Tantalizingly Cool and Colorful Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Tunalettucecu1sharpAnd then it was August, just like that!

With the limited time I’ve had to read other blogs lately, I’ve heard more than one fellow blogger out there remark that their lives have been hectic…and I can add my voice to that chorus. I started this post in JUNE, mind you. And since then, I’ve made this recipe several times and still not gotten a post out. As they say: Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. But I am back now and I have a very timely little recipe to share that is perfect for when the temps are very high…like ours are now and have been all summer.

Tuna with peach

BEATING THE HEAT =  SALAD TIME! 

This refreshing Mediterranean Tuna Salad is one I made up after tasting a somewhat similar Tunisian Tuna Salad at a local bakery and market many years ago. I love that this salad doesn’t use mayonnaise for the dressing. Instead, it has a light and lively dressing of fresh lemon juice, good olive oil and some salt and pepper to bind it, as well as to enhance the flavors of the fish, vegetables and herbs. Capers add the perfect little bite to this dish, so please don’t leave them out. Even if you don’t think you like capers, you’ll enjoy them here, I promise! And for those of you experiencing more temperate weather, this salad is great any time of the year.

Since I’ve made this dish several times this summer, I can tell you that it is excellent as a stand alone salad presented on top of fresh leaf lettuce, or equally wonderful paired with green salad and fresh peaches, a Grilled Corn Salad or my Mediterranean Couscous Salad. It also has the added advantage of coming together quickly.

EatingTuna

I hope you are having a lovely summer so far in the northern hemisphere and a mild winter in the southern one. Cheers!

Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Makes 4-6 Servings

2 – 5 oz. cans chunk white albacore tuna packed in olive oil, drained and flaked
20 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons jarred capers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, peeled and chopped
16 pieces frozen and thawed artichoke heart quarters, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
More salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the tuna, olives, red peppers, capers, parsley, onion and artichoke hearts. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Stir again before serving.

A trio of deliciously cool salads!

*****

On another note, this blog celebrated its 5th Anniversary on June 15. My how time flies! Thanks to all who have followed me since the beginning and who have joined me along the way. You all make it worth while and make me smile. More to come!

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Spinach, Mushroom and Artichoke Strata

plated2BsharpHere’s a revamp of one of my favorite comfort foods to enjoy, particularly in cold weather: The Strata.

A Strata is much like a bread pudding…in fact the ingredients are almost the same. In my mind the main difference lies in layering versus mixing the whole together, along with the proportions of egg to milk or cream. The strata is “egg-y,” and the bread pudding has more of a “custard-y” quality. Because of these slight variations, the two are actually a bit different in both texture and taste.

The strata allows you to use thinner pieces of bread and fewer pieces as well, which are then layered with other ingredients. You add just enough moisture from the eggs and milk to hold it together, then top it with cheese. The result is sort of a baked sandwich with a fluffy texture. A bread pudding heavily relies on thick cut or torn chunks of bread soaked in a lot of custard to give the finished product a true pudding texture. Traditionally, bread puddings can be sweet or savory, but strata are most always savory.

And much like the frittata you saw in my last post, you can customize your strata to suit your taste or to accommodate what you have on hand by changing the type of bread, filling and cheese. In the end, the lines between strata and bread puddings can be blurry for sure, but the results are always delicious! And often quite caloric…which brings me back to the “revamp” part of this post.

Outoftheovenbest

Given that I am trying to continue the idea of “leaning up” some recipes without sacrificing flavor and texture, I came up with a modified strata, one that’s jam-packed with veggies. But it’s not just lots of veggies that provide the revamp. I’ve also used a flavorful multi-grain and seeded sliced prairie bread as the base, lower fat milk instead of cream, added some sweet spice, a hint of sherry and just a little bit of strongly flavored cheese to round out the taste and mouthfeel. I can tell you that the result is wonderful!

