Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuscan Tuna Salad

What's for lunch?

In my ongoing quest for a healthy and satisfying lunch on the weekends, I thought I'd branch out beyond sandwiches.  I have a huge, delicious salad and a small soup at the office everyday during the week and on the weekends, I'm looking for something different.  My go-to has been Italian tuna on a brioche.  But after hearing about all of the healthy qualities of cannellini beans, I figured I'd give Tuscan tuna salad a spin!

Eat your cannellini beans!

Cannellini beans are loaded with nutrients.  They are low-fat, high in fiber and provide a high quality of magnesium, fiber, iron and folate.  They have twice as much iron as beef.  Iron gives you energy to spare. A half cup serving has 120 calories - lower than the 160 calories you find in a brioche roll.  But we're talking more than calories here, these beans are more filling and much better for you.   I got canned cannellini beans.  It's really important to rinse them thoroughly before using to get rid of the excess salt. 

Add chopped grape tomatoes

Cannellini beans mix really well with a salad.  I added tomatoes, kalamata olives and arugala.  I used the high quality imported Italian tuna from a can (in this case the brand is Cento).  This tuna only comes in extra virgin olive oil.  Don't squeeze the excess down the sink!  put the whole can with the oil in your mixing bowl.  I tried it two ways - one with champagne vinegar and another with balsamic.  I use the champagne vinegar in this salad because it doesn't discolor the tuna.  But putting aesthetics to the side, the next day I used balsamic.  The color didn't really bother me, but I liked the champagne vinegar better.

Tear the arugula after washing and scatter throughout salad

Now for the secret ingredient: Sesame Oil!  This oil is very high in fat and a little goes a long way.  Drizzle a small amount over the top of the salad and mix well.  Even a teaspoonful may be too much.  It has a very strong flavor but really kicks the flavor up several notches.

Et viola!

I had this salad for lunch on Saturday, and liked it so much I had it on Sunday, too!  Not only is it delcious and healthy, but very satisfying.  I ended up having a light supper on both nights because I was still full from the Tuscan salad.  As they say in Tuscany, Mangiare!


1 can Italian tuna in oil
1 tspn champagne vinegar
1/2 tspn sesame oil
1/2 cup arugula, rinsed and chopped
1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/8 cup marinated banana peppers


Open the Italian tuna
Add contents in mixing bowl including the oil
Add beans, tomatoes, olives and arugula
Add champagne vinegar - test to see if it's moist enough
Add extra virgin olive oil to taste if necessary
Drizzle sesame oil over the top
Garnish with banana peppers

Serve and enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Dinner

Bay Scallops with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic & Lemon

We're nearing the end of the season for Nantucket Bay scallops.  Why not have an easy dinner tonight and served with a delicious tomato, garlic and lemon mixture?

Be your own sous chef

As always, be your own sous chef and have everything chopped and ready to go before you start cooking.  Slice some cherry tomatoes, smash some garlic and saute them in a separate small pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Stir often.  You can start these cooking before you start the scallops.  Cook the cherry tomatoes first.  Garlic can burn very quickly so wait until the tomatoes are well underway before adding the garlic. Eyeball them - once they're cooked after about 5 minutes turn heat down low to keep them warm while the scallops finish cooking.

Hello, gorgeous!

Meanwhile, take your bay scallops and dry them with paper towels.  Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add extra virgin olive oil and a pad of butter.  Lightly fry the scallops and as they start to brown toss in some more chopped garlic.  They should cook in 2 - 4 minutes.  When you get to minute 3, add champagne vinegar.  They make the scallops taste more like scallops!   Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the scallops just as they're about to finish cooking.  Step back!  The lemon juice and the champagne vinegar will cause the pan to sizzle. 

Place the tomatoes on your plate

Add the scallops

Et viola!

Just because you're exhausted after a busy week doesn't mean you can't have an elegant yet easy to cook dinner.  Take advantage of these lovely morsels before they go out of season.


