Salmon and Mediterranean Potato Mash

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Food photography has always been my thing. Not in a professional way, obviously, but over the years I often documented meals when we traveled. Then I would get home post-vacation and wonder why in the world I was keeping photos of meals I’d enjoyed, and get rid of them, especially in the pre-digital era.

What I’ve missed out on are not beautiful photos of pretty or unique meals, but the inspiration that these meals can offer. And memories as well.

Case in point, in 2012 my husband and I landed in Edinborough before beginning a magical 3-week trip around Scotland. That first night, in Edinborough, we chose a restaurant after I’d perused many menus, and this was my dinner.

It was grilled salmon over an lovely mash of potatoes served over pesto. It was exquisite. Somehow, even though this photo is terrible, I kept it.

If you haven’t been to Scotland, it’s everything and more than you expect. The scenery, the people, the history, the food. The seafood!

So there’s nothing especially unique about this meal, but it’s fabulous!

Salmon with Mediterranean-Inspired Potato Mash and Pesto Sauce
Serves 2

2 medium peeled starchy potatoes
4 ounces butter, cut into four pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream, or more if necessary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
1 1/2 ounces chopped Kalamata olives, or to taste
1 ounce chopped sun-dried tomatoes, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 uniform filets of salmon
Salt
Garlic pepper or pepper
2 ounces pesto
2 ounces milk

Cut each potato into somewhat uniform pieces and place in boiling salted water to cook. When tender, drain in a colander, then immediately place in a large bowl. Add the butter and let melt. Then stir in the cream, garlic, salt and pepper, and mash the potato mixture. Add more cream if the mixture is stiff. Cover and set aside. (I used a very good garlic and herb butter.)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 filets and cook until some good browning occurs. Turn the filets over and reduce the heat to allow cooking on the other side. Cover the skillet with a lid to ensure that the salmon cooks though. Remove the skin from the filets while they’re in the skillet so you can season both sides with salt and pepper and brown under the skin. Keep warm.

To prepare the sauce simply mix the pesto with milk until the sauce is smooth.

To serve, divide the sauce on each of 2 plates. Using a ring mold, form 2 cylinders of potato mash and place each on the sauce.

Place the salmon filets to the side.

If desired, top with fresh chopped parsley and/or basil.

The combination is just wonderful!

You can place an amount of pesto on the plate and warm it, instead of the creamy pesto sauce. It’s whatever you prefer.

Olive Bread

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My first experience with yeast was not using it, even though I was supposed to. I’d followed a recipe in the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook, except not really. It was my thing to do when I was 11-12 years old, to get up early on Sundays and bake some kind of coffee cake.

I chose a recipe for yeasted cinnamon buns that morning, but when it came time to the yeast, being that I didn’t know what is was, I ignored it. I also noticed this kneading thing, which seemed like it would take too long, so a win-win for me.

Until my mother came downstairs and I proudly announced that I’d made these buns, and would she do the honors of removing them from the oven. Well she almost dropped that baking dish. What should have been cinnamon buns were round, heavy bricks. And then I learned about yeast.

When I started teaching myself to cook, I learned how to bake bread by following recipes. When you do it on your own, there’s no fear, even though I have memories of my mother not even letting us walk through the kitchen if she had bread rising. Heck, we were hardly allowed to exhale.

But it seemed pretty easy to me, a few ingredients, some kneading, and I even walked around my kitchen while my breads rose. It’s just not hard to bake bread.

Then a cookbook entered my life called Supper Club chez Martha Rose, which was published in 1988. This book wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was a fun read, because it was Martha Rose Schulman’s actual experience with her supper club in Paris that she started in 1983 after she moved to France from Austin, Texas.

Her supper club menus are organized by months, which I love. Some menus reflect her love of Texas, but most all as a Francophile, and lover of Mediterranean flavors. But what got my attention was what she did with her yeasted breads. She added stuff to them!

