Salad Days (some assembly required)

boiled eggs, olive, fingerling potatoes, green beans, shallots, tuna and tomatoes make up this salad

Its another hot one here in Southern California, which puts me in the mood for some lighter food and given the richness of last weeks duck tacos a few salad days might do me some good. Keeping with the Mediterranean theme that was discussed a few posts back, Salad Niçois with Seared Tuna seemed like a good way to make use of some of the freshly ripened tomatoes from our garden and produce that we’ve received this past week from Imperfect Produce. My local Sprouts has a decent selection of frozen sustainably caught fish and we try to keep some tuna and salmon in the freezer for leaner, lighter protein options.

Salad Niçois is a composed salad with greens, olives (usually Niçois), scallions, tomatoes and boiled eggs with either anchovies or tuna and dressed with olive oil. Sometime back in the 30s recipes started to appear for Salad Niçois with boiled potatoes and green beans. Which I’ve added to my version as well.  Putting the salad together involved a little bit of chopping, making the vinaigrette and searing the tuna. I used some leftover fried fingerling potatoes and then boiled eggs for about 6 minutes. During the last few minutes of the eggs boiling, I tossed in some chopped green beans along with a teaspoon of salt to blanch. Then I drained the eggs and green beans and put them into ice cold water to stop the cooking. After a few minutes, I drained the water and added more cold water.

Salad Niçois with Seared Tuna 

(serves 2)

6 cups cleaned and chopped greens ( we had hearts of romaine so that’s what I used)

2 scallions chopped

1 cup sliced and cooked fingerling potatoes

⅓ cup olives

2 tomatoes cut into quarters

2 boiled eggs

½ cup cooked chopped green beans

2 4-6 oz tuna steaks

salt and pepper

1 garlic clove

1 tsp dried oregano

1 TBS olive oil

lemon juice

4 TBS Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

To start, put the garlic clove, salt and pepper, oregano and lemon juice into a mortar and pestle and crush together until a paste forms.  Put into a  zip top freezer bag and then add the olive oil. Place the tuna steaks into the bag and rub with the marinade until all sides of the tuna are coved and set aside.  Lightly dress the tomatoes, green beans and potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and let sit while you sear off the tuna. Using a dry non stick skillet on medium high (or on the grill if you have a wire grilling basket), sear the tuna. Don’t try to move the tuna around, when its sufficiently seared it should easily come off the pan to flip on a gas flame this is usually after about 2 minutes. Sear the other. side for about a minute if you prefer your tuna medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest on a cutting board. Assemble the salad either on individual plates or in a large bowl and dress the greens with the remaining dressing. Slice the tuna and add to the salad and serve.

 

Vinaigrette 

1 part cider vinegar

2 parts extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

½ tsp anchovy paste or 1 anchovy filet

1 crushed garlic clove

1 tsp mayonaise

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp peppercorns

½ tsp dried oregano

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, oregano and salt together until a past forms. Then move to a small bowl and whisk with all the other ingredients until everything is well combined.

 

Not Your Average Taco Tuesday

Duck Carnitas topped with chopped cabbage and celery slaw and a sweet citrus mango and chipotle salsa

I’m a lifelong carnivore and one of my favorite meats is duck, I just love its fatty richness. But its not something I get to enjoy too often since not too many places have duck on their menu. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised when we found a place in Newport Beach that makes “canarditas” tacos using duck confit recently. We really enjoyed them and thought it would be interesting to try to recreate these at home. Fortunately, duck legs are pretty easy to come by and not too terribly expensive at one of the Vietnamese markets near us. Otherwise this would be relegated to special occasions only eating due to the time involved and expense.

Confit is an old school method for cooking and preserving meats that predates modern refrigeration.  The old method for doing this was to put various duck parts into a ceramic crock and cover it with fat then cook it slowly in the over, when cooled the fat would form a seal around the duck. Then one could melt and filter the fat and use it over and over again. The newer way is to seal the duck and its fat with a vacuum sealer and then cook low in slow in a water bath.

