Cucumber Tuna Salad on Romaine with Roasted Walnuts

Hm, what to do when you’re hungry and your only source of protein is a can of tuna? And you want to eat healthily, simply, but still yummily?

You get chopping. That’s what you do.

For a doze of Omega 3’s, vitamins, and protein, try this salad. Or rather, salad duo, since the tuna salad sits on top of some shredded romaine in a lemon and cracked pepper dressing.

Super easy. Fairly quick. Ultra healthy.

Cucumber Tuna Salad on Romaine with Roasted Walnuts
serves 1

2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tsp. for tuna salad
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked pepper, plus a little more for the tuna salad
enough onion salt to taste
1/2 can flaked tuna in water, drained
1/3 c. finely diced English cucumber
1 very small carrot, shredded
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

  1. To roast the walnuts, either use the microwave (a couple minutes on high and stir every 30 seconds, until fragrant) or the oven (400 degrees for 5 minutes, stir once, until fragrant). Set aside.
  2. Mix the lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. olive oil and season with cracked pepper and onion salt to taste. Set aside.
  3. Mix tuna with the remaining olive oil, cucumber and season with cracked pepper and onion salt to taste. Set aside.
  4. Place shredded lettuce on a dinner plate and spoon the tuna salad in the middle. Sprinkle the shredded carrots around the tuna salad and drizzle the dressing over the romaine. Finally, sprinkle with roasted walnuts.
  5. Toast to your health!
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Restaurant Review: La Cabane Grecque

I’m finally back on campus at MacDonald. Mac is one of two McGill campuses, and the one that no one knows about. It’s super small and shares its space with a college preparatory school here in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. The town’s name is so long that sometimes I have trouble typing and writing the entire name on forms! I’m very glad to be back and even looking forward to the up coming classes.

So yesterday, as a back-to-school-I-haven’t-seen-you-since-April get-together, a few friends and I went to downtown Montreal to have dinner. La Cabane Grecque is located on Prince Arthur, corner street to La Coloniale, in a very popular location in Montreal.

This time of the year, the streets are closed to autos and restaurants offer outdoor seating with various entertainment on the streets, from music to juggling to skateboarding. The maitre d’s from each restaurant come outside to lure the passerby. It’s quite something.

As for the restaurant, in short, the food was mediocre but the service was great. I had the steak a la Cabane Grecque, which was aged tenderloin strips with steamed veggies, homestyle potato, rice, and chef’s salad. The chef’s salad is actually a garden salad and was heavy on the oil. It was surprisingly filling, both two girls I was with were getting full after the salad. But that might have been because of the bread. They serve very good whole wheat bread with a very creamy butter. I would’ve been happy just with the bread basket.

I asked for the steak to be cooked to medium rare and it turned out to be almost medium well and in some areas, well done. The sides were nothing special. And this bugged me: the food tasted strongly of butter. I love butter, but I went there for Greek food. It didn’t seem authentic. But like I said, the service was excellent. The waitress we had was friendly and helpful and attentive. Our water glasses were refilled continuously and she came to check on us several times. Next time I want Greek food though, I would like to get Greek food.

Tang Yuan 汤圆 (Glutinous Rice Balls)

These are a Chinese dessert typically served during 元宵, or Lantern Festival. It’s a bit like nuo mi ci (糯米糍), or the other glutinous rice balls in that it is also made with glutinous rice flour. It’s actually a lot alike nuo mi ci, just smalled and served in a sugary soup. They even share some of the same fillings, such as red bean, black sesame, peanut, etc.

Making these small glutinous rice balls are easier, in my opinion, since the ingredients are just rice flour, water, and red bean paste. The red bean paste can be store-bought, or homemade. I love homemade red bean paste. It isn’t as sweet and still has some whole beans in it. Most store-bought paste is almost sickeningly sweet and has an off taste and textureless. If you have time, just boil a pot of red beans until tender, add sugar to taste and a tiny amount of oil, and mash together.

Tang Yuan 汤圆 (Glutinous Rice Balls)
makes about 15 3cm balls

250 grams glutinous rice flour (usually half the 500 gram package sold in Asian food stores)
about 3/4 c. hot water, more or less as needed
red bean paste or other filling

  1. Mix the water into the rice flour, a little at a time, until you have a pretty soft dough that holds together.
  2. Knead a few times and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Pinch off small balls a little smaller than 1 inch in diameter.
  4. Flatten in your palm and drop a small dollop of red bean paste into the middle. Pinch the edges closed and roll between your palms until round. Use a little water if the dough is hardening too fast.
  5. Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop the rice balls into the water and boil until they float.
  6. Add a little sugar to the broth, if desired, and serve with a little of the broth.

BBQ…and Eating ALL Day!

Eating all day…that’s what usually happens when my family does barbeque. It’s my dad’s birthday tomorrow so we celebrated today. This is what we did today.

Jalapeno Burgers, with finely minced onions, Worcesterchire sauce, garlic powder, even more finely minced jalapeno peppers, salt, and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

More Jalapenos! Grilled until the skin blackens and blisters. Then the seeds and removed and it’s used to top burgers, or eating out of hand. My mom guzzled water after one bite.