I’d always made whole-grain bread, because I believe that bread should be nourishing, not just pretty, but when I first saw a pesto bread recipe in her cookbook, it was my Hallelujah moment! It was Martha Rose Schulman who changed my path to creative bread baking. And I’ve never looked back. (I’ve mentioned this cookbook before when I made her Sourdough Country Bread.)

So for all the years my husband required bread, for all of the years I catered and was a private chef, I put stuff into the breads I baked. It could be nuts, it could be grated zucchini, tomato paste, onions and cheese, or chili powder. It all works!

Ms. Schulman has a country bread with olives recipe in her cookbook; today I’m making my version of olive bread. Because, you really don’t need a recipe to bake yeasted breads.

Olive Bread

2 ounces warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
8 ounces whole milk, warmed
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Extra white flour, for kneading
5 ounces mixed olives, drained

Place the water in a large, warmed bowl and add the yeast and sugar. After the yeast softens stir the liquid, then set aside.

After the yeast bubbles up, about 5 minutes, add the warm milk. Then add 1 cup of white flour and whisk well.

Cover the bowl and place in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, chop the olives coarsely and make sure they’re free of any liquid; set aside.

Add one cup of whole wheat flour to the slurry, and whisk or stir in well.

Place a generous amount of white flour where you’re going to knead, and remove the dough from the bowl. Begin kneading the bread, using only as much flour as needed. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth.

Grease the bottom of a large clean bowl, put the dough in it, then turn the dough over so the top is coated in the grease. Place this bowl, covered with a towel, in the warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the chopped olives where you knead, then “pour” the dough over the top. Using only a little flour as necessary, gently force the olives into the dough until they’re evenly incorporated.

Form a ball with the dough and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Set it in a warm place for 15 minutes, then put it in the oven.

Bake the bread for at least 25 minutes. Times and ovens vary. If you want to check on the internal temperature using a thermometer it should be at 195 degrees F. Anything much less than that and the bread will be doughy on the inside.

Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

I served the bread with a soft goat cheese; the slices can also be toasted.

If you love olives, this is a great bread. And it goes so well with cheeses and charcuterie.

This actually posted in October of 2018. For some reason, this and a few others showed up as scheduled to post in 2021. I have no idea how this happened, but sorry if you’ve already seen it!

Corn-Tomato Salad with Tapenade

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Did I need another French cookbook? A resounding NO, but when I read about this one, Dinner in French by Melissa Clark, published in 2020, I knew I would love it.

I love personal stories, so the introduction in this book was a great read. Ms. Clark tells the story about how her Great-Aunt Martha and Uncle Jack “dragged” her parents to Europe, and they fell in love with France. After she and her sister were born, the annual trips to France continued, sometimes renting houses, other times exchanging houses, which allowed them to stay put for a month AT A TIME, in various regions of France.

Ms. Clark writes about her cooking, “It’s all right there, rooted in my New York-Jewish-Francophile DNA. And my cooking ends up playfully and unmistakably French. At our house, the conversation might be in English, but dinner’s in French.”

According to Ms. Clark, “This salad is all about the contrast between the sugar-sweet corn and the salty olive tapenade. Since many commercial tapenade shamefully neglect to include anchovies along with the olives and capers, I like to make my own.” I do as well.

I did learn a trick from the author. She suggests microwaving whole corn cobs, 5 minutes for four. I simply wrapped them in a towel first. What I didn’t expect was that the husk part came off in basically one piece. No corn silk with which to deal. Fabulous trick.

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad with Tapenade

For the tapenade dressing:
1 1/2 cups pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
4 ears fresh corn, cooked, kernels sliced off and reserved
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
3/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

Flaky sea salt, for serving
Sliced baguette, for serving

Combine the olives, basil, parsley, capers, oil, lemon zest and juice, anchovies, garlic, and pepper in a blender. Pulse to form a coarse paste. Taste, and add more lemon juice if it tastes flat.

Toss the corn kernels, tomatoes, red onions, basil, and parsley together in a large bowl. Fold in just enough tapenade to coat the vegetables.