Fair warning, the preparation for this takes several days. The first step is to season and salt the duck and let it air dry in the fridge. I made a paste of 2 cloves of garlic, 2 TBS of salt and and about 20 peppercorns, that crushed up in a mortar and pestle, I turned the paste out into a bowl then added another 2 TBS of coarse salt. I scored the skin side of the duck legs laid them out on a walled baking sheet and rubbed the duck legs with the salt mixture. I placed the tray of salted duck legs uncovered in the fridge and let air dry overnight.

duck legs scored then seasoned with salt pepper and garlic

The next day, I used a clean pastry brush to remove all the salt that I could. You can also rinse the duck off in cool water then thoroughly dry the duck with paper towels. The duck we had did error to the salty side so I would suggest the rinse method over the brush method. I then sealed the duck in vacuum bags along with extra duck fat, fresh oregano, garlic and lemon zest (there’s also some seasoned with lime, lemongrass garlic and ginger for another recipe.)

 

duck sealed in vacuum bags with duck fat, herbs and spices

Then I cooked the duck in a water bath at 170F for 12 hours.

duck cooking in a 170F water bath.

Once the duck was cooked, I placed the bags into an ice bath to quickly drop the temperature down and the placed in the fridge.

 

To make the “canarditas,” I removed the skin pulled and shredded the leg meat. I cooked it in a skillet on medium with a teaspoon or so of the left over fat to crisp up some of the meat.

The meat from the duck legs getting crispy in the skillet.

I made tacos with hand-made corn tortillas (see video below), cabbage and celery slaw and a citrus, mango chipotle salsa.

Citrus Mango Chipotle Salsa

The juice of the 3 oranges and 1 grapefruit

1 crushed clove of garlic

1 TBS adobo from a can of chipotles in adobe

1 TBS of duck demi glace (the gelatinized liquid left over from the sous vide process)

½ tsp ground cumin

2 TBS marmalade

1 mango peeled, seeded

I heated the orange and grapefruit juice, mango and duck demi glace  over medium low heat. I added a crushed garlic clove, one tablespoon of adobe from a can of chipotles, and 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade I heated until the marmalade was melted and the sauce reduced by half, removed from heat then let cool. Then I blended until smooth.

 

Ahi Poke (pronounced poh-keh)

Authentically traditional, Ahi Poke with ogo, alaea salt, kukui nut, onions, scallions and sesame oil.

So a few weeks back there were several reports about a midwest company that does business under the name Aloha Poke, trying to enforce their trademark of the phrase Aloha Poke. There was a bit of an inter-web brouhaha because this same midwest company, sent cease and desist notices to Native Hawaiians that use variations of the phrase aloha and poke for their food related business. You can read more about this story here. There are a couple of Change.org petition which you can check out here and here.

I did my ranting and raving about the gall of that company and their profiting off of the cultural appropriation of Hawaiian Culture a few days ago, So I won’t rehash that here. Though the issue has made me realize that many of you may not know what authentic poke (pronounced po-keh) is or how to make it. ‘Cause the stuff they sell at places like Aloha Poke is not authentic.

At its core, poke was a way to preserve the day’s catch before refrigeration was available and it put to use things that were in abundance like salt, seaweed and kukui (also called candlenuts) nut oil and meat. Ogo which is a dark reddish brown thread-like seaweed as well as alaea salt are used. Alaea salt is sea salt that’s been mixed with red volcanic clay. Chopped kukui nuts are roasted and then salted to make inamona. Alaea salt is then added to the inamona and is the seasoning for the poke. Since kukui nuts are hard to find here on the mainland, my local Tokyo Central sells both Noh Brand and Ohana Flavors brand poke seasoning*, which is basically ground up kukui nuts and Alaea salt (and sometimes furikake and red chili flakes). They also sell dried ogo. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1 lb sashimi grade fish or tofu cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 TBS Poke Seasoning* (see above)

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 thinly sliced sweet onion

2 TBS sesame oil

2 TBS chopped and rehydrated ogo

Combine the fish, scallions, onions, ago and oil in a bowl and slowly add the poke seasoning. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors marry.

