.) Spoon lobster meat into buns. Serve with additional wedges of lemon on the side.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Source: Mark Bittman and The New York Times

1 egg yolk or whole egg (I used a yolk)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice or sherry or white wine vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar)
1 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil, or a combination (I used extra-virgin because it was all I had)

fresh tarragon (optional) — I threw in a whole bunch (5 to 6 tablespoons maybe?)

1. Put the yolk or egg, mustard, salt, pepper and lemon juice or vinegar in the container of a food processor and turn the machine on. While it’s running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. (Your food processor should have a teeny hole in the food pusher insert in the top). When an emulsion forms you can add it a little faster. (Again, the little hole makes this unnecessary.) Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the fresh tarragon (if desired) and pulse until chopped.

Homemade brioche hotdog buns:
brioche hotdog buns

Moules Marinière, So Easy A …

Moules à la Marinière

Moules à la Marinière

Dipping crusty bread into the broth of a pot of steaming mussels has to be one of my favorite eating experiences. You? And when a restaurant offers mussels, I’m inclined to order them because, one, I rarely make them at home, and two, they’re so damn good — when they’re good, that is.

Why I never make mussels at home confounds me, especially after trying this Balthazar recipe for Moules Marinière. It’s so easy a … ok, no need to go there. But seriously, I followed this recipe to a tee (with the exception of the freshly ground white pepper … so French), and was so pleased, I’ve now made them twice in one week.

This recipe could not be simpler: sweat shallots, garlic, celery and thyme in a stick — gasp — of butter; season with salt; add crème fraîche and white wine; bring to a boil; steam the mussels for 3 minutes; sprinkle with parsley, stir and serve with crusty bread. Voila: Moules à la Marinière.

I think these mussels would make a fun dish for entertaining.  The broth (steps 1 and 2 in the recipe) could certainly be made in advance, leaving you with no more than 3 minutes of cooking time. To complete this meal, all you need is some nice fresh bread, a simple salad, and some sort of lovely dessert. Yum.

For those of you who live in the area, I highly recommend mussels from Carlsbad Aquafarm. I’ve been purchasing them at Pelly’s Fish Market in Carlsbad but they can also be found at various farmers’ markets. Call Carlsbad Aquafarm for the details: 760 438 2444.

Also, I can’t say enough about Pelly’s Fish Market. The employees are incredibly nice and informative; I didn’t have to ask for ice; I was told to keep the bag the mussels were given to me in open so that the mussels could breathe; and I was instructed on how to store the mussels once I brought them home: in a shallow bowl, covered with a damp paper towel in the coldest part of my fridge. I’m not sure I’ve ever received such service at a fish market.

And, while I was there, I delighted in one of the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten. There was nothing gourmet about this taco — no fancy slaws or sauces — just fresh, grilled fish wrapped in a corn tortilla with some raw shredded cabbage. Delectable! The place was packed, too, always a good sign at a fish market.

Moules à la Marinière

aromatics

aromatics

balthazar

Moules à la Marinière

Serves 2 as an entrée or 6 as an appetizer
Source: The Balthazar Cookbook

8 T. unsalted butter
5 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (or diced)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the bias
4 sprigs thyme
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper (I actually never added any pepper, so your call on the pepper)
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 lbs. mussels — Carlsbad Aquafarm mussels are delectable, if you live in the area; otherwise, Balthazar recommends Prince Edward Island
a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

bread, any kind you like, grilled or heated just before serving

1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over a LOW flame. Add the shallots, garlic, celery and thyme. Gently sauté for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Season with a pinch of kosher salt.

2. Add the wine, pepper (if using), and crème fraîche, and raise the heat to high.

3. Once the liquid comes to a boil, add the mussels, stir gently, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the mussels open.

4. Add the parsley and stir gently. Serve in large bowls (remembering to discard any unopened mussels), with either crusty bread or French fries … yum.

Moules à la Marinière

Grilled Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa

Cornsalsa

I haven’t quite nailed down this whole gardening thing yet. My cherry tomato plant grew so tall that most of its branches, weighed down by the bundles of fruit at the ends, ended up snapping in two. In an effort to alleviate some of the stress on the rest of the plant, I pruned the broken branches and lay them over the railing outside my apartment.

