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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Happy Birthday Franklin!

Today is my brother’s birthday. We celebrated on Sunday with his church friends and a much-loved soccer ball cake. My mom and I cooked a lot of food for dinner today. It was a feast, as I’m sure my stomach will happily tell you. Here are some pictures, enjoy!

This is This is Braised Smoked Pork Shank. We purchased the pork shanks partially cooked and smoked, and braised it in soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and green onions. The soy sauce is probably why it turned out so dark, but looks notwithstanding, the meat was tender and wonderfully smoke infused.

This is Tofu with Fish Sauce. The tofu is panfried until crisp and then briefly cooked in the sauce. The sauce has nothing to do with fish. It’s simply a version of a sweet and sour sauce with Sichuan peppercorns.

I’ve never seen vegetable Asian noodles before, but today at the supermarket Franklin requested them so we bought it. It’s flavoured with spinach and reminds me of spinach pasta. This is Stir-Fried Vegetable Noodles with ground pork, mushrooms, and zucchini. The Chinese traditionally eat noodles on birthdays because the noodle’s length symbolizes a long life.

Mom’s specialty. Simply stir-fried shrimp. See it also here.

Baby bok choy with dried salted shrimp. It’s refreshing to have a simple vegetable dish in a multi-course meal.

This is a cold dish and makes a great appetizer. It’s blanched long beans tossed with soy sauce, black vinegar, and smashed garlic. Very addictive.

Chinese chives with squid. Both main ingredients are fresh-tasting and complement each other. The squid is tender;  the chives are vibrant. I realized that I may possibly like squid more than shrimp, perhaps because there is no shell to peel. Lazy me. 😉

The last dish is just peanuts roasted in the wok. This dish usually accompanies potent Chinese liquor such as Maotai. We didn’t drink with our dinner but included this dish because mom wanted to make eight dishes. Eight is an auspicious number in the chinese language because when pronounced, the word sounds somewhat like the word “to become rich.” So it wouldn’t do to have only seven dishes. Gotta have eight for my brother. The peanuts are wonderfully salty and nutty because of the low heat and long toasting time. Use high heat the peanuts will be burned. My mom rushed making this dish because we all wanted to start eating already.

What do you say? Isn’t Franklin a lucky boy?

Chinese Takeout…from Home

I whipped this together for lunch today. It was easy, healthy, and yummy. Helps you to be well on your way to getting your vegetables. My mommy made chicken meatball soup for dinner last night and we had some leftover meatball mixture. I panfried that in lumps that I’d like to call meatballs and roughly chopped it to include in my stir-fried noodles. If you would like to have this dish vegetarian, just omit the chicken and substitute panfried tofu.

Chinese Stir-fried Noodles with Vegetables
serves 4

8 oz. broad noodles (ShanDong La Mian)
1 small crown broccoli, broken into florets
2 small carrots, sliced on a bias
1 large stalk celery, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
1 Tsp. finely chopped ginger
1 green onion, sliced
3 Tbps. light soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Chinese red vinegar
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce (I often use this sauce to add a touch of sweetness to dishes)
salt to taste
panfried meatballs, or tofu, or sausages, or nothing

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water. Be sure to stir briskly to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Broad noodles especially tend to stick. After about two minutes of boiling, or when the noodles first begin to soften, add the broccoli, carrots, and celery to the boiling pot. Drain well after everything is cooked, after another few minutes.

In a large wok, heat the oil until fairly hot, on medium heat. Add the peppercorns and toast for three minutes, until very fragrant. Pour in the soy sauce, vinegar, and hoisin sauce. It will spatter, so be prepared and shield yourself with a pot cover, which is what I always do. Mix well and add a bit of water if the mixture appears to be reducing too fast. Add the green onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for one minute, then toss in the noodles and vegetables.

Toss together well, adding more water if the noodles are too dry. Turn off the heat and season with salt. Serve and congratulate yourself on being healthy!

Rooster’s Beak (Pico de Gallo)

I didn’t know that pico de gallo means rooster’s beak. But then again, Spanish is not my strongest suit. I apparently did know Spanish while I lived in Spain, when I was five. Tell that to my brain, and my mouth, both of which are hopeless when it comes to the language.

Regardless of my language skills, I went to the local farmer’s market today and picked up some tomatoes, lime, and cilantro. The fixings of pico de gallo. Pico de gallo is wonderfully fresh and spicy, with a lovely texture. Plus it looks pretty. The crunch of the onions is offset by the softness of the tomatoes. A touch of lime juice brightens up the dish. Use less jalapenos is you can’t handle the heat. On the other hand, leave some of the ribs (white membranes) in the peppers if you do happen to love the heat.