Sprinkle the salad lightly with flaky sea salt, and serve it with the remaining tapenade and some bread alongside.

There is actually quite of bit of tapenade “dressing” for this salad, so you can always spread it on the bread while enjoying the salad.

I also think white beans would be really good in this salad, along with the corn and tomatoes.

But as it is… fabulous. And a great idea to use tapenade as a base for a dressing. I added a bit more lemon juice.

This salad would be a perfect picnic salad, served alongside grilled chicken, ham sanwiches, or sausages.

Puttanesca Relish

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My mother gave me this lovely book simply called Charcuterie, published in 2014. “How to enjoy, serve and cook with cured meats.”

For the blog I’ve already made an eye catching and incredibly tasting salad – chorizo and red cabbage.

This little book is full of surprisingly unique recipes using charcuterie, making charcuterie, or for charcuterie.

Case in point, puttanesca relish caught my attention. Being that pasta puttanesca is my favorite pasta dish, I could easily imagine all of the puttanesca flavors together, served as a relish.

From the book, “This relish is quite like tapenade, but it’s lighter and not as rich. It can be used to add to sandwiches and recipes, but it’s also lovely served with a charcuterie board and spooned onto the meats.”

I couldn’t wait to make it. It’s as easy as making a tapenade, because you can use your food processor.

Puttanesca Relish
Slightly adapted

2 ounces pitted Kalamata olives
2 anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained
Big pinch of fresh chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes, seeded, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes

Place the first six ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the pieces are nice and small and the texture is relatively smooth.

Add remaining ingredients. Leave some small chunks, don’t let it become a purée.

Transfer the mixture to a small sterilized jar or an airtight container and cover, if not using immediately.

I served the relish with soft bread, Parmesan, and soprasetta. It is outstanding.

This relish will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and is suitable for freezing.

If you freeze it, make sure to test the relish. It might need a boost in flavor.

I will definitely be making this again and again.

I used a new product for this recipe – capers in olive oil. Excellent.

Pasta Puttanesca

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I recently looked at my recipe index for pasta ideas, because a girlfriend was visiting. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta, served with a salad. A perfect meal.

Creamy and cheesy pasta always comes to mind. But of course pasta with various types of red sauces, raw or cooked then pop into my brain… and I began dreaming of pasta puttanesca. It’s not something I can make for my husband because he is not fond of olives and capers… but my girlfriend is.

So, I looked up my own blog post for pasta puttanesca, because I knew I’d made it early on in my blog, and it was missing! All I had were these photos.

The “finished” pasta photos don’t look horrible, which many photos of mine did in the “early” days (2012-2014…) but for some reason the post had disappeared. And this pasta is my favorite pasta if you had a gun to my head.

Well, I got to make it again! And my girlfriend and I enjoyed it immensely.

The recipe I used is from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Kitchen,” – the story of her love affair with the kitchen.

Quote from Lady Nigella regarding pasta puttanesca: “Well, how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore’s pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?

I really wish I could talk and write like Ms. Lawson.

Pasta Puttanesca
Aka whore’s pasta
Printable recipe below
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons strong extra-virgin olive oil, like Hojasanta
8 anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon cayenne chile pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti (I used linguine)
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed, dried
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.

Pour the oil into a wide, shallowish frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have almost “melted”, then add the garlic and cayenne flakes and cook, stirring for another minute.

This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to package instructions.

Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the garlic-anchovy mixture, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Just before the pasta is ready, remove about an espresso cupful of cooking water, and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your wok or pan, adding a little reserved pasta water, if needed, to help amalgamate the sauce. (I don’t do this step.)

Scatter with chopped parsley, if there’s some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.

What’s slatternly? No idea.

I served the pasta with a pinot noir. It was perfect.

 

 

Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started catering.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

My Favorite Green Beans

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Many years ago, I purchased a fairly obscure cookbook written by an unknown chef, at least to me. Sunshine Cuisine was published in 1994.

