Spicy Tuna Melt

I’m back to blogging! Resurrecting my blog is a perpetual New Years resolution. This year, though, I accidentally deleted my blog when I ran a wordpress.org migration (WHOOPS!), so it’s taken me a while to get back up and running. I’m going to wholeheartedly try to chronicle my food adventures more regularly going forward.

This winter, I’ve really gotten into making homemade Chirashi and spicy tuna rolls. There’s a new market that opened up near us in Baltimore called Streets Market that has a pretty great selection of frozen Ahi Tuna and sushi grade fish that has been a really fantastic resource.

A few weeks ago, when I ran out of tuna and it was too cold to go outside, I decided to create this dish – a spicy tuna melt. It’s a classic tuna melt with spicy Japanese mayo and fresh green onions, and it’s become my go to sinful winter comfort food meal.

The trick with making perfect tuna melts (or grilled cheese sandwiches), is really on how you set up the bread. I’ve discovered that spreading the outside layer of bread (that will touch the pan) with both mayonnaise and butter creates the perfect crispy crust.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 scallion/green onion
  • sriracha
  • mayonaise (I use Japanese Kewpie Mayonaise)
  • gluten free bread (Aldi’s white bread is my favorite)
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • butter (unsalted)

Directions:

  1. Make the tuna. Open a can of tuna into a bowl, and add in 1 chopped green onion, a generous squirt of sriracha, and a generous spoonful of mayonnaise. Mix thoroughly and taste, adjusting mayo and sriracha as necessary.
  2. Spread two slices of bread with a thin layer of butter and mayonaise. This will become the outside of the sandwich.
  3. On the inside of the sandwich (the sides without butter/mayo), place three slices of cheddar cheese, and several spoonfuls of the tuna filling. Close the sandwich
  4. Place a skillet on medium heat, add the sandwich (no butter/oil is required on the pan as the sandwich outsides already have butter). Place a lid on top. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until one side is brown and crispy. Press down on the sandwich with a spatula, and then flip.
  5. Cover the pan again, cook the other side of the sandwich until it is also golden brown.
  6. Slice diagonally and enjoy immediately!

Recipe: Summer Abudance Bowl (From My New Roots)

I’ve recently developed a pretty strong obsession with the My New Roots blog. Sarah B has a collection of absolutely mouth watering whole-food recipes that are mostly vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. I want to make and eat everything on there.

In particular, I’ve gotten hooked on her “Spring Abundance Bowl” and have been having it pretty often for lunch recently. The great thing about this recipe is that although the dill yogurt sauce, quinoa, and pickled radishes are staples, you can pretty much throw in any side vegetables that you want and end up with an incredible meal. It’s great with fresh tomatoes, fresh greens, beets and carrots, lentils or beans etc.

Below, I’ve provided a recipe for two people. It’s a very rough guide – mix and match your favorite summer vegetables into the bowl.

Jon’s One-Line Review: It’s like eating a farmers’ market!

Spring Abundance Bowl

  • 1/2 cup of dry quinoa
  • water
  • Fresh vegetables to be eaten raw or cooked, for example:
  1. chard or beet greens sauteed with fresh spring onions or scallions
  2. carrots sauteed with mint and parsley and black beans
  3. sliced avocado
  4. fresh chopped tomato
  • coconut oil (for cooking)

Pickled Radishes

  • handful of fresh farmer’s market radishes, sliced into half moons
  • cider vinegar (about 1 cup)
  • About 1 tsp honey
  • water (about 2 tablespoons)
  • black peppercorns (about 20)
  • roughly 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 5 whole garlic cloves

Dill Lemon Yogurt Sauce

  • Nonfat unsweetened greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
  • fresh dill (finally chopped, about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic (diced)
  • olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
  • water (to thin)
  • pink Himalayan salt and black pepper.

First, make the pickled radishes. Throw the chopped radishes in a pickling container with the whole garlic cloves, vinegar, honey, whole peppercorns, water and salt. Close the lid and shake. Put aside for about 20 minutes. (After you eat up the radishes, the liquid can be reused to re-pickle radishes in the next few days).

