Crostini al Tonno

38 Comments

Thanks to a friend who visited Lorenza de Medici’s Badia a Coltibuono in Italy many years ago, and cooked with the Madame, I learned about the Italian cuisine expert and bought a few of her cookbooks.

Lorenza de Medici isn’t Lidia Bastianich. If she visited the U.S., she didn’t go on the Today Show, on the Tonight Show, or participate as a judge on Chopped. (I have nothing against Lidia.) So although a highly respected author and teacher, she’s just not as well known in the U.S.

To quote from the book cover of the cookbook I’m using for today’s recipe, Lorenza’s Antipasti, published in 1998, “Lorenza and her Husband, Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, spend most of their time at their home, Badia a Coltibuono, an 11th Century monastery, estate, and winery in Tuscany.”

If I was her, I wouldn’t leave either. I’d just hang out, teach some cooking classes, test the grapes and olives, drink my wine, and play with dogs. I’m assuming she has dogs.

Oh, and as of the publication of this cookbook, she’d already published 20 books, and that was 19 years ago!

So instead of common bruschetta, tapenade, baked ricotta, and other popular crostini toppings, some of which are on this blog (all of them, actually), I really wanted to make these toasts with tuna. Recipe by Lorenza de Medici. I just like saying her name! Not to be confused with Lorenzo de Medici.

Crostini al Tonno

12 slices Italian country-style bread, sliced 1/4 ” thick
8 ounces canned tuna in oil
Yolks of 3 hard-boiled eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets in oil
12 paper thin slices lemon with peel on
12 capers in salt, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the slices of bread on 1 or 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for about 3 minutes or until barely golden, turning them once; allow to cool to room temperature.

Put the tuna with its oil, the egg yolks, butter, lemon juice and anchovy fillets in a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms.

It can be placed in a small serving bowl and served alongside the toasts.


Alternately, spread the paste on the toasts and top with the lemon slices.

Arrange a caper in the center of each.

Arrange on a platter and serve.

These crostini are absolutely delicious. I served them with bubbly rosé and it was a perfect match for a warm summer evening.

A Sunday Supper

42 Comments

Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a James Beard Foundation award-winning cookbook by Suzanne Goin, published in 2005. The actual name is, Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table.

I wanted to purchase one of her cookbooks just because she’s so highly revered as a chef, and all of her culinary endeavors have been highly acclaimed and successful.

Her first restaurant, Lucques, was opened in 1998. I’m a little behind getting to “know” this talented chef, but I don’t visit Los Angeles, so have missed out experiencing its famous dining spots. After all these years, Lucques is still a quintessential West Hollywood dining spot.

The cookbook is really fun. Although I pride myself on menu planning, Ms. Goin puts meals together for the reader. And they’re fun meals.

So the one I’m making for this post is Bistecca California with Peperonata, Baked Ricotta, and Lemon.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Here are the recipes for the elements of this fantastic Sunday supper!

Steak

3 pounds prime beef or steak of your choice
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chiles de arbol
2 lemons, zested, then juiced
2 scant tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 bunch arugula
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Trim the beef, if necessary. Season with the rosemary, sliced chile, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

An outside charcoal grill can be used to cook the steak(s). I opted for cooking my filet mignons in a skillet on the stove. They were cooked medium-rare.

Rest the steak(s) for 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon the hot Peperonata (recipe below) onto a large warm platter and scatter the arugula over the top.

Slice the steak against the grain and arrange it over the peppers.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the meat, and drizzle it with a few tablespoons of oil. Serve the gratin dish of baked ricotta (recipe below) on the side.


Baked Ricotta


3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (1 1/3 lbs.)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon diagonally sliced chile de arbol
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the ricotta in a large bowl, and stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, the chopped parsley, 1//2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer the ricotta to an 8-inch gratin dish. Gently press the top of the cheese with your fingers to make slight indentations, and decorate the ricotta with the remaining thyme and the sliced chile.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Peperonata

4 large sweet peppers (1 3/4 lbs.)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced red onion
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Thinly slice the peppers lengthwise. Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, peppers, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sauté over high heat 5 to 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers soften. They should still have a little crunch to them but be tender.

Add the capers and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, cook another minute, and transfer the peppers to a shallow nonreactive dish.

Turn the heat off, add the vinegar, and reduce by half. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the vinegar over the peppers. Add the oregano, and toss well to combine.

This was a really nice meal. I loved all of the aspects of it, but the lemon zest and rosemary on the steaks was a superb combination. I also added cayenne pepper flakes. And I will definitely make the baked ricotta again, even for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

Tuna Burgers

53 Comments

Tuna burgers aren’t quite as popular, in my opinion, as salmon burgers. It’s probably because salmon is more fatty and moist, so burgers made with prepared salmon are more apt to be moist and tender.

Tuna doesn’t have the richness of salmon, but it is delicate and flaky, and can definitely lend itself to a burger-type preparation.

So whenever I grill a large amount of tuna, I saved the leftover tuna for burgers.