The book cover states that chef Jean-Pierre Brehier “combines the taste memories of his Provençal childhood (born in Aix-en-Provence) with the Florida-Caribbean influences that weave their way throughout his professional career.”

Also from the book flap, “Chef Jean-Pierre Brehier has trained in some of the best restaurants in the south of France… came to Florida in 1973 and in 1976 became chef-proprietor of the award-winning restaurant The Left Bank in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”

I googled him and there’s not much information on the chef since 1998, but there is a website called Meet Chef Jean Pierre.

I guess he had a show on the Food Network, and also on PBS, but I’ve never come across him except for this one cookbook. Is anyone familiar with him?

I’ve made quite a few dishes from his cookbook, but one recipe originally stood out to me, and occasionally, I make it. If you know me at all, you know I rarely make the same recipe twice.

The recipe is green beans with tomatoes, Kalamata olives and pine nuts. This recipe alone is the only reason I keep this cookbook, although I have made other good recipes out of it.

Green Beans with Calamata Olives and Toasted Pine Nuts
printable recipe below

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 pound green beans
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup Calamata olives, pitted and chopped

In a small nonstick frying pan, toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve.

Remove the tips and tails from the green beans and cut them into 1 1/2” lengths. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and poach the beans until tender but still firm, about 7 minutes. Drain into a colander.

In a sauté pan, heat the butter and oil and add the beans. Sauté 1 minute, then add the onion and cook until translucent, not brown.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, and olives. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add the pine nuts and serve immediately.

There’s just something about this group of ingredients that is spectacular. Of course it helps to love green beans.

The tomatoes and olives plus the crunchy pine nuts are just superb together.

And, with the addition of both onion and garlic, no seasoning is necessary. The olives supply the saltiness.

I’m not sure if it’s Kalamata or Calamata, but this chef spelled the olives with a “C.”

Other appealing recipes in this cookbook:
New Potato and Beet Salad
Risotto with Ginger and Carrot Juice
Roasted Peppers and Chili Sabayon Sauce

 

 

Warm Mediterranean Salad

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There is a nice shopping mall about 2 hours away that I visit when I have to go to a mall. Well, truth be told, I probably only shop at Williams-Sonoma there, unless I’m Christmas shopping. Then I’m a bit more adventurous.

The mall has a nice restaurant that I go to because of the convenience. But it’s good! You’ll all probably be shocked that it’s a chain restaurant, called Pepperoni Grill.

The menu is nice, the restaurant is always clean, and the service great. Surprisingly great.

Oddly enough, I’ve always ordered the same thing, which is a warm Mediterranean Tortellini and Vegetable salad, served with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

I say this is odd, because typically, I would order something new on the menu. But, after 20+ years, I keep ordering this salad. It’s so good, so well prepared, and so satisfying.

Then I had the brilliant idea to replicate the salad at home. It doesn’t look exactly the same because the restaurant uses tricolor tortellini, but mine tasted just as good! Being that it’s not springtime, I opted for green beans instead of asparagus.

Warm Mediterranean Salad
inspired by Pepperoni Grill’s salad

Vinaigrette:
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon agave syrup
2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad:
2 pounds small, red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 pound trimmed green Beans
1 pound yellow squash, coarsely chopped
32 ounces cheese tortellini
10 uncles spring lettuces
Sliced sun-dried tomatoes, the kind stored in oil
Kalamata olives, drained, halved
Grated Parmesan

To prepare the vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients in a small blender jar. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt. Can be made a day ahead, but bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before making the salad.

The vegetables must be prepared separately for the salad, in order to have them all at the proper cook. It’s also best for all of the vegetables and the tortellini to be warm when served, so one must move quickly!

In a steamer basket, cook the potatoes just until tender. Place in a large bowl, toss with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, and set aside. If you don’t like a lot of dressing, use some olive oil instead.

Cook the green beans in the steamer basket and add them to the potatoes. Toss together gently, adding a little more vinaigrette to keep the vegetables moist.