1/2 lb scallops per person - dry with paper towels before cooking
2 - 3 cloves of garlic per person
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped per person
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
1 tbspn champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste


Pre-heat skillet over medium heat
Add 1 tbspn oil, swirl around
When pan is hot add tomatoes
Let cook about 3 - 5 minutes
Add garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
Keep tomato mixture in pan over low heat to keep them warm while the scallops cook

In a separate skillet:

Pre-heat skillet over medium heat
Add remaining oil and pad of butter, swirl around
Add scallops and salt and pepper to taste
Let the scallops cook on one side for 1 - 2 minutes, until they brown
Add vinegar and lemon juice
Flip scallops and cook for another minute or 2 until they brown

Plate the tomatoes and garlic
Arrange scallops on top
Squeeze more lemon juice over scallops
Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Nuts: Protein Helps Quell Hunger Pangs and are Good for You!

I love almonds!

I don't mean this theory is nuts - just that nuts contain the proteins and other healthy things to calm down food cravings, while being good for you at the same time.

I did a posting on what I have for breakfast a few weeks back - in the colder months I like to have hot oatmeal (even the skim milk is hot).  And while a hardy bowl of cold or hot cereal is a good way to start the day, I have a handful of almonds or peanuts after my workout each morning.  Without this protein, I don't think the bowl of cereal would carry me through the morning and early afternoon.

Almond joy

Protein comes from the Greek word protos meaning "first." Your body uses proteins in your diet to build new cells, maintain tissues, and sythesize new proteins to help your body perform basic functions.  That handful of almonds, or peanuts, or whatever your favorite may be (pistachios anyone?) is good for you and, at least in my case, helps me feel full and satisfied.  After all, I tend to go for salads and soup for lunch.  Usually I have a vegetable soup like split pea or tomato basil.  Without the dose of protein I would crash and burn by 4 PM.

Speaking of soup - Lentil Soup is also an excellent source of protein.

Besides helping you feel sated, nuts are good for you.  Almonds are low in saturated fat and contain my other protective nutrients - calcum and magnesium - for strong bones, vitamin E and may help protect against cardiovacular disease and even cancer.  There is reduced heart attack risk when you have nuts five times a week accord to a Loma Linda School of Public Health study.  They help lower cholesterol and can have the anti-inflammatory agent found in red wines.  The fat in nuts is unsturated, or the "good" fat and there is no cholesterol in these fats.

As you know, I avoid fats at all costs.  But all fats are not created equal.  The American Heart Association rescently eased up on its recommendation that no more than 30 percent of our calories come from fat.  They now say addtional fat is OK, so long as it's unsaturated - like the good fat found in almonds.

I do try to restrict my almond and other nut intake to about a handful or so every day.  Try some after your breakfast tomorrow and see if you notice less of an appetite, and less of a desire to snack before lunch.  Or if you crash and burn at 4 PM, try nuts with some raisins instead of cookies or candy to go with your coffee.

So, while some of my gentle readers may consider me nuts - there's nothing nutty about the benefits of almonds!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Best Soy Sauce!

It's great to live in New York City for many reasons.  But when it comes to food, you hit pay dirt.  Not only are there amazing restaurants and places to shop, but you meet people from different cultures who can introduce you to products you didn't even know existed.

I've written about my friend Martena before.  She is from Thailand but also spent many years working as a flight attendant, so she has tasted many different cuisines.  We were talking about steaming fish.  I mentioned that I sometimes marinate the fish in soy sauce.  Immediately, Martena said I dont know from soy sauce and promised to pick up the real deal from Chinatown the next day.

Alaskan king salmon and broccolini with ginger and soy sauce

Martena wasn't kidding.  She bought a large bottle of Healthy Boy soy sauce.  I tried it and couldn't believe the difference.  It's really night and day.  I looked online and found it on Amazon and other sources - so even if you don't live in NYC you can buy it.  The bottle Martena bought was $3.25 - the pricing online was up to $12 for the same bottle.  So, splurge!  Or fly to NYC and shop in Chinatown.  If you buy enough you will end up saving money!  Stay tuned for recipes featuring this delicious Thai sauce.  You'll never buy Kikkoman again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skinny Gourmet Guy's Eggplant Parmesan

Substituting a few tablespoons of goat cheese
for a large serving of mozzarella cuts calories and fat

I love eggplant parmesan.  I recently ordered it at Coppola's, a neighborhood joint on West 79th Street.  They deep fry the eggplant and smother it in mozzarella and parmesan cheese - what's not to like?  Last week I went to the Skinny Gourmet Guy test kitchen and came up with a recipe that is delicious, but with considerably less cheese and I browned the eggplant on the stovetop with just cooking spray and no oil.  It came out great!

