I could sit down with a good cookbook like a good novel. A nice night in, to me, is poring over a new cookbook, imagining each step of each recipe, and picturing the delicious finished product. It’s basically the equivalent of fantasy fiction for cooks.
With a fairly large collection of cookbooks (plus compulsively checking them out from the library, as I do) there are always those recipes I bookmark during my perusing and think, I’ll make that eventually. But time goes by, I find new and exciting ideas on Pinterest, and sometimes things I think I’ll make fall by the wayside.
These Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes are one such recipe.
For years I’ve been a fan of Real Simple’s line of cookbooks, and this recipe called out to me from Meals Made Easy as long ago as–dare I admit it–2009. I thought it looked healthy, easy, and bit unique. I mean, how often do you put fish in a tomato? Sounds kinda weird…but not in a bad way. Plus, I find the idea of food as its own serving container ADORABLE and kind of a genius way to minimize on doing dishes.
The thing is, though, heirloom tomatoes are only in season so often. And even when they are, I usually pass them by in the grocery store, thinking they’re just a little too fabulous for me. They’re the fine china of vegetables: Fancy and gorgeous, but really? For everyday?
You know what, though? Yes! Why NOT splurge on something as healthy (not to mention gorgeous) as heirloom tomatoes? I picked up these multi-colored models yesterday determined to finally put fish in a dang tomato!
The results were worth the wait. (Of ten years, haha.) I really enjoyed not only the process of stuffing these heirlooms for unique presentation, but also the fun of eating them. The tuna mixture is flavored with a Mediterranean profile of lemon juice, olive oil, capers, parsley, and pepper, but could be played with any way you like. Plus, if you have dietary restrictions like gluten-free or dairy-free, these fit the bill.
Give them a try for a tasty, healthy, seasonal summer lunch!
Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes
- 3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
- 2 6-oz. cans tuna, drained, preferably albacore packed in olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. capers
- 1/3 c. fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- drizzle olive oil, if you used tuna packed in water
- Using a paring knife, slice a circle in the top of each tomato. Scoop the flesh out of tomatoes, leaving about a 1/4 inch-thick tomato "shell." Drain any excess water out of the flesh you've scooped and dice it into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces.
- Place diced tomato in a mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
- Scoop the mixture into your tomato shells and serve.
Smoked salmon is one of those foods that polarizes people. You either love it or hate it. I happen to fall into the former category. I love smoked salmon for its high omega 3 content, its smoky flavor, its chewy coolness, and the way it slices so clean with a sharp knife.
My husband, on the other hand, falls into the “hate-with-the-heat-of-a-thousand-burning-suns,” “vomit-vomit-vomit” smoked salmon camp.
It’s ok. I get it. It’s an acquired taste–and even more so, and acquired texture. (Is that a thing, “acquired texture”? That’s going to be my new phrase for velour jumpsuits and those reversible sequin unicorn pillows my 7-year-old adores.) Anyway, it’s all right if the cold-and-clammy texture of raw fish doesn’t appeal to you. But I think there’s still hope for you to like smoked salmon in the form of this delicious Creamy Smoked Salmon Dip.
Although the signature taste of smoked salmon comes through in this appetizer, its usual fishy texture is nowhere to be found, pulverized into oblivion by your friendly food processor. What’s left, when blended with cream cheese, lemon juice, horseradish, fresh dill, chives, and a few other simple ingredients, is a creamy, herby dip that’s perfection on butter crackers, crudités, or as a spread on toast.
Since my husband and kids aren’t fans of smoked salmon in any form, I’ve been powering through an entire batch of this by myself this past week, and I am not mad about it. Now that we’re a couple of days into Lent, which means no meat on Fridays for me, I plan to make it again as a staple for a light lunch. But it would serve just as well in a brunch, a classy baby shower buffet, or as a pre-dinner appetizer.
So how about you? Where do you stand in the Smoked Salmon Debate? And do you think this tasty dip could change your mind? Let me know in the comments!
Creamy Smoked Salmon Dip
- 4 oz. smoked salmon
- 8 oz. light cream cheese, softened
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. fresh dill
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chives
- 2 tsp. cream-style horseradish
- 1/4 c. mayonnaise
- 1/4 c. 2% plain Greek yogurt
- Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until well blended and consistency reaches your liking. Serve with crackers, fresh vegetables, or on toast or bagels. Store covered in the refrigerator.
I’ll be honest. This is a rather polarizing salad. At least in my house it is. I contend that the flavors of tart grapefruit, mild mahimahi, creamy avocado, and a lime-honey vinaigrette all mixed up together make for an explosion of deliciously contrasting flavors and textures. The rest of my family, on the other hand, is not so keen.
Grapefruit isn’t just an acquired taste. Apparently our taste perception of it and several other bitter foods depends on our genetics. (So I can give my husband and kids a pass.) But if you’re one of those fortunate people who can enjoy grapefruit, now is the time to do so–at least in Arizona, where we live.
This grapefruity recipe comes from Real Simple, a magazine that generally lives up to its name. But to take a simple recipe and make it even easier for weeknight dinnertime, I swapped out grilled fresh mahimahi for Trader Joe’s frozen mahimahi burgers. They may not be quite as pretty as grilled fillets, but these burgers, diced, turned assembly of this salad into a total breeze. Plus, they’re a WHOLE lot less expensive than what my regular grocery store charges for mahimahi.
I enjoyed this flavor combo so much on Thursday evening that I recreated it for my Lenten Fish Friday. If you observe Lent or just need a light, refreshing, easy lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with this healthy salad…
…unless you’re genetically predisposed to hate grapefruit.