Then, make the quinoa. Put 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup water into a pan with a dash of coconut oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking prepare your vegetables – chop fresh tomatoes or avocado up, cook fresh beat greens or chard with fresh onion and coconut oil, cook some carrots with beans, tofu scramble or lentils – the possibilities are endless! I usually make about 2-3 veggie sides to go on the bowl.

After you’ve finished preparing the vegetables, make the lemony yogurt dill dressing- mix the finely chopped dill, yogurt, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. Season with ground salt and pepper. Add water to thin to desired consistency.

To serve, place quinoa in bowls as a base. Load on the fresh or cooked veggies on the side. Garnish with the pickled radishes. Drizzle the yogurt dressing over everything.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Gazpacho

I’m on a serious, serious health kick. I’ve recently left my job as a pollster – I feel fortunate to have seen an inside look into the development of competitive political campaigns, but political consulting wasn’t the path that I saw myself on in the long term.

While I’m figuring out the next step – and finally settling the long-term debate I have with myself between pursuing public interest law or academia, I’m taking time to rejuvenate in every possible sense. I’ve really pumped up my fitness routine. I’ve been attending the LA Public Library’s incredible free lectures, and the Colburn School of Music’s free recitals and concerts. I’m finally learning Spanish, spending several hours a day studying intensively.

Foodwise, I’m finally have time to cook nutritious meals again, and it feels amazing. Last weekend, we went to the Hollywood Farmer’s market and got an incredible spread of beautiful fresh California produce – carrots, beets, chard, lettuce, fresh onions, strawberries. I couldn’t wait to get cooking.

One recipe I’ve really been craving is gazpacho. I made some for lunch today and it was amazing. Jon was also a big fan.

Jon’s One Line Review: The soup may be cold but Greer’s on a hot streak with this one.

Ingredients:

  • about 5 juicy fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 small or 1 large shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • about 1/4 cup vinegar (sherry or cider)
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend the tomatoes. Add 1/2 the cucumber (quarter before adding), 1/2 the red pepper, the shallots, and the garlic. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add the vinegar, and olive oil. Taste, and adjust proportions as desired.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Chill (gazpacho is best after 1-2 days, but I was very impatient and ate mine immediately)
  5. Serve with a sprinkling of diced red pepper and cucumber, a drizzle of olive oil and cracked grated pepper.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Mexican Quiche

I was really in the mood for quiche yesterday morning, and wondered if I could make some with corn tortilla crust, because we had a bunch of leftover corn tortillas in our fridge. The experiment turned out amazingly – Jon and I had to stop ourselves from eating the whole pie pan of quiche on the spot! The corn tortillas made such a delicious delicate crust.

The quiche is really versatile – you can throw whatever vegetables or ingredients you want into the egg mixture.

Jon’s One Line Review: Wow – you really are an exceptional cook!

Ingredients:

  • pat of butter (for greasing the pan)
  • 5-6 small corn tortillas
  • 4 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • half an onion, diced
  • two tomatoes, diced
  • large handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup of salsa verde salsa (my recipe will be following soon!)
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • dollop of Greek yogurt (to serve)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a pie pan with butter (I don’t have a pie pan, so I used a frying pan, and put aluminum foil over the plastic handle).
  2. Layer corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan and around the edges, so that it looks like a pie crust (to place the tortillas around the edges, use a pair of scissors to cut them in half, and put the flat side down on the surface. You want to make sure the whole bottom of the pan, and sides are covered.
  3. In a big bowl, mix the eggs, milk, onion, tomatoes, salsa, cilantro, and cheese.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into the tortilla crust “shell”.
  5. Put in the oven, and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the egg is cooked and set.
  6. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt to cut the heat!

Recipe: Vegetarian Chorizo and Potatoes (Mexico)

This morning, we drove to Boyle Heights to check out the Mexican grocery store El Super. It was super all right. Walking into the store was like taking a trip into Mexico. You’re greeted with the smell of fresh homemade tortillas, big displays of chiles, corn husks, and cactus. The produce is fresh and everything in the store is so cheap!

One of my favorite finds in the grocery store was vegetarian chorizo. Often, fake meat has wheat as an ingredient, but this package proclaimed it was gluten-free! I decided to make some for brunch today in a chorizo and fried potato recipe I found in my favorite Latin American cookbook, Jose Garces’ “The Latin Road Home”.