Partially peel the eggplant

I figured that a little goat cheese can go a long way so instead of using a ton of it, I dolloped 3 tablespoons and spread it out to cover as much surface as possible.  I dotted little bits of it evenly over the eggplant.  I grated a small amount of parmesan across before baking so it would melt and form a crunchy/gooey layer across the top.

Cut eggplant into 3/4" slices

Cover in sea salt and wrap in paper towels -
the sea salt draws out the liquid in the eggplant

Weigh down a heavy object (here I used my cast iron skill)
and place on eggplant slices to help them dry.  Let stand for a few hours

You'll be surprised at the large amount of liquid is drawn out

The last thing you want is soggy eggplant.  You can draw out a large amount of liquid by sprinkling slices with a generous amount of sea salt and wrapping them in paper towels.  I then put my heavy cast iron skillet over the slices and weigh it down with bottles of seltzer and olive oil.  This helps to draw and squeeze out excess water.

Fry in non-stick pan and cooking spray

Eggplant is like a sponge so instead of browning in olive oil I used cooking spray and my non-stick Le  Creuset frying pan.  They take about 2 minutes or so each side - keep an eye on them, they can burn in a second. 

Line the bottom of a casserole dish with marinara

Cobble together a layer of eggplant

I had planned to put the eggplant slices in the casserole dish as is, but it was clear that they weren't going to fit.  So I cut them in half and arranged them in the dish.

First Layer

Second layer with goat cheese

Sliced cherry tomatoes

More marinara

About 1/8 cup of grated parmesan on top

This could also be called Eggplant Lasagna - I layered the eggplant, goat cheese and marinara as you would with lasagna.  I only had to layers of the eggplant.  I added sliced cherry tomatoes on the top layer, then finished with marinara and 1/8th cup of grated parmesan.

Et Viola!

I baked the eggplant mixture in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  The goat cheese melted nicely and spread out while it baked.  Goat cheese has 102 calories per ounce, 73 of which are fat calories.  This dish uses 1.5 ounces of goat cheese.  It goes a longer way than mozzarella - 1.5 grams of mozzarella wouldn't have been enough in this dish.  It's not that mozzarella has more calories and fat (1 ounce has about 170 calories, 111 of which are from fat). The tomatoes roasted perfectly and the dish was really delicious. 


1 medium eggplant
2 cups marinara (you can buy prepared;  I'll publish my recipe in a future post)
3 tbspns goat cheese
1/8 cup parmesan
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
4 - 5 tbspns Sea Salt
Cooking spray (such as Pam)
1/2 lemon


Peel eggplant partially  - leave appromately 1/4" ribbons
Cut horizontally
Sprinkle with a generous dose of sea salt
Wrap in paper towels
Weigh down with heavy object to help squeeze out liquid; let stand for 4 - 6 hours
Spray non-stick pan with cooking spray over medium heat
Fry the eggplant slices until brown - about 2 - 3 minutes per side
Remove eggplant from pan, cut in half for easy assemblage in casserole dish
Spoon in a layer of marinara on the bottom of casserole dish
Fit in eggplant slices
top with goat cheese - put small dollops across the top
Add another layer of marinara
Add another layer of eggplant slices
Spoon in the remaining goat cheese and spread
Hint: leave the goat cheese on the kitchen counter for the afternoon so it is soft and spreadable
Distribute the cherry tomatoes across the top
Add one more layer of marinara
Add grated parmesan evenly across the top
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes
Squeeze lemon juice over the top
Serve and enjoy

This is on of those dishes that is delicious the next day

Note: I didn't serve with pasta

I served the eggplant parmesan as is and didn't include pasta.  I did, however, serve parmesan, garlic and herb focaccia from Epicieri Boulud.  Rather than serve the entire piece, I cut it into portions and froze the rest.  It freezes nicely and even though it was a small portion, I didn't feel deprived of carbs.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Tilefish

Tilefish have a firm texture, white meat and mild flavor

One of the things I enjoy about this blog is trying out things I've never tasted before.  I have never had tilefish and wasn't really interested in trying it.  I pictured a fish that looked like linoleum!  But I was at the fish monger and saw that it's a sturdy fish.  The filets were cut thicker than other fish like flounder or sole.  I planned to steam the filet and I wanted something that would stand up to the steaming process and would absorb and not compete with the flavors I'd be cooking with. 

