Mediterranean Tuna Salad w/ Dijon Mustard, Lemon & Herb Vinaigrette

I woke up this Thursday morning to ice and snow all over my neighborhood.  It is March, and we are getting snow in Dallas!  Does anyone else think this sounds ludicrous?  Regardless of how silly it sounds, I am very happy for it, as I get to enjoy a delicious cup or two of Earl Grey, while working from home.  Normally, I am rushing out the door without any coffee or tea … or breakfast for that matter.  Looking outside of our uptown condo this beautiful cold morning, I snapped a few pictures to share.

After taking care of a few things via phone, I decided to get back to business … and pleasure.  I turned on my work and my personal computers in an attempt to get some work done on both fronts, while enjoying some much needed Caffeine.  Instead of a wholesome breakfast, I opted to have an early lunch.  And what I wanted to do on this cold day was to be transported to the beautiful Mediterranean.

MEDITERRANEAN TUNA SALAD WITH DIJON MUSTARD, LEMON, AND HERB VINAIGRETTE

1 lb French Green Beans – cleaned
1 red Bell Pepper – roasted
4 oz Spanish or Italian Tuna in olive oil
1/3 cup Niçoise Olives
1/2 tablespoon Mint – finely chopped

VINAIGRETTE

1/2 Shallot – finely diced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 Lemons – zested
1 sprig fresh Thyme – finely chopped
1 sprig fresh Oregano – finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
10 Pepper grinds

Start by cleaning the French green beans and blanching them in heavily salted water.  Basically, you bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil, add about 1/4 cup of kosher salt, then add the cleaned green beans, and let them blanch for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove the green beans from the hot water and into an ice water bath.  This method serves to achieve two things, it stops the cooking process and keeps their dark green color.  After about 5 to 10 minutes in the ice water, remove the green beans and dry them.  I use a salad spinner for this task, followed by a paper towel or two to remove the last bit of moisture.

As I would rather roast my own peppers, place the red bell pepper directly over a burner, and let the skin char.  Continue to turn it to get an even char on all sides.  Immediately, place the charred pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 5 minutes.  This will continue to steam the pepper and will make peeling it very easy.  Cut the pepper open and deseed it.  You may rinse the pepper to remove all the leftover charred skin and seeds; however, I prefer to NOT rinse it, as to keep its charred flavor more concentrated.  Dice the roasted pepper into one inch cubes and leave to the side.  If you would like to avoid this task, you may want to buy already roasted and jarred peppers at your local grocery store.

For the vinaigrette, start by zesting two large lemons and placing the zest, salt, pepper, and both the Dijon and grainy mustard in a small bowl.  Finely dice the shallot, and add it to the bowl.  Finely chop the thyme, oregano, and parsley, and add them to the bowl.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Leave the vinaigrette on the side until you plate the salad.

I always use lemon juice with any and all fish and seafood.  However, as to keep the beautifully deep green French green beans from discoloring, I have used only the zest to get the citrusy flavor in this pseudo-vinaigrette.  

Now that you are ready to plate your salad, begin by placing the the green beans on the desired serving plate.  Top the green beans with the roasted pepper, followed by the tuna and olives.  Make sure you drain the tuna from the oil it is packed in.  You may choose to remove the pits from your olives or keep them.  Though I always buy olives with the pits still in them for better flavor, I chose to remove them for this salad.  Chiffonade the mint — cut it into long strips.  Top the salad with the vinaigrette by spooning it on top, and sprinkle the mint for a finishing touch.  You may serve this delicious Mediterranean salad with a crusty baguette, or you may dive in as is.  Bon appétit!


Lebanese Tabbouleh

If there is a constant at every Lebanese table, it is tabbouleh.  As far as I can remember, it has been present at most of our meals.  So, what can I say about this traditional and authentic Lebanese salad?  It is amazing!  It is the center of every Lebanese table; it is what we call “queen of the table”.  It is deliciously fresh, vibrant, and healthy.  Every Lebanese woman is taught how to make tabbouleh by her mother and grandmother from a very young age.  There are many imitations or what one would call “tabbouleh inspired salads”,  but there is only one authentic tabbouleh.  You may choose to change the recipe; you may prefer to add or remove certain ingredients, please feel free to do so.  However, if you do, then it becomes just a salad to the Lebanese, or a tabbouleh like salad, if you prefer.  I am just sharing my insight of a most favorite Lebanese staple.

AUTHENTIC LEBANESE TABBOULEH

4 cups finely chopped flat leaf or Italian Parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped Mint
4 Roma Tomatoes
1 tablespoon Bulgur – very fine #1
1 small White Onion – finely diced
2 Lemons juiced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Allspice

Start a few hours ahead or the day before by washing the flat leaf parsley, mint, and tomatoes.  The parsley and mint need time to completely dry … or you can use a salad spinner to dry them, if you choose to wash them the same day.