Amazingly, in just a few days, the little green teardrops turned bright red. And now, I have more cherry tomatoes on my hands than I know what to do with. This salsa has helped deplete the supply somewhat, but I’m going to have to get a little more creative if I want to enjoy these sweet treats before they shrivel on the vine and fall to their death in our carport.

I served this tonight over a piece of pan-seared cod. Yum. And, I ended up eating the salsa more as a side dish than a condiment. This salsa almost could be served as a salad itself. Or, tossed with some bulgur or quinoa or any grain really, it could be made into a meal.

I have about a cup of it left which I am going to stir into some scrambled eggs manana. I cannot wait.


Grilled Corn and Cherry Tomato Salsa
Yields enough for two people. Serve with pan-seared fish or chicken

2 ears corn, shucked
2 cups cherry tomatoes
½ red onion
fresh basil
1-2 hot peppers, such as Thai bird chilies, jalapenos or serranos
kosher salt
olive oil
½ a lemon or lime

1. Preheat the grill to high. When ready, grill the corn very briefly on each side, just enough to leave a few kernels charred. Remove corn from grill and let cool briefly. Cut kernels from cob and place in a mixing bowl. (Note: The corn will taste very crunchy still. The grilling is just to add a nice, smoky flavor.)

2. Meanwhile halve the cherry tomatoes through the stem and place in the mixing bowl. Peel and finely dice the onion to yield a scant half-cup. Add to the bowl. Tear basil leaves into the bowl. Finely dice the chilies, seeds and all, and add to the bowl. (Obviously, add according to what heat-scale you prefer.)

3.Season the mixture with a pinch of kosher salt. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive (maybe more, maybe less) over the mixture. Juice the half lemon or lime over the mixture. Toss gently with a large spoon. Taste, adjust seasoning as necessary, and leave at room temperature until ready to serve.

This salsa is particularly delicious served over a pan-seared filet of fish such as cod, halibut, trout, striped bass, etc.


Broken branches of cherry tomatoes ripening in the sun on my railing.

Fish Tacos, Whisk n’ Ladle, Mango-Jicama Slaw, MSC-Certified Halibut & Reamers

MangoJicama

I’m feeling sort of overwhelmed by everything I want to fit into this post. Bullet points, I hope, will help my cause.

• So, after a week of feasting, I considered, for the first time ever, making tofu for dinner. As I passed down the freezer aisle of Ralph’s, however, a blue-and-white label caught my eye. Much to my surprise (and delight), that label marked an MSC-certified package of halibut steaks. Unlike many labels today, an MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) label truly means something — it is a guarantee for consumers that the purchase of the product will not contribute to the social and environmental problems of overfishing. It also guarantees that the fishermen receive a fair price for their catch. Holding the world’s most rigorous sustainability standard, the MSC has awarded their coveted eco-label to only 31 fisheries worldwide. (You might recall that American Tuna also bears the MSC label.)

• With my discovery, I took the opportunity to make a dish I have been meaning to make since dining with my cyber friend, Melanie Lytle, of Livin La Vida Local at Whisk n’ Ladle in La Jolla. This restaurant strives to use all local ingredients and makes nearly everything in house, including the delectable scone — pistachio-orange, if I recall correctly — with which I began this memorable brunch. (Incidentally, Melanie has just completed a year of eating locally: Read her Long-Winded Summary To a Year of Eating Locally here.)

• Last night, I discovered that the mango-jicama slaw served with the tilapia fish tacos at WnL is surprisingly easy to recreate. Please don’t be frightened or turned off by the idea of julienning or using a mandoline. Dicing the fruit would be just as tasty and effective. In diced form, in fact, the mixture becomes even more versatile — it could be served with tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices for a nice appetizer. Really, this slaw could not be simpler to prepare — you just mix everything together and season with salt and fresh lime juice according to taste. It could be served with chicken, beef, maybe even tofu.