Spinach Salad with Mahimahi, Grapefruit, and Avocado
For the salad:
- 1 package 4 frozen mahimahi burgers, such as Trader Joe's
- 8 c. fresh spinach
- 1 grapefruit, sliced into 1/2-inch segments
- 1 avocado, diced
For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp. honey
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Prepare mahimahi burgers according to instructions on box. Meanwhile, spread spinach on a large platter. Top with grapefruit segments and diced avocado. When mahimahi burgers are done cooking, slice them into pieces and spread over salad.
- Make the dressing: in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. Toss salad with dressing or serve on the side.
Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s really trendy to eat things in bowls right now? Poke bowls, burrito bowls, Buddha bowls (what even IS a Buddha bowl?) Taco Bell has “Power Menu Bowl,” while KFC offers a mashed potato-chicken bowl, which has the dubious honor of making Time Magazine’s 10 Worst Fast Food Meals). Burrrrn.
The take-home message of the Bowl Movement (don’t think too hard about that phrase) seems to be that you can throw a wide variety of foods together in a bowl and watch them play nice as a one-dish meal. I don’t really care about being trendy, but I can definitely get behind the idea of protein, starch, fruits, and/or veggies all mixed up in one tasty package. Kinda like some other recipes I like.
This bowl I’m featuring today combines jerk-seasoned salmon, black beans, rice, and a zesty mango salsa for a refreshing, healthy catch-all dinner or lunch. The pan-frying method of cooking the salmon in this recipe gives it a restaurant-quality, almost-but-not-quite crispy on the outside texture that complements the cool sweetness and tender texture of the avocado-mango salsa. Sturdy staples of black beans and rice round out the equation. When serving, separate it into sections (as pictured), or stir it all together. There’s no wrong way to eat a bowl.
Especially if you’re observing Lent, this is a great one for meat-free days, or any time you’re looking for a light meal packed with nutrition.
Jerk Salmon Bowl with Mango Salsa
- 1 avocado, diced
- 2 c. mango, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 lime
- salt, to taste
- 1 lb. wild-caught salmon, skin removed
- 1/2 tsp. curry powder
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 1/2. c. cooked white rice
Make the salsa:
- In a medium bowl, stir together avocado, mango, red onion, and cilantro. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime onto mixture and stir again. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
Cook the salmon:
- In a small bowl, combine spices (curry powder through cumin). Rub over both sides of salmon. Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet. Add salmon and cook 3-5 minutes per side. Break salmon into chunks and continue to cook until no longer translucent. Remove from heat.
Assemble the bowls:
- Divide rice, beans, salmon, and salsa between four bowls. Serve immediately.
If you follow A Love Letter to Food on Facebook, you may have seen this picture before. (And if you haven’t liked my Facebook page yet, I’d be most honored if you would!) A few days ago was my birthday, and as an avid–or obsessive, depending on how you look at it–home cook, I typically would rather make something truly spectacular at home for my birthday dinner than go out. This Stetson Chopped Salad was THE ONE dinner I knew would be birthday-worthy this year.
What is a Stetson Chopped Salad? (And who in their right mind chooses a salad for their birthday dinner?) Well, in the Phoenix area, the Stetson is a local food celebrity. It’s pretty impressive for any salad to attain celebrity status, but somehow, sometimes, it happens. After all, you’ve heard of Cobb, Waldorf, and Wedge. These famous salads are like the old Hollywood starlets of healthy American cuisine. Classic, standard, glam. The Stetson Chopped Salad, on the other hand, is like the up-and-coming Western girl hitting the big time. Its humble origin lies with Cowboy Ciao, a restaurant located, appropriately, on Stetson Drive in Scottsdale.
A few years ago, some friends had us over for dinner and served a homemade version of the Stetson. It was an edible work of art, with a taste no less extraordinary than the presentation. But we definitely found ourselves in “why-do-these-flavors-go-together-this-makes-no-sense” territory. Who the heck thought of putting sweet (dried currants) with savory (corn and tomatoes) with smoked salmon and a creamy basil dressing?
IT MAKES NO LOGICAL SENSE.
But trust me, there’s a reason this salad is famous. You just have to go with it. And when you do, you’re gonna be like…
Even when my husband and I eventually ate at Cowboy Ciao and of course ordered the “real” restaurant version, it didn’t quite compare to the one our friend had made. (She is a trained chef, so that probably helped.) With this memory in mind, I made my own birthday version, and it was indeed an awesome mix of flavors, textures, and visual appeal. Definitely a salad worth choosing for a special occasion.
Oh, and the other reason I chose salad for my birthday? Cause I knew this was coming afterward!
Raspberry Almond Layer Cake for dessert definitely rounded out the birthday meal experience. 🙂
Stetson Chopped Salad
For the salad:
- 6 c. arugula
- 1 c. cooked Israeli couscous
- 2-3 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
- 1 c. toasted salted pepitas
- 1 c. dried sweet corn (regular corn would also work in a pinch)
- 1 c. dried cranberries
- 1 c. tomatoes, chopped
For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp. basil pesto
- 1/4 c. mayonnaise
- 1/4 c. buttermilk (or 2 Tbsp. sour cream + 2 Tbsp. milk)
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 shallot, chopped
Assemble the salad:
- Spread arugula leaves evenly on a large, flat platter. Cover with layered rows of couscous, salmon, pepitas, sweet corn, cranberries, and tomatoes.
Make the dressing:
- Combine all dressing ingredients in a measuring cup and mix with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Mix salad tableside, if desired, and serve with dressing on the side.