3.30.2011

Tuna Salad Sandwiches

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I did not grow up eating canned tuna. And I recall smelling a tuna salad sandwich back in middle school and being utterly disgusted. It smelled like cat food. And I couldn't get over it. Not until about a year ago. To be honest, I still smell cat food when I pop open a can of tuna. But, I have decided to move past the smell.

So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to make tuna salad at home. Fancy style. Along with celery, which apparently is a must, I added pickled onions, green onions, black olives, fancy dill mustard I bought during a recent wine-tasting trip and mayo. I seasoned well with salt and pepper, and made us sandwiched. The husband was impressed with my first-time tuna salad making skills. And so was I. I see more tuna salad in our future, with variations of course. I'll just task the husband with opening and airing out the cans first.

3.27.2011

Russian Salad

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My mom made, and still makes, this salad all the time. We don't really call it anything but potato salad. Often she adds shredded chicken or beef to this. On our trip to Spain, this salad made an appearance at almost every town. Ensaladilla Russo. I'm not sure what the connection is and why the Spaniards love this salad so much, but I made sure to try it everywhere. There were many variations. Most were meatless. I prefer the vegetable only version. During a recent visit to the restaurant Spain here in town, we ordered this salad, and it motivated me to go home and make my own, better version.

The two staples here are potatoes and carrots. I had the husband's cute little home-grown carrots to use. They were tender and sweet. And I used little red-skinned potatoes. Because I just prefer them. You need to boil both of these vegetables first, let them cool and slice them to whatever size works for  you. To these items I also added peas. I used frozen and steamed them first. My mom typically uses canned. At this point, you can get creative. I added lots of green onions, dill and parsley. Then, in went equal parts of mayo and sour cream, salt and pepper, and you combine everything gently. It's best to serve it chilled.

I made a large batch and we took it to lunch throughout the week. When it was all gone, we were both a little sad. But, it will make another appearance soon, at our upcoming tapas party.

3.22.2011

Swiss Chard and Sausage Pasta, with Garlic Chips

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This recipe came to me as I was poking around Smitten Kitchen. I knew I had lots of chard at home. Chard that needed to be used. Chard that I was too lazy to use because of all the washing  involved. Lots and lots of chard. But, it would have been sad to waste all that chard, so I decided to find a recipe that would involve the use of lots of chard, so I can get it out my fridge. This pasta dish shares only two things with the original -- garlic chips and Swiss chard. Because when I got home and peaked in my fridge, two things stood out, 1) hot pepper paste (used in previous post) and, 2) smoked Hungarian sausage. I decided to use the pepper paste as my base and made things up as I went.

I loved the garlic chips. They were crisp and delicious. The husband could have done without them. But, in the end we both agreed this was the tastiest pasta meal I've made in a while. The flavors came together nicely; the pepper paste gave the sauce body and the sausage a unique smoky taste.
Swiss Chard and Sausage Pasta, with Garlic Chips
Serves 4-6

Lots of chard, 3 or so bunches, washed, chopped, stems and leaves separated
1 lbs of pasta (I used a thick spaghetti)
1/2 can of olives, chopped
1 small-medium smoked Hungarian sausage link, sliced thin
1 head of garlic, sliced thin
4-5 tbsp pepper paste (adjika)
1 small can of tomato sauce
Parmesan cheese to taste
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) First I sauteed the garlic slices in a decent amount of olive oil, making sure they didn't brown too much. I removed the garlic and set it aside.
2) In the same olive oil, I sauteed the chard stems and sausage for about 5 minutes. Then, I added the pepper and tomato sauce, remainder of the chard, covered the pan and let everything steam for about 5 minutes. Toward the end, I threw in the olives and seasoning.
3) While all the above was happening, I had my water come to a boil and cooked the pasta. I then transferred the pasta to the pan saute pan, added cheese, stirred things up, added more cheese and plated. Onto each plate I sprinkled some garlic cloves. And a little more cheese.

We ate this dish for several days and it kept getting better and better. I now can't wait until the husband brings home more chard so I can make it again.