The fun thing with tuna burgers is that so many approaches can be taken. Do you want Asian burgers? Easy! Do you want them Indian? Really easy! Mexican? Sure!

For these burgers, I decided on Mediterranean flavors.

Here’s what I did.

Mediterranean-Inspired Tuna Burgers

Leftover grilled tuna, about 8 ounces, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
Roasted red bell peppers, diced
Kalamata olives, diced
2 shallots, minced
Chopped parsley
Sweet paprika
Salt
White pepper
Crumbled goat cheese
Bread crumbs, as necessary

Crumble or chop the tuna and place in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise. Add the bell peppers, olives, shallots, and parsley and gently stir. Season with the paprika, salt, and pepper.

Combine with the flaked tuna. Add goat cheese to taste.

Slowly add bread crumbs just until the mixture firms up. (See note.) Form four burgers, place them in a baking dish, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the burgers until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Serve hot.

I included a capered mayonnaise with these burgers, which I served without bread.

A good mustard or mustard-mayo mixture would be good, too. Or mayonnaise mixed with paprika creme.

I hope you can tell how tender the tuna burgers are.

Note: When I catered ladies’ lunches for one special client, she often asked me to make crab cakes. They weren’t that unique, but I do believe that they were popular because of their moistness. If you make crab cakes or tuna burgers meat-heavy instead of breadcrumb-heavy, they are a little harder to work with, but they will be tastier and much more enjoyable.

Croxetti with Smoked Salmon

59 Comments

Last April when my husband and I visited New York City for my birthday, we went to Eataly. I could have spent much more time there, but my “other half” has limited patience shopping. We checked out the whole place, which requires a map if you want to do it in an orderly fashion, and then ate an incredible lunch.

My husband convinced me to shop online at Eataly.com instead of dragging groceries back home in my suitcase. In retrospect I think it was a trick to keep me from really shopping, but nonetheless I did grab a few Italian goodies.

One was Croxetti, a beautiful embossed pasta that I’d never seen before. I have since learned that the spelling can vary, but these “pendants” are Ligurian in origin.

fullsizerender
_mg_3706
Over the many years of Croxetti development, the “traditional” designs have varied. The following photo is an example of a wooden stamp used for embossing, taken from the blog A Path To Lunch.

crozetti-004

I highly recommend reading the blog post I highlighted above. The blog’s authors, Martha and Mike, describe and photograph a meeting with the craftsman Mr. Pietro Picetti, who custom designs croxetti stamps in his workshop in Varese Ligure, Liguria.

_mg_3742

For the croxetti, I chose a light cream sauce with smoked salmon, hoping it would be a delicate enough sauce to not destroy the integrity of these delicate pasta discs once cooked.
_mg_3705

No real recipe is required. The pasta is cooked according to the package directions.
_mg_3710

I sautéed a few minced garlic cloves in hot olive oil, just for a few seconds, then added cream to the pot. Pour enough in the pot to lightly coat the pasta, about 12 ounces of cream for the 1.1 pound of croxetti.

_mg_3713

Julienne thin sliced of smoked salmon or lox, and add them to the cream. Heat through.

_mg_3716

Gently add the drained pasta discs to the cream and let sit, stirring once or twice as necessary to allow the cream sauce to coat the croxetti and get absorbed.

_mg_3717

Serve warm and sprinkle with capers, if desired.

_mg_3719
_mg_3709

If you would prefer a thicker sauce, consider adding a little Marscapone or ricotta to the cream.
_mg_3735
Other options for this simple recipe would be to use butter instead of olive oil, and one could include clam juice with the cream for a fishier yet less rich sauce. Also, lemon zest would be a nice touch.

_mg_3741

If you happened to have fresh dill, a few leaves would be pretty on the pasta, but I only had dried dill leaves.

_mg_3745

The croxetti actually didn’t end up being as delicate as I assumed they would be. Of course I treated them gently as well. They were really fun to eat!

_mg_3726

Chicken Paillard

48 Comments

Avec Eric is a PBS TV in the United States. It features the Eric Ripert, co-owner and executive chef of Le Bernardin in NYC – still one of the most highly rated restaurants in NYC.

The show involves a visit to a part of the world, talking to fishermen or farmers or chefs. From his travels he gains inspiration and the shows end with Mr. Ripert preparing a dish influenced by what he saw, tasted, and learned.

Sometimes, for me, he is hard to understand because of his pretty heavy French accent. I shouldn’t really comment because my French is terrible, and at least Mr. Ripert is bi-lingual. But what really comes across in Avec Eric is his love of all things food and wine, and his perfectionism. And he seems like a really nice man.

What does make me laugh is that he’s best friends with Anthony Bourdain. Can you imagine a more opposite pairing of people?!!!

In any case, the recipe I’m posting today is based on one I saw Mr. Ripert make at the end of his show, after he visited Chianti, Italy, to witness olive oil production.

