Pasta with tuna, parsley, olives and lemon

 

tunapasta6I had my last day of teaching this past Thursday, the end of my first year in a new job. I feel euphoric(!) – so pleased to be done with teaching and administrative duties for the time being, and to finally be able to work on my own stuff (Academics are a weird breed; we are grateful to have more time to work).

Anyway, these last few weeks have left me feeling spent, and I’ve been reaching for dishes that don’t require a trip to the grocery store, yet that don’t scream “PANTRY.” It is very, very likely that you will have most of these ingredients sitting around (I know I do). I love this recipe because it is all about combining staples–like olives, tuna, and pasta–with a generous dose of herbs, acid, and freshness, making this light and delicious. And you probably don’t need to leave the house!

A few tips, though: buy absolutely the best tuna that you can (sustainably caught, in olive oil, preferably from a jar rather than a can. I couldn’t find tuna in a jar, so I bought an expensive can of sustainably caught albacore tuna in olive oil.) Also, you are welcome to make your own breadcrumbs (they take exactly 8 minutes), but since I was feeling exceptionally lazy, I just used Panko breadcrumbs that I had lying around, and they worked beautifully. Third, I am a big fan of whole wheat pasta, but with this recipe, I think you really have to go the white pasta route. There are just too few ingredients here to disguise a chewy whole wheat pasta (but feel free to try if you are committed to it!)

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Serves: 2

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Approx. 200 gms. spaghetti per person 

20~ olives (I used a combination of green and black, but use whatever you have)

1 can/jar tuna fish

2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped

3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs, lightly browned (you can also make fresh breadcrumbs by putting two slices of bread in a food processor, adding a dash of olive oil and pulsing. Then toss into the oven on 350 F for 6-8 minutes)

The zest of 1 lemon + its juice

1 tbsp. olive oil (preferably extra virgin)

1 cup pasta water (reserve before draining the pasta)

Generous grind of pepper

  1. Put the water for pasta to boil. Once it’s boiling, salt generously, and add in your pasta. Keep track of the cooking time (it will vary according to the package). In another small saucepan, add your breadcrumbs and brown lightly. Or make your own breadcrumbs (see above).
  2. In a separate bowl, assemble the rest of the ingredients: chop the parsley none too fastidiously, add the lemon zest and lemon juice, and olives. Mix together.
  3. Drain the pasta, but make sure you save 1 cup of pasta water (you don’t have to use it all). Add the parsley, lemon juice, olives, pepper, and olive oil. Add a little pasta water as well and mix everything together.

tunapasta54. Gently flake the tuna into the pasta (do this after mixing all the other ingredients so that you don’t break it up too much).

5. Sprinkle your breadcrumbs on top.

 

6. Serve!tunapasta7

Fish Tacos with Guacamole + Pico de Gallo

I used to make these fish tacos all the time, but they disappeared from my repertoire for a while, as dishes sometimes do. Like all good recipes, though, it came back with a vengeance. Since I made these tacos this past weekend, I have been craving the flavors, which means I will have to make them again soon (I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find myself bingeing on certain recipes for a while… this might explain their periodic disappearance). The best thing about this recipe: you don’t have to marinate the fish for hours because the sauce has so much flavor. However, if you do have the foresight to marinate the fish for a few hours or even overnight, you will reap added deliciousness. But in my case, as usual, this was about getting (hopefully yummy) food on the plate, quickly.

This is a wonderful dish for dinner for one or two, but also great for a party because your table looks like it’s overloaded with goodies. I like to top the fish with some guacamole and pico de gallo, also known as salsa fresca, made with chopped onion, tomato, coriander leaves, jalapeño or Serrano peppers, salt, and lime juice (mine has a slight variation in that I use apple cider vinegar, instead of lime juice).

Now, I’m well aware that there are thousands of different ways to make guacamole. Frankly, I like them all. The more avocados, the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. My version is straightforward, but I think it highlights the right notes. The pico de gallo adds a nice acidic point to the tacos and a dash of freshness that I think is necessary against the baked fish.

Garlic and lemon zest....is there anything better?
Garlic and lemon zest….is there anything better?
Smoked chipotle peppers, cumin powder, Mexican chili powder, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest makes this a chocolatey color
Smoked chipotle peppers, cumin powder, Mexican chili powder, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest makes this a chocolatey color

guacamolepicodegallo

Voila!
Voila!

