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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summertime, and the eatin' is light

My idea of a great summer lunch!
In summer, I love salads--no, not tossed green salads, though I like those too--but tuna, chicken and ham salad. I have pretty much a standard recipe, with variations depending on the meat. Here's what I do:
Tuna salad: I used canned albacore that I order from the Pisces fishing company. A husband-and-wife team catch their own tuna, without nets so that dolphins swim alongside the boat. Then the tuna is canned--cooked once, in the can, instead of the usual twice, no preservatives. The result is a wonderful, mild chunk tuna. I whirl it in my counter-top blender to shred it, add the juice of one good-sized lemon--if you don't have a juicer like this, get one. You'll be amazed at how much juice it extracts
Then add two or three chopped scallions, including part of the green tops, and a generous squeeze of anchovy paste. (Don't tell you you don't like anchovies--you won't taste them directly, but it gives it  a great zing). Finish with just enough mayo to bind--better to be cautious at first and then add more if you want. What you don't want is soupy tuna salad. The picture above is tuna on a half avocado, with grape tomatoes and lightly sauteed asparagus.
Ham salad: I buy a slice of ham at the deli counter, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Ham comes in pretty good-sized slices, so 1/2" gives you a lot of ham salad. I prefer a milder, boiled ham for this rather than a salty one. Again, whirl in the blender, add two or three chopped scallions and some chopped celery. Add plain old salad mustard to taste (I don't like too much) and enough mayo to bind.
Chicken salad: You can us poached, oven roasted, grilled, whatever. The other night I used a half breast that I had grilled with a white marinade--mayo, vinegar, etc. (Not sure I'd like bbq chicken with traditional bbq sauce in this.) Dice fairly small, add the juice of  half a lemon, scallions and celery, mayo to bind--and then blend in crumbled blue cheese. Delicious!

I ate dinner out almost every night this past week, so I decided on Friday and Sunday this weekend I would cook a good dinner just for me (I so often have Sunday night company), and I'd fix new recipes. On Friday night, I tried scallop and asparagus kebobs on the indoor grill--I think the outdoor grill would just have made it worse. I had bought slim, tender asparagus rather than the thick stalks--every time I tried to put a skewer through one, it split; I ended sauteeing them in a bit of olive oil with light salt; following instructions, I brushed the scallops with "herb-infused" olive oil--that means I put some basil and thyme in a bit of olive oil and let it sit all afternoon. I used medium sea scallops and threaded them evenly, but they kept sliding around on the skewers to I never got good char marks on any part. Yet it was plain they were cooked--you can tell by feel--and if I didn't take them off, they'd get rubbery. Good, but next time I'll stick to my tried and true method of sauteeing and get a little brown crust on them.
Tonight's experiment was better. I poached a piece of salmon (bigger than I wanted) in water and wine with basil, peppercorns and a bit of salt. I'm discovering this is my favorite way to cook salmon--never comes out overdone or dry. Then I chilled it. Tonight I added juice of a lemon, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, chopped cherry tomatoes, just a bit of cilantro, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Mixed it all up and let it chill for an hour. Good but not the best I've ever eaten. The finished product needed more salt. Maybe the best part of the meal was the half zucchini I grilled on the indoor grill. That may become one of my favorite foods this summer.
Happy summer cooking.

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