This is one spread that makes no excuses. It has full-on, big-ass, unapologetic, salty flavor: black olives, capers, anchovies…This is for your friends who really enjoy robust and lusty food and who will slather spreads generously and lavishly. It is not subtle, so don’t waste these party snacks on the tea and crumpet crowd.
Have you ever seen the MTV show “Pimp My Ride” where a beat-up, tin-can of a vehicle gets a total tarted-up makeover- complete with features like aquariums and shoe racks and hydraulic surfboard lifters?
Well, sometimes I like to play culinary “Pimp My____________(fill in the blank with your favorite, but somewhat tired go-to everyday recipe).” You know, take a dull salad and add grilled shrimp and fruit, or top your morning toast with salmon and creme fraiche, or add truffle oil to any old thing to make it special.
In honor of the ridiculous number of luridly-dyed hard-boiled eggs in my post-Easter fridge, today’s episode is “Pimp My Egg Salad.” Just add a number of tasty pantry items to a normal egg salad and voila! You have a hottie-hottie, hot-hot, lunch where before sat a bland and boring boiled egg.
By the way, to boil eggs perfectly, set them in cold water that covers by an inch. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for ten minutes. Drain and shock the eggs in ice water (to help the peeling later). Using eggs that are not farm-fresh will make them easier to peel (more air between shell and membrane).
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1-2 tsps prepared mustard
1 tsp minced red onion (optional)
1 tsp capers, drained
Five large pitted black olives, sliced
1 Tbs roasted red pepper, diced
Salt to taste
Dash of sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Salt to taste and add hot sauce if desired. Serve in a sandwich on toast or atop a salad.
In a bit of a hurry to make my brown bag lunch, I banged together some tuna salad, but without mayonnaise (although a dab of mayo would go well too!). This is one of my favorites for a picnic lunch any time, but as a Catholic during Lent, when fish is de riguer for Fridays, this is a true friend. I usually have it on salad, but you can sandwich it, wrap it, stuff it in a pita, mound it on crackers…very flexible! If you have ripe avocado, slice it up and add it to whichever way you are serving the tuna. The cool blandness plays well with the tangy tuna.
Tuna and Caper Salad
1 5 oz can tuna (whichever you prefer; because I am a maniac, I buy sustainably-caught), drained
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp your favorite prepared mustard
1 Tbs red onion, chopped fine
1 Tbs capers, drained
1 Tbs roasted red pepper (optional)
Whisk oil and vinegar together with a fork until blended. Stir in mustard. Pour over tuna, add red onion and mix well. Stir in capers and red pepper, if desired. Serve over green salad with chunks of avocado, or in sandwiches, with avocado slices.
As a Caribbean person, I often forget the existence of fresh cod.
In my world, cod is called bacalao, usually comes in salt-crusted bricks or paddles, much as it was when it arrived in the New World, masterminded by intrepid Basques and other seafaring peoples, to make an important (and tasty) protein source last and last and last. It has to be soaked for ages with many changes of water and, if you don’t like fishy-fish, you are probably not going to like bacalao.
I promise that I will get to the fresh (non-fishy, non-salty) version in a second and give you a killer recipe that is all flair and no hard work and can be used with any firm-fleshed white fish, but indulge me for a moment as I take my tastebuds for a saunter down a Puerto Rican Cuisine Memory Lane.
Think batter-fried bacalaitos (best-eaten from a battered pot full of dubious grease bubbling over coals at a palm-roofed beachfront kiosk marshalled by an old lady in rollers and washed down with an ice-cold Medalla beer), or shredded into rice (arroz con bacalao) for the holidays, or dressed with vinaigrette and served with boiled tubers (serenata) on a Lenten Friday, or in a reddish sauce with hard-boiled eggs (bacalao a la vizcaína) any old time.
I am dabbing nostalgic tears from my eyes and nostalgic water from the corners of my mouth right now, overwhelmed by food memory.
Fortunately, my present latitude offers some solace.
As a Caribbean person adapting to living in the cruel Northeastern winter, frozen fish has taken the place of salted fish (and fresh too, to be honest). And so, I recently discovered the wonder of some vacuum-packed slablets of frozen fresh cod (a phrase which only makes sense in contextual comparison to salted fish) at, you guessed it, Costco Warehouse. As it is “Wild Alaskan”, it is also a good choice from a non-polluted environment and in terms of sustainability (visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site if you are concerned about that sort of thing http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx). I sauteed a couple experimentally just for me and the result was a quick yet good-looking plate of big flakes of fish just sliding apart and yet another way to incorporate capers into a dish.
This one I would definitely serve on date night.
Sauteed Fresh Cod Dressed with Onions and Capers
(tilapia or any firm white fish would work well here)
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs butter
2 small slabs fresh cod filet (5-8 oz each)
Salt and pepper
½ medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
1-2 tsp capers, mostly drained
Heat oil and butter together in a heavy skillet at relatively high heat.
Using about ¼ tsp salt, sprinkle fish on all sides. Do the same with the pepper, preferably fresh cracked.
When the foaming of the butter subsides, cook fish on each side at high heat until just white. Then lower heat and cook on each side from 4-6 minutes each (I prefer my fish somewhat undercooked; if you are just learning to cook fish, simply use a fork or knife in the center to check for done-ness: no more translucence).
Remove cod and set on a plate (preferably warm). In the same skillet, sauté the onions in the oil and butter at medium high until wilted and somewhat tender. Add the capers to warm them up. Then spoon the onions and capers over the fish and serve.
This fish would be great over wilted greens, polenta or couscous or with Snap and Go Asparagus. I ate my second slice cold over salad and it was yummy!