As I said, this leaner version is much more healthful than my usual savory bread puddings. With the adjustments I’ve made, I’d say this strata has 1/2 of the calories and fat, but all of the homey comfort food quality that I have always loved. It’s a meal unto itself and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You could also enjoy it with a fruit salad, if you like. This reheats well in the microwave, too, so even if there’s just one or two of you around to eat it, leftovers can be kept in the fridge and used as needed. I haven’t tried freezing it because we eat it up quickly, but I think it would freeze well.

aftercutting

Spinach, Mushroom and Artichoke Strata
Serves 6

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
a pinch of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of dry sherry
1 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme leaves
8 slices of prairie bread (I use Whole Foods, but a good quality multi-grain and seeded bread will do)
5 oz. of fresh baby spinach, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped frozen and thawed cooked artichoke hearts
4 large eggs
2 cups 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. of gruyere cheese, shredded
Olive oil cooking spray for the pan

1. Spray a 7 inch by 11 inch glass pyrex casserole with olive oil and set aside.

2. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, warm the 1 tsp olive oil and then add the chopped onion. Sauté until the onion is tender, translucent and just beginning to caramelize, then add in the mushrooms and cook until they are tender and most of their moisture has evaporated. Sprinkle the mixture with a tiny bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, the fresh thyme and the sherry. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside. Line a baking sheet with foil. Lay the slices of bread on the sheet and preheat your broiler. Lightly toast the bread on both sides, remove from the oven and set aside. Turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

3. Assembly: Dip each piece of toasted bread into the custard mixture to fully coat it, then arrange each slice of the coated bread in the casserole slightly overlapping like a deck of cards. Pour the remaining custard mixture evenly over the bread. Tuck the cooked onion and mushroom mixture, chopped spinach and chopped artichoke hearts in evenly in between the slices. Sprinkle the gruyere cheese over the top and lift the slices with a spatula to allow some of the cheese to slip in between. Press down on the strata to even it out and to allow the bread to soak up the custard.

4. Place the dish with the strata onto a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch any drips. Put it into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F., or until golden brown and just set. After 45 minutes if it still need more time, cover lightly with aluminum foil to prevent over browning and continue to cook for 10 more minutes or until done. The strata is done when it is golden brown on top, slightly puffed and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean, without egg. Remove from the oven. Cut into 6 pieces and serve. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

This can be made the night before, covered and placed into the fridge. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before baking. Remove covering and proceed as above.

*****
snowynight2
We enjoyed this strata on a blustery and snowy night…a rare thing in our parts. But you don’t have to wait for some snow to warm up to this recipe!

 

Try, Try Again-Revival of a Favorite: Artichoke Squares

That’s what they say, if at first you don’t succeed.

Sorry to post this again, but it seems just this one previous post from earlier today may have been corrupted so that you couldn’t comment on that version. Let’s see if you can comment now on this second posting. And if you can, I shall remove the original post from the record once it’s been diagnosed. For sure, I’d never close my comments to you…I do really love hearing from you, it’s part of what makes blogging so fun! Technology is great when it works correctly. Thanks for your patience.

Bathed in that late afternoon cocktail glow.

Bathed in that late afternoon cocktail glow.

The weekend is upon us, and it’s time for a savory little nibble to go with that happy hour cocktail. Enter these delectable Artichoke Squares.

You know you want one!

You know you want one!

This is one of those throwback recipes, circa 1960 or so. I’ve updated it with some fresh ingredients, really tasty extra sharp cheddar cheese, herbs, spices and plain panko breadcrumbs instead of the canned, seasoned, Italian type.

And because I always try to use as few, or as minimally, processed foods and ingredients as I possibly can in my cooking, I decided to make my own marinade for the artichoke hearts instead of using the jarred marinated version. The result was wonderful. Fresh and clean-tasting marinated artichoke, and a commitment to marinate my own from now on for every recipe that calls for them.

Come a little closer...

Come a little closer…

But I digress. These Mad Men-worthy bites of deliciousness are the perfect companion for most any cocktail—from martinis to sweeter concoctions, with a glass of wine or a beer…and they make for some darn good eating without an adult beverage, as well. They’re rich and have a marvelous texture, so I like to cut them into small squares where I can eat more than one…or two…or three.

Now reach in and grab one or three!

Now reach in and grab one or three!

Since these Artichoke Squares can be made ahead and they freeze perfectly, they’re just right for that busy day when you need an appetizer you can pull together quickly and have ready for guests—or for yourself—pronto. Just take out what you need from the freezer, warm them in the oven on a cookie sheet and they’re ready to plate and eat. And they look pretty, too.