Sweet Chili Grilled Chicken. I made a rub with chili powder, ground cumin, ground pepper, garlic powder, ground Sichuan peppercorns, salt, sugar, a dash of soy sauce, and olive oil. The chicken was allowed to sit overnight.

Chicken. Potato Salad. Garden salad with the sweetest cherry tomatoes.

Way better than any store-bought potato salad. I used chopped pickles and a generous splash of pickle juice along with mayo, chopped onions, mustard, ground pepper, and salt. No eggs so the salad has a better chance sitting outside the cooler.

Grilled peaches with cinnamon. Grilling caramelizes the sugars in the fruit and intensifies the flavour. Plus, like my brother says, “it’s super juicy!”

Here’s my dad’s birthday cake. For more cake details, go to Buttery Bakery!

We also did a number on Italian sausages, steak, hot dogs, and more fruit, but I didn’t record with pictures. I can tell you that they were good though!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Handmade Noodles with Fried Tofu Curd

We had leftover dough from dumplings again. Usually it gets wrapped and left in the fridge until someone remembers it, then it gets transformed into green onion pancakes or handmade noodles.

The way I’ve always learned to make noodles is rolling out the dough until very thin, generously flouring, folding several times, and finally cutting into thin strips. I decided to play with the dough today and stretched the dough until the strands became thinner and broader. The texture is slightly different but definitely not something you can experience using storebought noodles, even storebought “handmade” ones.

The fried tofu curds come in a package and can be bought from an Asian food market. The broth consists of the tofu, bok choy, sliced green onions and minced ginger. A very satisfying lunch. 🙂

Lady and the Tramp, Anyone?

I love Disney. Even with its subliminal messages and not so subliminal ones.

I love the simpleness of its romances. I cannot see spaghetti and meat balls without thinking of Lady and the Tramp. Of course, no real person, or dog, would slurp a strand of spaghetti without chewing through and breaking it. That makes the scene all more romantic. I like the film even though I honestly can’t remember anything else about it besides that scene, but I thought about it today while I thought, planned, and made dinner.

Simple spaghetti and meatballs.

Okay, maybe not that simple. I did use whole wheat spaghetti and ground flax after all. I know, I can’t leave anything well enough alone. But regardless of all my efforts at health-isizing this dish, it retained its heartiness. A true comfort food through and through.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and dig into the meat with your fingers. This helps to distribute the spices without overworking the meat and produces the most tender meatballs. Be sure to give the meatballs a deep golden brown, this contributes greatly to flavour.

The ground flax is not really noticeable in the meatballs, but you’ll that it’s there to give your meal fibre and Omega 3 fatty acids. I also used prepared pasta sauce to speed up the process, and also because I didn’t have any tomatoes. Feel free to substitute your favorite recipe for tomato sauce.

Cat’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (Be comforted in knowing that this comfort food is somewhat good for you)
makes 4-6 servings

3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt
1/2 c. dried bread crumbs
a few dashes Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
scant 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 c. minced onion
2 Tbsp. ground flax, optional
1 tsp. olive oil
1 24-oz jar of prepared pasta sauce (I used garden vegetable)
1 lb. spaghetti, whole wheat

  1. Place the ground meat, Worcestershire, herbs, pepper, onion, garlic powder, flax seed, and bread crumbs in a large bowl. Salt generously.
  2. Plunge all ten fingers into the meat and mix thoroughly. Shape into 24 meatballs. Wash your hands well afterwards.
  3. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and brown the meatballs in batches, until well browned.
  4. Pour the pasta sauce into the pan and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Toss with the sauce. Serve piping hot and twirl away.

Spicy Cold Noodles

It’s hot here. My mom always says that when it gets too hot she loses her appetite. I can certainly understand that, although I agree more with not wanting to cook in heat.

These noodles are hot n’ cold. No, not quite like the song.

They are cold on your lips and hot on your tongue. Quite an interesting contrast. The toasted Sichuan peppercorns add just a bit of numbness to the mix. I took this to a potluck and it was very well received. In fact, it was gone before I could get to it. I got an interesting comment though. One lady asked me what kind of peanuts I used. I was confused and told her that it was simply raw, regular peanuts. She thought it tasted sweet. I told her the dish contained no sugar. She didn’t understand how the peanuts tasted sweet.

While I’m not exactly sure why she said it, I could guess that in toasting the peanuts until they are a golden brown brought out the deep roasted and sweet flavour. The peanuts leftover on the bottom of the dish after all the noodles were eaten were picked off too. Don’t skimp on the toasting time; the flavours leak out into the oil and meld onto the noodles later.

Spicy Cold Noodles
makes a ton, or a lot for 4-6 people

1 lb. thin spaghetti
1/3 c. oil, not olive
1/2 c. raw peanuts
1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns
3 Tbsp. Chinese Chili Sauce with Oil (Lao Gan Ma 老干妈)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped roughly
salt to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and run cold water over it until the noodles are very cold. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large wok, add the peppercorns, pepper flakes, and peanuts. Toast on medium low heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the peanuts are starting to turn golden brown.
  3. Add the garlic powder, chili powder, noodles, and chopped cilantro. Toss until coated. Serve cold.

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