Perfect for steaming

The first night I experimented with tilefish I used some strong flavors including Sriracha and Teryaki sauce.  I enveloped the filet in fresh basil, lemons and tomatoes.  It was very tasty but I wanted to try it with subtler flavors as well.  So the next night I tried it again, but this time using only basil, lemon, tomato and a hint of cilantro. 

Version 1: Bold & Spicy

A little more background on tilefish: they come primarily from the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern seaboard.  They don't swim in schools, but cluster near the heads or sides of submarine canyons.  So, when you buy tilefish in NYC they're not from Montauk!  The filets I had were very fresh though.  Consider the branzino I'm so crazy about come from the Mediterranean.  And tilefish is a good deal - about $14 per pound at Citarella.

I steamed my vegetables right along with the fish
My steamer has two separate levels

Line a casserole dish with fresh basil as the base

Season with salt and pepper and ground mustard

That's a spicy sauce!

I liked the tilefish both ways, but if I had to choose I'd go with the simpler preparation.  I'm listing all of the ingredients below and you can decide which version works best for you. 

Version 2 coming out of the steamer

Version 2: simple and elegant


1/2 lb tilefish filet per person
1 cup fresh basil
A few sprigs cilantro (optional)
1 lemon, sliced horizontally
1 tspn ground mustard
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Salt & pepper to taste

For spicy add the following:

2 tbspns Sriracha Sauce
1/2 cup Teriaki Sauce with Sesame Seeds
1 tspn red pepper flakes


Line casserole dish with fresh basil and cilantro (if using)
Place filet on bed of basil
Add other ingredients coating filet well
Line tomatoes and lemon slices on top of filet
Place casserole dish in the steamer
Cook for 5 minutes
Remove from steamer and serve immediately


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Crispy and delicious!

I've been all about roasting vegetables lately.  Over the years I've boiled, sauteed and lately came upon roasting them.  Not only is it no-muss, no-fuss, it's delicious. 

Secret weapon

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I only buy fresh ingredients - to the point that I shop each day for that evening's food.  And in NYC there are farmers' markets galore and plenty of outlets for fresh vegetables.  But I only buy frozen artichokes.  Call me lazy, but I don't want to wrestle with a fresh artichoke.  I buy Birds Eye frozen artichokes.  They are a bit on the pricey side, coming in at around $4.50 for a package.  But in my opinion, it's worth paying a little bit more to avoid the chore of preparing the artichokes yourself.

First, I leave the package of frozen artichokes on the kitchen counter for the afternoon to defrost.  When I get home from work I take them from the package and wrap them in paper towels - they're pretty soggy at this point. Soggy veggies don't char well!

Crispy deliciousness!

At this point, the procedure is the same for roasting all other vegetables.  Place them in an oven-proof, non-stick pan (I use my Le Creuset skillet).  Cover with 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (less is more - you don't want oily veggies).  With the artichokes, I roast them for a shorter period of time - 10 - 12 minutes at 425 degrees.  Flip them half way through and keep your eye on them - they burn in a second.  I added cherry tomatoes and lemon to make the dish attractive - but the tomatoes taste great, too and the lemon flavor seeps into the dish.


1 package frozen artichokes
2 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste


Defrost frozen artichokes - 4 - 6 hours on kitchen counter
Dry with paper towels
Spread evenly on non-stick, oven-proof pan
Add tomatoes - intersperse among artichokes
Add lemon (not squeezed)
Add oil
Season with salt & pepper
Mix ingredients thoroughly so artichokes and tomatoes get covered with oil and salt & pepper
Roast in pre-heated 425 degree oven for 10 - 12 minutes flipping halfway through
Squirt fresh lemon juice over mixture
Serve & enjoy!

Crispy artichokes jazz up any dish -
here served with Red Snapper in mustard sauce