Monday, August 22 –
First of all, let me just say that Anguilla is so small that it doesn’t even show up on the map, however, their recipes are AH-mazing. This dinner was a race to the finish to make sure that it all came to the table (and warm) at the same time. I only had two recipes, so it should have been a piece of cake, right? Not hardly. My Wonderful Boyfriend and Roommate Extraordinaire were told to go to the dining room table and stay absolutely out of the way or food might have gone flying.
I started with marinating the tuna in the wasabi and olive oil mixture, then covered it and put it back in the fridge. Then I got the oven going for the pita bread and set a timer for it. Next I started on the dough for the johnny cakes and covered it with a kitchen cloth and let it rest on the counter. I moved on to the tomatoes, heating them in the boiling water. I managed to chose really, really big tomatoes so it took about 20 minutes instead of just 10. They started to split apart and the skin started to slide off, but I figured it would taste good anyway. Once the tomatoes were on the counter cooling I got the veggies in the wok with the peanut oil, cooking them until just wilted and not mushy. The veggies went into the tomatoes and got set aside. The johnny cakes were next and I got them rolled out and into patties, placing them into the frying oil in batches. When I was about half way through with the cakes but the rest were ready to go I got the fish out and the oil hot in another pan. I put the fish in and used a timer for 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the other side, making them nice and seared on each end but still beautiful and pink in the middle. I set the johnny cakes on a paper towel to drain as I took them out and the fish onto a cutting board to rest for a minute. As the last of the cakes were cooking I got the arugula out and coated with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. I got the pita on the plates, the arugula on next, then the fish sliced and placed onto the top. The tomatoes were at room temperature by now but I was sure it would work with the flavors of it. The johnny cakes went into the middle of the table for everyone to share.
The parts that I have to admit, simply because they are the hilarious part of cooking with an audience, are that I apparently have a “happy cooking dance” that I do when I’m racing with timers and trying to get everything together and perfect. The guys tried to get a video of it, but I caught on quickly and managed to not have a ridiculous debut for YouTube. If you want to see the dance you have to come enjoy the cooking and the show at the same time. And I also apparently shouldn’t wear black to cook in, at least not when I’m making something with flour. I ended up wearing some and after some sass, so did my Wonderful Boyfriend. *insert wicked laugh here*
The plate of food without the johnny cakes could have been a complete meal all on its own. I didn’t realize it when I picked them that it would be so filling. It was very, very filling. The tuna had zing but wasn’t really spicy. It was also tender, flaky, and delicious. The arugula and the pita made a nice bed to pick the tuna up with and complimented the flavors really well. The veggies were really good, and you could taste the sesame oil really clearly. It was like a stir-fry in a tomato. I wish I had picked tomatoes that were just a little smaller, but for the amount of sauteed veggies they were perfect. The johnny cakes were like little biscuits of fluffy goodness. I think they would be really good as a breakfast food with some eggs and bacon on the side. I think I’ll keep the left overs and do exactly that. I would definitely recommend any of these recipes for people to try, they made all three of us groan in sated happiness.
Things I have learned: Sometimes having help is a wonderful thing, and I don’t ask for it nearly often enough. Sometimes it’s just better to kick everyone out of the kitchen and let them watch the show from a distance. Also, getting kicked out at the end of the meal so that someone else can do the dishes is a wonderful thing to experience and if it happens to you, remember to say “thank you” more than once (and maybe it’ll happen more than once!). Having recipes like this that require specific timing can be a fun challenge as long as you read the recipes thoroughly before you start cooking. I tend to start the recipe and then get to the end saying, “Oh, that’s what it’s supposed to look like!” Probably not the smartest way of tackling this sort of time-crunch. Must read the recipes the day before so that I know if I have to thaw something, marinade something, and also to know what it’s supposed to look like at the end!
Thoughts about wine: The wines that our Roommate Extraordinaire brought were a perfect pairing for the meal. They were both French, and were crisp and tart in a green apple sort of way. They added a brightness to the dinner that helped cut through the lingering oil on the different dishes. I only got a photo of the first bottle, but the second bottle was a riesling and was a really good flavor as well. These dishes would have been overwhelmed with anything that had a stronger or darker flavor, so definitely choose something like the ones we had if you choose to cook any of these recipes.
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.epicurious.com and http://news.ai)
Spicy Tuna “Tarts” with Stuffed Tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 (8-ounce, 1-inch-thick) tuna steaks
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pita breads, preferably whole-wheat
- 2 tablespoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely julienned
- 2 bunches baby bok choy, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces and julienned
- 2 large carrots, peeled, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces, and julienned
- 2 stalks celery, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces and julienned
- 4 cups (loosely packed) baby arugula (about 4 ounces)
Preparation: In small bowl, whisk together wasabi paste and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Rub wasabi marinade into tuna steaks, then cover with plastic (or place in resealable plastic bag) and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut thin slice from stem end of each tomato and set tops aside. Bring large saucepan water to boil. Add tomato bottoms and boil, uncovered, until warm and starting to soften, about 1 minute. Drain. Using small spoon, scoop out and discard seeds and pulp from tomatoes. Sprinkle tomato cavities with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Slice each pita bread crosswise into 2 round halves and transfer to baking sheet. Bake until crisp and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
In large skillet or wok over moderate heat, heat sesame oil until hot but not smoking. Add ginger, bok choy, carrots, and celery, and sauté, stirring frequently, until vegetables just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stuff hollowed tomatoes with sautéed vegetables and top with reserved tops.
In large skillet over moderate heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until hot but not smoking. Sprinkle tuna steaks on both sides with ½ teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and sear until crusty and slightly browned but still pink in center, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board and slice, against grain, into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
In large bowl, toss arugula with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Divide pita halves among 4 plates and top with arugula. Fan tuna slices atop arugula and place stuffed tomato alongside each “tart.” Serve immediately.
- 3 Cups Flour
- ¼ Cup Cornmeal
- 2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Margarine
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 1-1/2 Cups Water
- 1/3 Cup Frying Oil for Cooking
Sift together flour, cornmeal and baking powder. Mix together with salt, sugar and margarine. Make a well in the flour mixture and add vegetable oil. Add water slowly. Mix carefully until mixture is not sticky. Knead into a ball until smooth. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Roll dough into a long strip and cut into small pieces. Knead each piece into a small ball. On a floured surface, flatten each ball with a rolling pin or your finger tips and palms. Add about 1/3 frying oil into a frying pan or enough oil to cover bottom of pan. When oil is hot, add flattened cakes. Fry on one side for 2-3 minutes, turn and continue with other side until both sides are golden brown.