• Last night I also got over the idea that fish should never be frozen. These frozen halibut steaks fried up beautifully, and once wrapped in the tortilla, spread with a dab of sriracha-sour cream and topped with this tasty slaw, the fish becomes a second-string player. Fresh fish, in a way, is better used for simpler preparations, with lemon and herbs, for example, where the flavors of the fish can really shine.

• Lastly, a word about reamers: There is no better tool, I profess, for extracting juice from citrus fruit than a wooden reamer. This one from Sur La Table is fantastic.


Fish Tacos with Mango-Jicama Slaw
Inspired by tacos recently savored at Whisk n’ Ladle restaurant in La Jolla. This recipe calls for julienning the jicama and mangoes, but dicing the fruit will work, too. In fact, this mixture, in diced form, would be yummy served with chips.

For the Slaw:
1 jicama, peeled
2 mangoes, not too ripe, peeled
1 small red onion, peeled, diced to yield about ¾ cup
1-2 chili peppers such as Thai bird or jalapeno or Serrano, finely diced
cilantro to taste, washed and chopped
kosher salt
1-2 limes

1. Using a mandoline, julienne the jicama to yield about 2 cups. Place in a large bowl. Julienne the mangoes (to yield about 2 cups as well) and add to the bowl. (Alternatively, just dice the fruit.) Add the onions, peppers and cilantro to the bowl. Season with a big pinch of salt. Juice one lime over top of the mixture. (A reemer is a great tool for this step.) Toss gently, then taste. Adjust with more lime juice or salt. Set aside until ready to serve. Note: Can be made ahead, but not too far ahead — no more than an hour is ideal.

Sriracha-Sour Cream
Whisk n’ Ladle spread some sort of creamy, tomato salsa across their tortillas. It definitely was something more substantial than sriracha sauce, but this combination served the purpose quite nicely.

1. Mix sriracha with sour cream according to taste.

Assemble the tacos:

fish: Any white fish — halibut, tilapia, cod, sea bass, etc. — works really nicely in fish tacos. I found MSC-certified halibut steaks in my Ralph’s freezer section.
small, white flour tortillas

1. Heat the oven to about 450ºF. Wrap as many tortillas you want in foil and place in the oven to keep warm. Make sure the tortillas are hot and pliable before serving.

2. Season the fish lightly with kosher salt. Pan-fry or grill the fish until done.

3. To assemble, spread a small amount of the sriracha-sour cream on the bottom of the taco. Top with the fish. Top with the slaw. Repeat.

When you see this blue-and-white eco-label, you can be confident your purchase has not contributed to overfishing or the harming of marine ecosystems. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a global, nonprofit organization devoted to promoting the best environmental choice in seafood.

A dab (or a dousing) of sriracha mixed with sour cream adds a nice kick to fish tacos.

Fish En Papillote

fish en papillote

fish en papillote

I have decided I sound too freaky to speak on camera.

And so, I present to you a silent film: Fish en Papillote:


(The video seems to stall a bit at 1:18. Just help it along by scrolling past that point.)

Yesterday, 2,438 miles away from me, two very good friends resolved to make fish en papillote for their Sunday night dinner. I tried to explain the process to them via a series of emailed pictures, but I have yet to hear if they were any help. I hope this video might assist them in the future.

In any case, en papillote is currently my favorite way to prepare fish. These parchment packages are magical. How so? Let me tell you:

1. When cooked en papillote, a fish fillet retains its heat to the last bite. I love fish, but it’s tricky to cook — so easily overcooked — and it cools down quickly. These packages somehow manage to keep the fish fillets hot without drying them out one bit. And by keeping the fish piping hot, the en papillote method helps you eat more slowly, allowing you to savor your dinner, which I appreciate. I tend to eat very quickly. Like its a race or something.

2. Because I like to eat cake for breakfast these days, fish en papillote makes for a very healthy finish to the day. Seriously, not even a splash of olive oil or a dab of butter is used when assembling the packages. These added fats are truly unnecessary because all of the juices from the fish and the vegetables combine to make a nice little sauce. Served with a simple salad and homemade bread, fish en papillote makes a wonderful summer meal.