Finely chop the parsley and the mint and place them in a large bowl.  Be careful not to “over chop” the mint, as it can become bitter.  Finely dice the onion; after which, sprinkle the salt and allspice on the diced onion.  You may either mix it with your hands (like my mother taught me), or you can use your knife to chop the onion a little more to incorporate the salt and allspice into it.  Place the onion in the bowl.  Finely dice the tomatoes and place in the bowl as well.  Rinse your bulgur twice or so, and drain the water very well.  Now, if you prefer a crunch to your bulgur, place in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  I, however, prefer a better flavor to it, so I soak it in the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for about 5 to 10 minutes.

 

*Please note that Lemons are used widely and excessively on everything in Lebanon.  The amount of lemon juice in this recipe (as I use large lemons) might be too much for some and not enough for others; please adjust to your liking by using the juice of one lemon first, then add more if you so desire.  

Once the bulgur soaks up the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, place in the bowl with all the other ingredients, and add the rest of the lemon juice and olive oil.  Stir or mix GENTLY.  Taste it to see whether or not you need to add more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil.  You may either serve right away, or place in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap.  I prefer the latter, as it helps the flavors better meld together.  When you take the tabbouleh out of the refrigerator, serve with lettuce or cabbage leaves.  Enjoy!

 

 


Lebanese Garlic Dip – Toum

In Lebanon, chicken is seldom ever served without its companion, the garlic dip, or toum.  When chicken is grilled, seared, baked, roasted, or cooked in any form or fashion, except in a soup, you must have a garlic dip at the table.  I know this could be intense for most, but if you try it, just a very tiny dollop on your chicken, you will love it.  I, of course, use a heaping spoonful of this stuff on every bite of chicken, French fries, bread, etc.  I always feed it to my husband as well, as to avoid him from running away from me.  Let’s just say, your breath will be … hmmm … pungent for the next day or two.  But, it is all worth it for me.

LEBANESE GARLIC DIP – TOUM – The Brave Version (mild version listed below)

3 Garlic heads
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Grape Seed Oil or Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Lemon – juiced

Begin by peeling the garlic.  The following step is what I do to minimize the after effects that can last for a day or two, or so I am told by many more experienced Lebanese cooks.  Cut the garlic in the middle lengthwise, then remove the ‘heart’, what eventually becomes a green sprout of sorts.  If your garlic is very fresh, you do not need to complete the previous step, as the ‘heart’ is very small with no evidence of any green sprouts.

Traditionally, this is where you mash the garlic with a pinch of salt in a rather large mortar and pestle, until it becomes a paste.  After which, you slowly drizzle the oil and stir the paste clockwise to allow the garlic to absorb the oil, thus quadrupling in size.  Do not change directions once you are stirring a certain way, as the paste will break.  If the garlic breaks, well, you have to start over.

Because the above method takes quite a while to complete, and I do not have a large mortar and pestle, I use a blender (instructions are below).  Some use a processor to accomplish this goal.  If you choose to use a food processor, you must grate the garlic with a microplane first to maximize its oil absoption, then place it in the food processor with the salt.  If you let the food processor do the garlic chopping, it will not come to the desired mayonnaise like consistency at the end.  After which, place the oil in the feeding tube insert.  As the oil slowly drizzles into the processing garlic, it will begin to achieve the desired result.  However …

In this case, I much PREFER to use a blender, as it is much faster and fool proof.  Place the garlic, salt, oil, and lemon juice in the blender and let it go.  Allow to blend for about 2 minutes, or when you see a solid mayonnaise like consistency to the garlic dip.  In other words, the components may need to be blended for a longer or a shorter amount of time, depending on the blender.  Once the desired consistency is achieved, place the garlic dip in a bowl, cover, and put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving with your amazing chicken.

LEBANESE MILD GARLIC DIP – TOUM – The Mild Version

1 Garlic head
Pinch of Salt
4 cups Grape Seed Oil or Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Lemon – juiced
1 cup Veganaise or Mayonnaise

Follow the method in the instructions above by using a blender or a food processor to achieve the desired emulsion from blending the garlic, oil, lemon juice, and salt.  If the resulting garlic dip is very strong in flavor, add a cup (or however much you desire) of veganaise or mayonnaise and mix well.  This should yield a mild garlic dip to accompany your delicious chicken or whatever wonderful meal you made.  I know that most of my family and friends prefer this mild dip.  I, however, prefer “The Brave” one.