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Jon had a version of this recipe with real meat chorizo, and this was his review: “Tasty! Would go great with salsa verde and scrambled eggs”

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1/2 pack of vegetarian chorizo, crumbled
  • 1-2 yukon gold or similar potatoes, cubed
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • olive oil
  • handful of crumbled quesa fresc0 (for serving)

Boil water in a medium pan. Add potatoes and boil until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and add chorizo, onion, and jalapeno. Cook for about 10 minutes until onions are caramelized. Then, add potatoes to the frying pan, and more olive oil as needed. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until potatoes are crispy and fried. Serve with crumbled quesa fresco and your favorite Mexican breakfast dishes!

Recipes: Rajas Con Hongos

I picked up a copy of Jose Garces’ “The Latin Road Home” from the LA Public Library the other week, and every time I thumb through it, my mouth starts watering. The other night I decided to make his recipe for Rajas con Hongos (Roasted Poblano Chiles with Mushrooms), which I used as a taco filing along with Mexican rice, grated cheese and homemade tomatillo salsa (recipe will follow soon!).

Here’s the recipe (adapted):

Ingredients:

  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 white onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 large handfuls of crimini mushrooms, chopped in half
  • 4 roasted and peeled poblano chiles, cut into strips (for instructions on roasting poblanos, click here)
  • 8 diced cloves of garlic
  • salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro (optional)
  • small corn tortillas

Directions:

Toss the onions and mushroom in a saucepan with olive oil and cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chiles and garlic and cook for approximately 5 more minutes. Add salt, pepper, and cilantro. Serve over a warm corn tortilla, along with your other favorite taco ingredients (fresh salsa, rice, cheese, cream etc.) Enjoy!

Vietnamese Shrimp Pho

To toot my own horn, this is the best Pho I’ve eaten in my life (I stole the recipe from here). It was incredibly flavorful, but none of the spices were too overpowering. You could taste the accents of fresh lemongrass, the intensity of the fresh herbs, the saltiness of the fish sauce, and the sharpness of the garlic.

However, Jon thought the Pho was too difficult to eat with the flat spoons and forks we have in the house we’re renting, and I think this influenced his views on the dish.

Jon’s Review: “This is really tasty, but don’t make this if you’re in a hurry; it takes forever to eat!”

I adapted my pho recipe from this website, because it only had five-star reviews. The high ratings are entirely deserved.

Ingredients (serves two):

  • 3 birds-eye chilis, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 stick of lemongrass, sliced open with the side of a knife
  • 2 cm piece of ginger, skin removed and squashed slightly
  • 4 spring onions, sliced diagonally
  • 4 mug-fulls of water
  • 2 cubes of vegetable stock.
  • 3 tbsp of fish sauce (also called nam pla)
  • handful of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves
  • handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 package of cooked shrimp, tails removed
  • 1/2 package of thick rice noodles
  • handful of bean sprouts
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Instructions

  1. Put the water and veggie stock cubes into a medium size pan. Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and two of the chilis and boil for about 15 minutes to create the basic broth. Taste it and, if necessary, add more sliced chilis. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and leave to simmer for a further 15 minutes. This will allow the flavors to mesh together. Taste the broth again. Add about one mug-full of water, if the flavors are too strong.
  2. Add the prawns to the soup, and add three chopped spring onions, the fish sauce, the beansprouts and the herbs. Reserve a little of each herb for garnishing. Put the lid back on the pan, and leave it whilst you carry out step 3.
  3. In a pan of boiling water, add the rice noodles and cook for 4 minutes. Drain. Then, remove the lemongrass, ginger and garlic from the soup.
    Divide the cooked noodles between two deep bowls. Pour the soup over the noodles. Garnish with a little of the cilantro and mint leaves, a few slices of red chili and spring onion. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Recipe: Jamaican Callaloo

IMG_3695This was SO DELICIOUS. It’s probably the yummiest Jamaican dish I’ve tried out this week. My guess is that it’s only a matter of time before the NY Times starts writing yuppie lifestyle pieces about callaloo.

This Jamaican callaloo recipe kind of tastes like a Jamaican version of collard greens. The callaloo is slightly bitter but not overwhelming, the scotch bonnet chili gives the dish a little kick, and the creamy coconut milk and cooked tomatoes round everything out.