Do the same with the yellow squash, making sure not to overcook. Add to the potatoes and beans.

Cook the cheese tortellini according to package directions. Drain and let cool slightly.

Add the still warm tortellini to the vegetables. Add the desired amount of vinaigrette and and toss gently.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives to taste.

Then sprinkle on a generous amount of Parmesan. No mixing necessary.


Serve warm.

I like a lot of vinaigrette on my salads, but I’m aware that not everyone does. So when I suggest to add the desired amount of vinaigrette, that’s exactly what I mean!

My mother’s secret to a good potato salad was to always add some olive oil to the warm, just-cooked potatoes. So that’s what I did in this salad, using the vinaigrette instead of just olive oil, as well as adding some vinaigrette to the cooked tortellini. This keeps them moist and prevents sticking.

In anticipation of making this salad, I googled it to see if I was making something fairly unique or not. Turns out, there are tortellini/pasta salads, and there are potato salads. This salad really combines the two – a pasta salad with a significant amount of veggies.

The vegetables are along the lines of “primavera” vegetables, and can definitely be changed depending on what’s in season. Zucchini, broccoli, baby carrots, asparagus… all would be good. They could be grilled as well.

And of course this salad would be wonderful with grilled meat, but I prefer it the way it is.

So would I visit Pepperoni Grill for a special night out? No. But the fact that I can expect quality with what I’m ordering and enjoy a leisurely lunch, with a decent glass of wine, during a day of shopping, is really nice.

Tuna Burgers

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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.

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.

Mediterranean Layered Dip

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A while back my friend had a happy hour at her house, and she served a Mediterranean-inspired dip. She’s a funny person, my friend. She claims to hate cooking, but she always serves the best and prettiest food, and always offers unique, signature cocktails.

She’s also an expert at entertaining – to the point that once she had pressed fresh flowers between glass plates for a spring girls’ lunch at her home. I think she’s in Martha-Stewart-wanna-be denial…

Most of us are familiar with the 7-layer dip; sometimes the number varies. It’s Mexican, or Mexican-American, and typically contains layers of refried beans, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, maybe seasoned ground beef, and so forth. If you love all of those ingredients, then you would love the dip, served with tortilla chips and margaritas.

My creative friend, however, was inspired by a recipe she’d seen in a magazine, and created a multi-layered dip using Mediterranean ingredients. It was fabulous.

We can’t find the recipe, so I’m creating this version with my own favorite ingredients from that part of the world. Whatever you use, you just can’t go wrong.

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Mediterranean Layered Dip

White bean dip, or hummus, preferably home-made
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Goat or feta cheese
Kalamata olives, sliced
Toasted pine nuts
Diced shallots
Pita pockets

Begin with having a plate or shallow bowl for serving. Place the white bean dip or hummus on the serving dish. I have had decent store-bought hummus, but I simply made a garlicky white bean dip. Smooth out the white bean dip.

Prepare the cucumber by removing the seeds. This can be done with a knife, or simply with a melon baller or small spoon. Cut up the cucumber and place on paper towels to drain.

Prepare the tomatoes by de-seeding them as much as possible, then cutting them finely, and placing them on paper towels to drain. Have all of the other ingredients on hand.

Begin the layering process by adding the cucumber and then the tomatoes.

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Add the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.

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Then add the olives, pine nuts and shallots.

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Serve with pita triangles cut from pita breads. Alternatively, half the triangles, drizzle with olive oil, and toast until lightly browned for a crisper pita “chip.” (The photo below right shows the pita triangles halved, but not yet toasted.)

It was a hot day when I made this dip, so I served a rosé.

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The fun wth this recipe, is that you can substitute ingredients as you wish. Capers instead of olives, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes, grilled artichokes, and more.

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You can top the dip with black pepper, oregano, sumac, za’atar, or a chiffonade of fresh basil.

Just stick with Mediterranean ingredients and you’ll love it!