3. The packets can be prepared ahead of time — perfect for entertaining. I know summer is prime barbecue season, but it’s OK to give the grill a rest every now and then. You can still eat your en papillotes outside. (Warning: Because of the lemon juice and the salt, these packets should not be assembled for more than two or three hours ahead of time — I prepared them and stored them in the fridge for two hours when I made them for my parents last weekend.)

4. This recipe is so versatile. Although I’ve only experimented with sea bass and halibut, I suspect many fish species would take well to this preparation. Please let me know if you find success with any other varieties. Here, I’ve used Mexican sea bass because I can find it fresh at my Sunday farmers’ market.

Fill the packages with whatever you like: squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, scallions, herbs, etc.

The package keeps all of the juices inside, creating a steaming hot, tender, flaky package of goodness.

Ta-da! Perfectly cooked fish every time. Seriously, this recipe is foolproof.

Fish en Papillote
Serves 4

4 18×13-inch (approximately) pieces parchment paper
about 16 leaves Swiss chard, washed and dried
4 6-oz fish fillets, I buy the Mexican sea bass from my farmers’ market, but any fish will do
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons caper
2 lemons, quartered
½ cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup sliced zucchini
sliced basil, parsley or tarragon

1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF.

2. Lay one sheet of parchment paper on the counter and fold it in half lengthwise just to make a crease. Open the parchment paper. Place about four leaves of Swiss chard in the center of the parchment paper just below the centerfold. Top with fish fillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with shallots and capers. Squeeze half a lemon on top and tuck lemon half next to fish. Sprinkle olives and tomatoes around fish.

3. Fold top half of paper over bottom half and begin folding tightly from the center to one of the sides. Go back to the center and fold tightly in the opposite direction. (See video for more assistance.)

4. Repeat with each fish. Place packages on a cookie sheet and cook about 10 minutes. (Estimate about 10 minutes per inch — if the fillets are a little bit thicker than one inch, add 1 or 2 minutes.)

More American Tuna, Eggs & Whole-Grain Muffins

openfacetuna

So, I am happy to report that the American Tuna I recently smothered with cheese and wedged between two pieces of buttered bread tastes just as delectable when prepared in a healthy manner. These open-faced sandwiches, made with the same tarragon-tuna salad prepared for the tuna melt plus a couple tablespoons of capers, make a very tasty, light lunch or dinner. Toasted olive bread is an especially nice base.

Additionally, I must report my latest egg preparation: soft-boiled. Yum. The recipe I followed produced perfectly colored and textured soft-boiled eggs. I’m not sure I’m crazy about the method, however, which calls for submerging the eggs in cold water, which makes the eggs, as expected, cold. In any case, soft-boiled eggs atop asparagus, prosciutto and mascarpone-slathered toasts make another great open-faced sandwich.

Lastly, down below, you’ll see another batch of the whole-grain muffins I made several weeks ago. In this batch, mashed bananas and pecans have replaced the Fuji apples.

Asparagus Toasts with Mascarpone, Prosciutto & Soft-Boiled Eggs. To make these toasts, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Slice a loaf of french bread into four 1/2-inch thick pieces. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toast until golden. Meanwhile, place four eggs in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Plunge the eggs into cold water. After three minutes, peel and slice the eggs. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch one bunch of asparagus for 30 seconds. Spread the toasts with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese. Top each with a slice of prosciutto, a few pieces of asparagus and the sliced eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Open-Face Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Serves 4

1 loaf of olive bread
extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of half a large lemon (about 1½ tablespoons)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 6-ounce can American Tuna
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons capers
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 small bunch lettuce

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice the olive bread into four thin rounds. Place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Dressing will be thin. Taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary.

3. Place tuna in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, tarragon and capers. Pour dressing over top and combine mixture gently with a fork. Set aside.

4. Assemble sandwiches: Line bread rounds with tomatoes. Top each with a small handful of lettuce. Top each with a mound of the tuna salad. Cut in half, if desired. Serve.

The 100% whole-grain muffins pictured below are filled with mashed ripe bananas and crunchy pecans. As FarmGirl promised, this recipe can be adapted in countless ways.