You can eat poke over cooked rice (sticky white rice ideally), with crackers or if you really want to get authentic, with poi. There are other varieties of poke out there, but this particular one predates the arrival of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans workers who brought soy sauce, salmon and rice to Hawaii.

Shoyu Poke

1 lb fish or tofu

¼ cup chopped scallions

¼ cup thinly sliced sweet onions

2 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS shoyu

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds or sprinkle of furikake rice seasoning

pinch of alaea salt

1 tsp brown sugar or honey

1 tsp garlic chili paste (optional)

In a bowl, mix the shoyu, sesame oil, salt and sugar/honey until both the salt and sugar/honey are dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Shoyu Poke with tako cucumber and avocado and wonton chips

 

Peach Fritters

Fried and glazed with buttermilk peach glaze just waiting to be eaten.

The inspiration for this week’s post was a sort of necessity is the mother of invention kind of thing. I had been toying with making donuts for several weeks originally planning on making malasadas, which are a type of donut popular throughout Hawaii. So I’ll save that idea for another time and make buttermilk peach fritters. Why peach? Well as has been the theme of late, I have a whole lot of peaches and apricots that need to be used up. I’ve had my fill of fruit salads and cobblers for a while, since that’s how we’ve been using up the fruit so far this summer.

Now my goal was to make the style of fritters you get from donut shops versus drop style. So first things first. I’ll need to make a yeast based donut dough.

Yeast Donuts Recipe

Ingredients

2 packets instant yeast

4 cups All Purpose Flour

1 ½ cups whole milk

⅓ cup shortening

⅓ cup warm water

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

¼ cup buttermilk powder

Instructions

Bloom yeast in bowl of warm water.

yeast getting frothy.

While yeast is blooming, melt the shortening in the milk over low heat then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix salt flour and buttermilk powder.  The yeast should be frothy by now. So put the yeast water mixture in the bowl for a stand mixer and slowly add the milk shortening mixture and beaten eggs.

adding milk, egg, shortening and vanilla to mixer.

Slowly add flour.

gradually adding flour and mix with paddle attachment.

Once all the flour is added, Switch to dough hook and mix on medium until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, this should take about 5 minutes while mixing on medium.

See the video below to get an idea of the texture you’re looking for.

Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean towel or cling wrap and let rise till doubled in volume.

Peach Fritters

Now for the fun part, the actual making of the fritters. I rolled the dough out to about ½” thickness and cut out 8 donuts using a 3″ round biscuit cutter (we’ll get back to those another post). I gathered the scraps and kneaded them into ball, periodically dusting with bench flour if the dough started to stick. I rolled the dough out ½ thick and then spread approximately 1 cup of chopped up peaches (reserving some of them to use for the glaze) . I then dusted the peaches with pumpkin pie spice and some of the bench flour. Then I rolled it all into a log and used a bench scrapper to slice the log into ½ thick slices and then cut again diagonally. You should have a bunch of dough and peach pieces that are about the size of the peach chunks you started with. Now form into tennis ball to baseball sized balls and flatten those into disks and dust with bench flour. Place on a floured baking sheet  and cover with a tea towel and let proof in a warm area until the dough doubles in size.

Here’s a video to walk you through the process:

Once they’ve doubled in size like this:

fritters doubled in size and ready for the fryer

Fry at 375F until golden brown

Let them drain and cool on a wire rack for about 15-30 minutes before glazing.

Buttermilk Peach Glaze

½ cup of chopped peaches that were reserved from earlier

1 cup water

2 cups of confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 TBS buttermilk powder

⅛ tsp of ground ginger

¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp salt

In a small sauce pan over low heat, heat the peaches and water until the peaches soften. Remove from heat and mash the peaches with a fork. Let mixture cool. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer, but reserve about a tablespoon of the mashed fruit. In a Medium sized bowl, mix the confectioners sugar, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, salt and buttermilk powder with a whisk. Slowly add the peach syrup and mix until the mixture is the consistency of honey. Add the vanilla.  Using a couple of forks, dip the fritters into the glaze then turn over to coat the other side. Let excess glaze drain off then move to a wire rack. Let the glaze set up before handling the fritters (about 5 minutes).  Enjoy