I used canned callaloo to keep things simple. Apparently, in Jamaica callaloo can be cooked with salted cod or crab meat as well. I decided to stick with a basic recipe.

Jon’s Review: “While I normally have moral objections to vegetables, I’ll make an exception for this.”

IMG_3700

The Jamaican callaloo served with other Jamaican leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can callaloo
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/3 scotch bonnet pepper (or a milder pepper, if preferred!)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/3 can coconut milk
  • salt and pepper
  • oil or butter

Saute onion, garlic, scotch bonnet and thyme with butter. After a few minutes, add the chopped tomato, and cook for approximately 3 minutes. Next, add the drained canned callaloo and saute until cooked through. Finish by adding about a third of a can of coconut milk (just eyeball this- enough to soak into the greens, but not too much to overwhelm the dish). Mix the coconut milk in well. Season and serve.

Recipe: Jamaican Peas and Rice

IMG_3689

I actually made Jamaican peas and rice once before. I cooked a big vegetarian feast for my 23rd birthday awhile back, and served this as a side dish. Peas and rice is a perfect complement to the other Jamaican recipes I’ve been trialing this week – I ate it with ackee and saltfish, and the flavors went well together.

IMG_3690

Rice and peas with saltfish and ackee.

Jon’s Review: “Yeah, this was tasty.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (approximate)
  • chopped yellow onion
  • 4 diced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 whole scotch bonnet chili (it will be used whole)
  • pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a pot and add onions. Saute for about 5 minutes. Then, add the garlic and uncooked rice and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the  salt, water, stock and coconut milk and stir. add the kidney beans and sprinkle with thyme. Also add the whole scotch bonnet. Simmer, then turn the heat to low and cover. The rice should be done after 15-20 minutes. When done, remove from heat and cover for 10 minutes. Then fluff with a fork. Discard the scotch bonnet before eating (or you can eat it if you’re a total masochist).

The recipe I used is based on this recipe.

Recipe: Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish

IMG_3684I remember reading about “ackee and saltfish” in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth – the character Clara was always cooking it. But until I moved to Brixton (a London neighborhood with a huge Afro-Caribbean influence) I had no idea what this dish actually was, and I certainly hadn’t tasted it.

After some googling, I found out that saltfish and ackee is actually the national dish of Jamaica, and it’s usually eaten for breakfast. Also, ackee is an exciting ingredient – apparently raw ackee is banned from the United States because parts of the plants are poisonous (the importation of canned ackee into the US is carefully regulated).

So, to kick off Jamaican cooking week we had ackee and saltfish for dinner tonight. It was great. The ackee isn’t particularly flavorful, but blends really well with the other ingredients.

Here’s Jon’s review: “This is delicious. It tastes like we’re having scrambled eggs for dinner, and I love scrambled eggs.”

Recipe:

Important Note – Unlike most of the recipes I blog about, this one is a bit time intensive. You have to soak the saltfish in cool water for 8 hours, or overnight before cooking. Some recipes skip this step, but it definitely eliminated a lot of the salt, and made the fish taste great.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of saltfish (the one I bought was 300 g, and the saltfish was skinned and de-boned. I used pollack, but cod saltfish would also work)
  • 1 can of ackee, drained
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
  • butter (for cooking)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • about 1 tsbp of fresh thyme.

Advance preparation: Rinse salt off the saltfish and put the fish in a tupperware container. Cover with cold water and let soak either overnight or for 8 hours. Change the water several times during the period to remove excess salt.

Drain the fish. Then, gently simmer in a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes. While the fish is cooking, chop the onion, green pepper, hot chili pepper and tomato. Put aside. Then after two minutes, remove the fish from the heat, drain the pan, and let cool. Afterward, remove the skin and bones of the fish (if there are any) and flake the fish.

Finally, onto the main cooking bit – Stir fry the onion, green pepper, the scotch bonnet  and thyme in a big saucepan or wok for a few minutes, until the green pepper looks nearly cooked. Then, add tomato and flaked fish and cook for about 10 more minutes. Next, add the drained ackee and continue to cook until the ackee is hot. Stir gently, as the ackee can be a bit delicate. Serve with plantains, rice, or potatoes.

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