American Tuna

AmericanTuna

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve made a new discovery: American Tuna. Now, before you start freaking out that “women of child-bearing years should not be eating tuna,” give me a minute to explain. This tuna, caught in the Pacific Northwest, is young albacore tuna and unlike most of the tuna caught today, hasn’t had time to accumulate many toxins. Older albacores, blue fins and yellow fins — the varieties most often packed into cans today — can be over 40 years old and pose the biggest risk to consumers.

Let me tell you a little about this company, too. Six families make up the American Tuna fishery, which is based out of San Diego. Every June, the American Tuna fleet (five boats) departs the Port of San Diego and heads to the Pacific Northwest. These fishermen, each equipped with little more than a fishing pole, reel in young albacore tuna one at a time. (If you have a moment, visit the American Tuna Web site and watch them in action — it is amazing!) When their boats are filled, they deliver the tuna to canneries located along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. The fleet does not return to San Diego until November.

At the canneries, the fish are hand-filleted, hand-packed, canned and sealed. The tuna is cooked in the can in its own juices. Most canned tuna today has been cooked (often two or three times) as a whole fish and mixed with soy products, vegetable broth, pyrophosphate, salt, water and/or oil before being canned. American Tuna, in contrast, contains one ingredient: albacore tuna. (In the flavored varieties, however, garlic, jalapeno and salt are added in small quantities.)

American Tuna contains more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional brands. A two-ounce serving of American Tuna provides 2.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids whereas a two-ounce serving of Starkist tuna provides 0.36 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. What accounts for the dramatic difference? Young albacore living in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest have more body fat and therefore a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids. When they migrate to warmer waters, they lose their body fat along with many of these beneficial nutrients.

What else can I say about this company? Oh, they belong to the American Albacore Fishing Association (AAFA), a family-run, 21-boat association operating out of San Diego, which the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) recently certified as a sustainable fishery, making it the first and only tuna fishery in the world to bear this eco-label. MSC is an independent organization that promotes responsible fishing practices. Moreover, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch places North Pacific troll- and pole-caught tuna (such as American Tuna) on its “best choice” list.

If you are interested in learning more, read on: Tuna, At Last, Without All The Guilt, The Bulletin

Whole Foods Markets nation wide carry American Tuna.

Oh, and this tuna melt, packed with tarragon, was amazing.

Tarragon Tuna Melt
Serves 4

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of half a large lemon (about 1½ tablespoons)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 6-ounce can American Tuna
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup chopped tarragon
1 loaf of bread, bakery-style French or Italian
softened butter
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 small bunch arugula
grated cheddar cheese

1. Make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Dressing will be thin. Taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary.

2. Place tuna in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion and tarragon. Pour dressing over top and combine mixture gently with a fork. Set aside.

3. Slice bread into eight rounds. Spread one side of each with the softened butter. Turn bread butter-side down. Begin assembling sandwiches: Place a small handful of arugula on four of the rounds. Top each with a mound of the tuna salad. Top tuna with tomato slices. Top tomato with cheese. Cover with bread.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. When hot, add a small dab of butter, then place sandwiches on the cooking surface. Cook until golden brown. Carefully flip each one, and cook on other side until golden brown.

5. Remove from heat, cut in half, and serve.

Purchase American Tuna at your local Whole Foods Market.


Breakfast Burritos and Fish Tacos

pedros

Pipes Cafe, San Clemente, CA

Since arriving in California, we have been dying to get to Kono’s, a cafe in Pacific Beach that, according to a local source (the same source presently living in Philly), serves “the best breakfast burritos ever!” Though my friend strongly encouraged us to try Kono’s first, she also recommended Pipes Cafe, a breakfast and lunch spot opened in 1995 by the owners of Kono’s.