Cheers to the weekend!

Artichoke Squares Redux
Makes 54, some to eat now and some to freeze for later!

For the marinade:
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar, unseasoned
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon dried and crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Remaining ingredients:
1-14 oz can of artichoke hearts packed in water, drained, rinsed in water, drained again
1 large sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I use Cabot)
1/3 cup plain panko (Japanese style) breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried and crushed red pepper flakes
4 eggs, beaten

In a small bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. Finely chop the artichoke hearts and add them to the marinade, stirring to coat them well. Allow them to marinate while you prepare your other ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and lightly grease a 7 inch by 11 inch glass baking dish with olive oil and set aside. Drain the chopped artichoke through a fine meshed sieve, pressing on the artichoke, and reserving the marinade by allowing it to drain directly into a large, non-stick skillet. Set aside the artichoke hearts. Heat the marinade over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and sauté in the marinade for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, the sautéed onion and garlic mixture with the marinade, and all of the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface, spreading evenly. Bake the mixture at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Cut into small squares with a very sharp knife. Serve at room temperature or freeze the squares on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag. When ready to use, remove what you need, warm them on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven, and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. These should keep a couple of months in the freezer, if they aren’t eaten first.

Revival of a Favorite: Artichoke Squares

Bathed in that late afternoon cocktail glow.

Bathed in that late afternoon cocktail glow.

The weekend is upon us, and it’s time for a savory little nibble to go with that happy hour cocktail. Enter these delectable Artichoke Squares.

You know you want one!

You know you want one!

This is one of those throwback recipes, circa 1960 or so. I’ve updated it with some fresh ingredients, really tasty extra sharp cheddar cheese, herbs, spices and plain panko breadcrumbs instead of the canned, seasoned, Italian type.

And because I always try to use as few, or minimally, processed foods and ingredients as I possibly can in my cooking, I decided to make my own marinade for the artichoke hearts instead of using the jarred marinated version. The result was wonderful. Fresh and clean-tasting marinated artichoke, and a commitment to marinate my own from now on for every recipe that calls for them.

Come a little closer...

Come a little closer…

But I digress. These Mad Men-worthy bites of deliciousness are the perfect companion for most any cocktail—from martinis to sweeter concoctions, with a glass of wine or a beer…and they make for some darn good eating without an adult beverage, as well. They’re rich and have a marvelous texture, so I like to cut them into small squares where I can eat more than one…or two…or three.

Now reach in and grab one or three!

Now reach in and take a bite!

Since these Artichoke Squares can be made ahead and they freeze perfectly, they’re just right for that busy day when you need an appetizer you can pull together quickly and have ready for guests—or for yourself—pronto. Just take out what you need from the freezer, warm them in the oven on a cookie sheet and they’re ready to plate and eat. And they look pretty, too.

Cheers to the weekend!

Artichoke Squares Redux
Makes 54, some to eat now and some to freeze for later!

For the marinade:
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar, unseasoned
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon dried and crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Remaining ingredients:
1-14 oz can of artichoke hearts packed in water, drained, rinsed in water, drained again
1 large sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I use Cabot)
1/3 cup plain panko (Japanese style) breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried and crushed red pepper flakes
4 eggs, beaten

In a small bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. Finely chop the artichoke hearts and add them to the marinade, stirring to coat them well. Allow them to marinate while you prepare your other ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and lightly grease a 7 inch by 11 inch glass baking dish with olive oil and set aside. Drain the chopped artichoke through a fine meshed sieve, pressing on the artichoke, and reserving the marinade by allowing it to drain directly into a large, non-stick skillet. Set aside the artichoke hearts. Heat the marinade over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and sauté in the marinade for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, the sautéed onion and garlic mixture with the marinade, and all of the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface, spreading evenly. Bake the mixture at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Cut into small squares with a very sharp knife. Serve at room temperature or freeze the squares on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag. When ready to use, remove what you need, warm them on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven, and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. These should keep a couple of months in the freezer, if they aren’t eaten first.