Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Ideas and Preserved Ingredients

Last night we made a meal that was a smashing success, start to finish, if I do say so myself. Even the kid taste testers approved. It was a lovely mix of using up canned and dried foods as well as harvesting herbs from our gardens, and taking advantage of the amazing grocery stores Greater Boston has to offer. 

These dinners are also serving two very important functions: we have great discussions about food: for example, the merits of labeling meals that are low in fat as healthy vs. those that are comprised of whole foods; and we are also showing our children that cooking food is not only about filling our hungry stomachs, but also about the process. I find, and I think Keja agrees, that I have as much fun planning, prepping, and cooking the meal as I do eating it. While our kids now only see the benefits of our Tuesday Night Cooking Club to be a chance to play together more, I believe that we are building a strong foundation for them, too, to appreciate and think of food as more than just a quick fix to a growling tummy.

This meal was partly planned (tacos, fiddleheads, beans, cake) and partly a happy accident we created to use up extra fish (ceviche). However, we found that it all went really well together. Whether you decide to eat the ceviche as an appetizer, or to build it into the tacos, it works. 

This entire meal serves 4 people.

Ceviche

Ceviche a sort of soup, sort of salsa, sort of salad that uses the process of cooking raw fish in citrus juice. It can take a few hours but we used #1 tuna and let it marinate for around 45 minutes. This left the center of each chunk of fish nicely raw, which was fine, because it was sushi grade.

1/2 lb. tuna (we used tuna "tips" - the leftovers from when the fish monger was cutting steaks), cut into 1/2" cubes
1 teas. salt
1/2 cup lime juice (or slightly more)
1 mango, slightly underripe, chopped into 1/2" cubes
1 avocado cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 TBSP chives, chopped into 1/8" pieces
3-4 mint leaves, coarsely chopped

In a small bowl with steep sides place tuna, salt, and lime juice and stir to mix. Tuna should be just covered with juice. If it is not, add just enough juice to cover. Set aside for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Stir in remaining ingredients and serve.


Fish Tacos

1 lb. tuna tips

Rub:
2 TBSP oregano
2 chipotle peppers from chipotles in adobo sauce, seeds removed and cut coarsely
2 teas. garlic powder
2 teas. coarse sea salt
1 teas. cumin

Mix rub ingredients together and spread evenly over tuna tips. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Sauce:
2 to 3 tomatillos, papery skins removed, toasted 1-2 minutes per side in a cast iron pan until soft and browning, ~ 20 minutes
1/2 of a whole guajillo chili, toasted in cast iron pan 1-2 minutes per side, ~ 4 minutes
3 TBSP sour cream
2 TBSP orange juice
1/2 teas. sea salt

Blend together in a blender until smooth.


1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup green cabbage, chopped
2 TBSP chives, chopped
1 TBSP mint, medium chopped
12 corn tortillas, heated over gas stove or grill 1-2 minutes per side, or warmed in an oven

Broil or grill tuna on high 2-3 minutes, turning halfway through.

Put each ingredient in a separate bowl. Have each person make their own tacos. Lay tortilla out. Place tuna on top. Spread on veggies. Drizzle with sauce. Serve with refried beans (we made them with beans Keja harvested from her pole beans last year. They were SO good and full of flavor, putting canned refried beans to shame!).


Fiddlehead Ferns

**A note on fiddleheads: some people are sensitive to toxins in raw or undercooked fiddleheads, and others are not, as we discovered. Renée is sensitive and got sick from eating them; Keja enjoyed a lovely evening afterwards. After some thorough research, we have concluded that the safest way to eat fiddleheads for everyone is to steam or boil them for 10 minutes, and then cook as we suggest below.

These are a seasonal delicacy. We got ours in Whole Foods and they were from Massachusetts. I remember when I was 3 or 4 growing up in Vermont friends gave us some that they had found in the wild. Either way, they are super delicious. 

4 TBSP butter (salted or unsalted)
1 1/2 cup Fiddlehead Ferns
1 TBSP lime juice
salt to taste

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium low.

Add ferns and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add lime juice and gently stir. Add salt if necessary.


Apple Sauce Cake

We made and canned apple sauce and jelly last fall. We both had a few jars remaining on high shelves and decided to do something about it.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 10" springform pan.

2 cups white flour
1 teas. baking soda
1 teas. baking powder
1 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. salt
1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup sour cream

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients.

In a large bowl mix butter and sugar well. 

Add eggs to butter and mix.

Add apple sauce and sour cream to butter. Mix well.

Add dry to wet ingredients and mix well.

Pour into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, checking after 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teas. vanilla
optional: 1/2 cup raspberry jelly

Mix cream cheese and sugar.

Add vanilla.

Swirl in jelly, if using.

Place cake on a plate and frost.