The recipe has many ingredients, and I’ve even left a few out. But the flavors and textures are fantastic.
_mg_0796

Chicken Paillard
Based on Eric Ripert’s recipe, to serve 1

2 tablespoons white raisins
2 tablespoons vincotto
2-3 small ripe tomatoes
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sliced green olives
Capers
Olive oil
1 breast chicken
Salt, pepper
Dried thyme
Pine nuts
Chiffonade of basil
Lemon

Soak the raisins in the vincotto, warmed slightly, and set aside.
_mg_0739
Set the oven on 450 degrees.

De-seed and finally chop the tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Add the shallot and garlic, and olives and capers according to your taste. Season with salt and pepper, stir well, and set aside.
_mg_0743
Pour a little olive oil in a small baking dish.

Slice the chicken breast horizontally, without cutting all the way through, so as to butterfly it. Place it in the baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Add the raisins and vincotto to the tomato mixture along with a little dried thyme.


Stir well, then spoon the mixture on top of the chicken.
_mg_0748
Sprinkle on a few pine nuts and drizzle with a little olive oil
_mg_0754
Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn off the oven but keep the skillet in the oven 5 more minutes.
_mg_0755
Immediately place the paillard on a plate. Drizzle the liquid from the baking dish over the chicken.
_mg_0770
But we’re not done yet. Sprinkle on the basil and add a squeeze of lemon, and then serve!

Cooked this way, the tomato mixture caramelizes with the high heat, but the chicken remains moist.
_mg_0804
Because it’s still summer where I live and I was able to use wonderfully ripe tomatoes, I celebrated this dish along with rosé.
_mg_0769
This recipe than be doubled or quadrupled.

Tuna with a Vinaigrette

44 Comments

This recipe was inspired by a meal Stéphane made my daughter and I when we visited him in France last year. If you’re not yet familiar with this culinary wizard and photographer extraordinaire, check out his blog at My French Heaven, and his business website for his custom food and wine tours at Your French Heaven.

We only had four full days in our French heaven in April of 2014, but oh, they were four of the best days of my life. We visited chateaux and castles, walked the countryside, sampled Bordeaux wines, and ate lunches and dinners prepared and served by Stéphane himself. Can you imagine?!!! You don’t even have to lift a finger. Unless you want to.

Every morning the three of us visited farmers’ market in four different towns, and planned the daily meals then. One dinner created by Stéphane was based on a lovely sea bass he purchased on one of these mornings.

As you can see in the photos, Stéphane baked the fish in a salt crust. Then he prepared a simple, yet obviously unforgettable pine nut vinaigrette to go over it. And that is the reason I’m making the tuna today – just as an excuse to create a similar vinaigrette.

I didn’t pay attention to his exact recipe, and if I had I wouldn’t share it with you! But it’s one of those that can be altered to your personal taste in any case.*


I love sea bass and other white fish. However, if I had to choose my favorite fish, it would be tuna, with salmon as a close second. I think I like the stronger flavors of these, although there’s also nothing more fabulous than delicate white fish when it’s cooked perfectly. And Stéphane’s was perfection.

The ingredients of this vinaigrette are fairly basic, and not too subtle to pair with the tuna.

ahi77

As I typically do with recipes, I’m only listing the ingredients I used; the amounts are up to you.
ahi8
Tuna with a Pine Nut Vinaigrette

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Capers, drained
Minced garlic
Toasted pine nuts
Chopped parsley

Ahi, thick steaks preferably
Olive oil

Begin by adding equal amounts of olive oil and vinegar to a small bowl. The overall amount depends on how many you’re serving but trust me when I tell you that this vinaigrette stores well in the refrigerator! Add a handful of drained capers.

Add the garlic, the pine nuts, and then the parsley. Stir well and set aside.


Meanwhile, sear your tuna steaks to your liking.


Serve the vinaigrette at room temperature.

I poured some over the tuna steaks, but also served extra on the side.
ahi3
It’s just that good!!!

* It’s obvious from the photos at the top that Stéphane used shallots instead of garlic, and dill instead of parsley. This just shows how versatile the vinaigrette is!!!

Capered Butter Sauce

28 Comments

I first came across this sauce with a recipe called Meatballs with Caper Butter Sauce. I followed the recipe and was really impressed with the sauce. As with many great recipes – ridiculously easy and delicious!

I could see this sauce not only on meatballs, but on any kind of fish, over filet mignons, and boiled potatoes. But today I thought I’d try it with chicken breasts.

Capered Butter Sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup capers, well drained

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; you don’t want to brown it.

caper6

Once it’s melted, add the lemon juice and capers.

caper5

Heat through, then place in a bowl for serving and keep warm.

caper

I served the sauce over chicken, and with steamed broccoli as a side. A simple, but flavorful meal.

I had already cooked the chicken breasts sous vide the previous day, and when I got them out of the refrigerator they looked like this:

caper1

I added some butter and a pinch of paprika to a skillet and heated the butter over fairly high heat. Then I browned the chicken breasts on both sides.

caper2

When everything was ready, I placed one chicken breast on a plate topped with some of the warm caper butter sauce, and placed the steamed broccoli on the side. The broccoli was good with the sauce, too!
caper41