Serve with tortilla chips, on tacos and fajitas, or dig in with a spoon. 🙂

Pico de Gallo

1 large onion
3 medium Roma tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed (see note above)
1/2 a lime
freshly ground pepper
salt

First, finely dice the onion. Then dice the tomatoes. Thirdly, chop the cilantro. Fourthly, finely finely finely dice the jalapenos, nobody likes to sink their teeth into a big chunk and by the time they realize, it’s too late. So please, finely. Put all four ingredients in a large bowl and squeeze the juice out of the lime into the bowl. Grind some pepper over top. Generously salt. Mix together and taste. Add more jalapenos if you wish.

Comfort Food…Chinese Dumplings

One of the strongest memories I have, is of my mother’s floury hands. How she swiftly kneads dough, rolls dough, fills dough, taking care to pinch the little wrappers together. Sometimes she added a pretty border on some of them, to my delight. I would always eat those dumplings first.

This is my childhood.

Ever since I was nine, I’d begged my mother to let me help her make the dumplings. I’d like to say she was patient, but after several rounds of “no, you’ll ruin the dough” she gave me a wrapper of my own with a little spoon to scoop up the filling. Then I would imitate her and gingerly pinch the wrapper around the filling. It wasn’t pretty. Flat. Lopsided. Wrinkly. Oozing. Sometimes it looked like a dead fish.

But I got better. Now I’m proud of my dumplings. Now my mother no longer worked alone. Now I have my own floury hands.

I wish I could give you the “family recipe.” But truth be told. There is none. Meat is vigorously stirred. Vegetables vehemently chopped. Soy sauce generously added. Sesame oil delicately sprinkled. It’s different every time. All depends on what’s in the fridge and judgment on what’s “enough.” No recipes involved. It’s an art form.

I never get homesick. I like living on my own. But sometimes I crave my mother’s dumplings. I know the “art” well enough now that I can make my own. Mine never taste just like hers though. Good but never hers. Everyone who has had my family’s dumplings claim it’s amongst the best they’re ever had. My father claims, each time we make dumplings, that this time it’s the “best ever.”

I always have to agree.

Breakfast!!!

My favorite meal of the day is, without a doubt, breakfast. Don’t take me out for dinner, I’m happier if you take me out for breakfast. 🙂 Breakfast makes me happy. I honestly can’t function properly unless I eat something in the morning. Now I don’t understand the folks who just climb out of bed, climb into the shower, and head out the door. Aren’t they missing something? And nutritionally speaking, our bodies need to be replenished in the morning because while we slept, our bodies were busy repairing themselves. We must fuel up before we can deal with the day. I care about your health. I really do. But nutrition aside, why resist the toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, home fries, and that nice steaming cup of coffee? Just get the newspaper.

So, speaking of that nice zucchini I told you all about a couple of days ago, why not add some veggies to your eggs? They are good for you and yummy too! For this omelet, I sauteed some sliced zucchini, mushrooms, and ham first in a skillet. Then I beat together three eggs for the omelet, added a little water, salt, and pepper. I then cooked the omelet and filled it with a few slices of aged cheddar and the veggies. Yum!!! Coffee is optional.

Zucchini

I like zucchini. Probably more than just like, probably love. Yes, I love zucchini. I didn’t always know this. In fact, I realized it recently. How humble, uncomplicated, and delectable this summer squash can be.

I used to make zucchini bread when zucchinis were in season. The loaf ends up being moist, sweet, and not zucchini tasting at all, for those of you who have never had this quick bread. The shredded squash gives the bread moisture and keeps it moist for a couple of days. These days though, with a new year of zucchini harvest, I’ve begun to enjoy them sauteed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Nothing more. Nothing more is needed. They are fresh, juicy, yields to the bite, but has the slightest crunch at the end. So good. Cut into stick if you want to really have that delicious juicy bite. Or slice it thin and add a little garlic to the saute. Or cut into chunks and grill, the slight char on the edge complements it perfectly. I’ve also used shredded zucchini in Chinese dumplings. When boiled, these little pillows will contain hot fragrant broth inside, thanks to the zucchini. And who doesn’t love dumplings?

Enough of me singing praises for this humble vegetable. Go out and buy some of your own. Enjoy the summer. 🙂

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