3.15.2011

Swiss Chard with Chick Peas

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Since the husband found this recipe on an Armenian blog two months ago, I've made it at least half a dozen times. If you've been over for dinner or invited us over, you'd probably have tasted this dish as well. It's easy to make, and it's delicious. And because the husband has Swiss chard growing in most of his gardens right now, we have a lot of fresh chard to use.

We've consumed this meal as a side, an entree, and snack. I like to make a large batch and eat it for lunch during the week. This is not a dish we have tired of. Yet.

What makes this dish is the adjika, a Georgian pepper paste/sauce, you can find it in any Armenian market. It usually comes in mild or hot. The hot is more flavorful.
Swiss Chard with Chick Peas
recipe adapted from TheArmenianKitchen.com

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and all, washed and chopped
1 can chick peas
2 tbsp tomato paste
2-4 tbsp adjika (pepper paste)
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
salt and pepper

1) Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the chard stems. Saute for a couple of minutes and add the greens. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
2) Add the chick peas, tomato and pepper paste, salt and peppers, and more olive oil if needed.
3) Cover and simmer on low heat until the chard is soft, 5-10 minutes. (Unlike the original recipe which recommends cooking for 20-30 minutes. I don't like my chard that well cooked.) 

That's it. The hardest part is washing the chard!

3.10.2011

Tortellini with Goat Cheese, Spinach and Roasted Peppers

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I am a fan of opening a package of goat cheese, adding steaming pasta, a nice wilty green, some pasta water, and calling it a day. I love the earthy flavor of goat cheese. It reminds me of a barn. A nice clean barn, with pretty stacks of hay nearby, shovels and rakes neatly lined up against the walls, maybe some buckets in a corner. What I don't envision in my organized barn are the animals. They would just make a mess of my pretty little scene.

Now, I know some people don't like the taste of goat cheese, so you can substitute cream cheese (you might need to favor things up in this case, as it's so mild in taste) or even ricotta.

For my wilty green, I used spinach. It worked well, as does arugula. I also used the last of my roasted peppers, and served roasted beets on the side. The pasta came together in 20 minutes because it took me 17 minutes to cook the tortellini. It was easy. It was fast. And most importantly, it was tasty. As a bonus, the leftovers also made for a great lunch the next day.

3.09.2011

A Salad: Part II: With Pickled Onions and Roasted Peppers

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If you think this salad looks familiar,  it's because it's very similar to this post. And sometimes, often, we eat a lot of the same stuff. This salad is fancier because it is topped with a crab cake, and crab cakes always elevate things to the next level. It also has olives, home-grown arugula along with romaine, and mustard dressing. But, most important of all, it's got my pickled onions and roasted peppers, which have been so handy to have around.

3.03.2011

Smoked Herring and Potatoes with Roasted Vegetables

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Herring reminds me of the homeland (the big ol' USSR). As does smoked or dried fish in general. I remember my parents cutting open whole fish, often finding the caviar. I recall how with these fishes my parents would drink cold beer, which was unusual for them.

Even though I was the pickiest of eaters as a kid, I took to seafood right away. Especially salty fishes. And once in a while I will feel the desire to relive those days and buy a whole smoked fish at the Super King Market. This time I purchased a smoke herring. It comes whole, so there's a little bit of work to do, but it's worth it. I'm not into my fish coming in jars. I'd rather cut them up myself. Besides, you can get the whole fish for less than $5. Now that's deal.

With the fish, I decided to make some potatoes. Normally, I would boil some baby potatoes. But I used what I had, and decided to roast potatoes in a pan. I had lots of sliced onion left from a previous meal, so when I got home, I threw the onion with olive oil in a pan, and let them caramelize. While the onion cooked, I decided to roast my vegetables for the week. I had lots of bell peppers, some green beans and tons of carrots from the husband's garden. I drizzled the vegetables with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and popped the trays into a 400 degree oven. When the vegetables were done, my potato dish was also coming together. I decided it might not be a bad idea to add color to my potatoes and added some vegetables to the pan. This made the potato dish prettier and more delicious.

During dinner, we polished off the whole fish, which was salty and fatty, and most of the potatoes. And for the rest of the night, my hands smelled fishy. But in a good way.