Serves: 2

Prep and cook time: 40 minutes

For the fish:

2 fillets white fish, such as tilapia, preferably sustainably farmed (you can also substitute other white, lean, and mild fish such as black sea bass, catfish, flounder or trout)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

¼ cup olive oil

1 smoked chipotle peppers in sauce, roughly chopped (optional)

Salt and pepper

4-6 flour or corn tortillas

For the guacamole:

1 ripe avocado

1 clove garlic, minced

½ roma tomato, chopped, cored and seeds removed

¼ red onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped

Squeeze of lime

Salt and pepper, to taste

Handful of coriander leaves (for garnish)

For the pico de gallo:

1 roma tomato, chopped, de-seeded with core removed

½ jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped

¼ red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Handful coriander leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Pat the fish dry using paper towels and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of each fillet. Lightly score each side of the fish with your knife diagonally across. Lay in a baking tray or heat proof dish.
  2. Mix the garlic, chili powder, cumin powder, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and (if using) chipotle peppers together (The chipotle peppers are very hot, so I usually just add one, roughly chopped, with a little bit of the sauce for a nice smoky flavor).
  3. Pour the mixture over the fish and let marinate. If you are in a hurry, you can just let the fish sit in the marinade for 15 minutes, but if in advance, cover and refrigerate the fish for up to 4 hours.
  4. Put the fish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, make the guacamole: mix all the ingredients for the guacamole in a bowl or mortar and pestle and mash everything together. I personally like the avocado to be a bit chunky, but it’s up to you. Squeeze some lemon juice on top and add a few coriander leaves for garnish. Be sure to taste and adjust the salt/acidity as needed.
  6. Mix the ingredients for the pico de gallo in a separate bowl and let marinate.
  7. About two minutes before your fish is done, warm your tortillas on a grill pan (preferable) or large saucepan on medium heat until they are lightly browned but still soft.
  8. Assemble: layer the fish, guacamole, and pico de gallo on your tortillas and dig in!

Salad Niçoise

I know it sounds crazy, but salad niçoise takes me back to my time doing fieldwork in Srinagar, Kashmir. A French friend made it for me one weekend afternoon, after a vigorous game of table tennis in the International Committee of the Red Cross headquarters. Although we were in curfewed Kashmir, what struck me about this dish was how humble and readily available its ingredients are. Tuna, eggs, tomatoes, and green beans are all a staple in our household.  When these everyday ingredients come together, though, I think they produce a truly excellent salad, which by my definition is one you don’t get tired of eating because each bite is different.

Although you could fancy this up by using fresh tuna steaks, the dish also works well with canned tuna, which is must more easily available (and I hear is how people in Nice eat it). Usually I find salads don’t quite fill me up for dinner, but this makes a hearty and healthy lunch or dinner.

Serves: 2

Prep time: 30 minutes

For the vinaigrette: 

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. capers, rinsed and/or anchovies (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad:

1 can of tuna, preferably sustainable. I like the brand Wild Selections. For this recipe, I like tuna packed in olive oil (a little extra richness is nice for a salad), but tuna in water is fine too.

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

2-4 small red or yellow potatoes, boiled and quartered

1 roma tomato, cored and cut into lengths

8 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and blanched

¼ cup olives (optional)

  1. Put your eggs and potatoes to boil in separate pots. In the pot with the eggs, bring water to a full, rolling boil. Turn off heat and cover the pan. For firm and creamy hard-boiled eggs, wait 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water. After about a minute, peel and halve. The potatoes will take about 15 minutes to boil and soften.
  2. In another pot, put water to boil to blanche the beans. While you are waiting, trim the ends of the beans. Once the water is boiling, add the beans and blanche for 2-3 minutes. The beans should still be crunchy. Remove from boiling water and rinse with cold water.
  3. While your potatoes and eggs are still cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, capers, shallot, basil, oregano, and mustard. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Drain the water/oil from the tuna and fork into a small bowl. Pour 1-2 tbsp. of the vinaigrette on top of the tuna and let sit.
  5. Assemble the salad. Make a bed of salad greens and lay each ingredient lengthwise, on top. I think this salad looks beautiful when each ingredient is clearly visible and has its own space on the dish.   As you place each ingredient on the serving dish, pour a spoonful or two of vinaigrette on top, along with a generous grind of pepper. Cut your potatoes last (they should be finished cooking by now) and add them to the dish.
  6. Create a little groove in the middle of the dish to place your tuna at the center. Pour the remaining dressing on top and serve!

vinaigrette

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