This morning, we pulled into the San Clemente Pipes Cafe location, smiled at the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” welcome sign, and ordered our breakfast. We sat outside — why wouldn’t we sit outside in January? — sipped our coffee and waited for our food, a breakfast burrito filled with scrambled eggs, cilantro, green chile, cheese and pica sauce rolled in a flour tortilla, for me, and a breakfast burrito filled with eggs, ham, bell pepper, onion, cheese and pica sauce, for Ben. When these massive wraps arrived, we tucked in. If the breakfast concoctions at Kono’s even resemble the fare we savored this morning, we’re in for a real treat. Thanks Chu!

A shot of the ocean in San Clemente. I still cannot believe it is January.

Pedro’s Tacos, San Clemente, CA
I wonder if I’ll ever get sick of the Mexican food here. So far, I can’t get enough of it, especially the fish tacos. Though we’ve only tried one location, Pedro’s in San Clemente has set the bar quite high. These tacos, filled with deep-fried cod, cabbage and some sort of remoulade sauce barely need hot sauce, though a small dash gives them a nice kick. This morning on our way to Pipes Cafe, a small line of customers stretched from the window of Pedro’s and the drive-thru lane, where patrons shout orders into a surf board, already had several cars passing through. I could definitely get used to eating fish tacos for breakfast.

Cornmeal-Crusted Soft Shell Crabs

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A few weeks ago, my friend Lisa called me wanting an idea for a simple meal to cook for her boyfriend, Clark. The last time she had cooked for Clark, she proudly called me to report: “I made salad,” she said, “and I even cut the cherry tomatoes.”

“Good Lis,” I said, and we both laughed.

While I thought she might dismiss the idea of soft shell crabs, she believed me when I promised her how easy these crustaceans are to prepare. We decided on a simple side — a baby arugula and shaved parmesan salad — and some fresh bread. Lisa left for the store and called me with an update as she left the fish market. After the fishmonger handed Lisa her cleaned crabs, she had asked, “these will still be dead when I get home, right?” He assured her they would be.

The next I heard from Lisa was much later that evening, a happy text message exclaiming the success of her delectable dinner.

Truly, soft shell crabs take no time to prepare and make a wonderful summer meal. While the aioli nicely complements the crab, a simple squeeze of lemon suffices. Watch Mark Bittman prepare the crabs in this video.

Soft shell crab season, running from early May through August, happens fleetingly. Soft shells are not a separate species of crab, but ones, typically blue crabs, that have molted their shells in order to grow. Because these blue crustaceans grow rapidly, commercial crabbers place the peelers (crabs in the process of shedding) in holding tanks, where they closely monitor the molting process. The crabbers remove the peelers from the water immediately after the crabs shed, to prevent the new, paper-thin shells from hardening, rendering them undesirable.

When buying soft shells, look for a market selling live ones. At Wan’s Seafood in Reading Terminal Market, where active crustaceans lay supine on the countertop, the fishmongers will happily clean the crabs and pack them on ice.

Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches
Serves 4

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 egg
½ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup neutral oil, canola or grapeseed
4 soft shell crabs, cleaned
8 slices white bread
1 beef steak tomato, sliced
I bunch watercress
Lemon-Caper Aioli (see below)

Whisk buttermilk and egg together and place in a wide-mouth shallow bowl. Whisk flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together and place on a large plate.

Place oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile prepare crabs: dip one crab into buttermilk mixture, then lightly dredge in cornmeal mixture on both sides and place on a clean plate. Repeat with all.

Drop a pinch of flour into oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Carefully place the crabs in the pan and leave undisturbed for 1 minute. Gently shake pan and let crabs cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer or until bottom is nicely browned. Flip crabs and cook for 3 minutes more, or again until browned.

Meanwhile toast the bread. Spread the lemon-caper aioli on four of the slices, top with a handful of watercress and a tomato slice. Top each with a soft shell crab, and finally the top slice of bread. Serve with more aioli or lemon on the side.

Lemon-Caper Aioli
Yield = 1½ cups

2 egg yolks
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup grapeseed oil
3 T. capers
1 bunch basil, finely chopped

Combine yolks, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a blender or food processor. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil — drop by drop at first, then more quickly once you see the mixture begin to emulsify. Transfer to bowl, fold in capers and basil. Taste, adjust seasoning with more salt if necessary, and chill until ready to use. Will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.