Thursday, February 9, 2012

Recipe: Hot Tuna Salad

I never liked mayo, but I understood it as a necessary evil to hold together chicken or tuna salad. Turns out it isn't. In the past few years, I have made relatively successful chicken salad with sour cream and with plain Greek yogurt. But the most flavorful version is this one, made with herbed margarine from Bev Laumann in A Taste of the Good Life. I've made only minor changes. It is definitely best heated, but it's still pretty tasty cold. And you can use real butter, but it gets a little too rich.

Hot Tuna Salad
Adapted from a recipe by Bev Laumann, A Taste of the Good Life (1998)

2 T. Smart Balance (or other butter substitute)
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
6 oz. can light tuna, packed in olive oil
1/3 c. celery, chopped
2 whole wheat English muffins (check for vinegar if you're on a low-acid diet)
2 slices Muenster cheese

1. Drain, rinse, and pat dry tuna.
2. Soften Smart Balance by heating for 10 seconds in the microwave. Mix with parsley, onion powder, salt, and pepper. 
3. Stir in drained tuna and celery. This mixture keeps well in the fridge if you want to make it in advance or keep leftovers.
4. Split each muffin and top with the tuna mixture. Split each slice of cheese in half, and top each muffin half with a half-slice of cheese.
5. Toast until cheese is hot and bubbly.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ode to Tomato-less Pizza

I love pizza. My husband likes to say he fell in love with me when he watched me demolish half a large pizza in roughly ten minutes. I fell in love with him when he bought said pizza off a delivery guy on the street.

When I gave up tomatoes, my first order of business was to figure out how to eat pizza without them. Luckily, there are endless options, and they're becoming more popular with the general public. My two favorites are white pizza and pesto.

White pizza can be made with Alfredo sauce or by brushing olive oil on pizza crust and adding garlic and other herbs (such as oregano, Italian seasoning, or something like Penzeys Spices Pizza Seasoning). Typical toppings for white pizza are spinach and chicken, but I also like sausage or a variety of vegetables. Pesto is also an excellent alternative to tomato sauce. I love it with pepperoni; with chicken and goat cheese; or with spinach, olives, and feta. My latest favorite is a delicious meatless pizza with mixed mushrooms and olives (see recipe below).

It's not difficult to make your own pizza dough, but it's also a step I'm happy to skip. Of the grocery-store options, I prefer Pillsbury refrigerated pizza dough. Organic grocery stores often sell good frozen pizza dough too, and it's even better to buy dough from your local pizza store.

Pesto Pizza with Mixed Mushrooms and Olives

Refrigerated or frozen, thawed pizza dough
Store-bought pesto sauce (approximately 4-5 T.)
Olive oil (1 T. plus extra for brushing)
8 oz. cremini (baby Portabello) mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Small can sliced black olives, rinsed and drained
6 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Heat large skillet over medium-high, and heat 1 T. olive oil. Saute mushrooms until softened, about eight minutes.
3. Brush pizza pan with olive oil, and spread dough into pan shape.
4. Bake dough for two minutes.
5. Spread a thin layer of pesto sauce on the dough. Top with black olives, cooked mushrooms, and cheese.
6. Bake until cheese is golden, about 15 minutes.

  • Oven temperature and cooking time can vary greatly depending on the dough, so follow the instructions on yours.
  • A little pesto goes a long way. Here is my pizza in stages:


Sunday, February 5, 2012

No Salad Dressing?!

When you're avoiding vinegar and lemon juice, salad dressing becomes a major problem. When I order a salad without dressing in a restaurant, this happens about nine times out of ten:

Me: No dressing on the salad please.
Server: You sure?
Me: Yes.
Server: You can substitute a different kind of dressing.
Me: No thanks, no dressing will be fine.
Server: I can bring it on the side. You might like it.
Me: No thanks.
Server: You sure?
Me: Yes.

If I add that I can't eat vinegar, it usually prolongs the conversation as the server tries to come up with an alternative.

I understand why this happens. Salad without dressing is a foreign, ridiculous idea to most of us. The standard Midwestern "filler" salad of iceberg lettuce and a few shreds of cabbage is really just a receptacle for dressing. It doesn't taste so great plain. Even good mixed greens are boring to eat alone. If you're going to make a salad you can genuinely enjoy without dressing, it needs to mix a variety of vegetables, textures, and flavors.

Here is how to do it:
  • Start with flavorful greens: spinach, romaine, arugula, etc. But don't fill your bowl mostly with greens; they're just a small part of a dressing-less salad.
  • Add at least three other vegetables: carrots, mushrooms, sprouts, roasted or raw bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, celery, green onion, etc. The more textures the better.
  • Consider adding fruit, fresh or dried. Pears have become a fairly popular salad addition, but blueberries and raisins are also delicious.
  • Include beans for flavor and protein. I like black beans, chickpeas, and edamame (soybeans), but any beans will work.
  • Add nuts or seeds. Sliced or chopped almonds are my favorite, but sesame seeds, chopped walnuts, and pecans are good too. 
  • Include a bit of cheese: Parmesan, goat, feta, shredded cheddar or mozzarella, etc.
  • Consider cooking something. Grilled vegetables and toasted nuts add even more flavor.
  • Use good-quality ingredients. Slightly wilted lettuce won't fly without dressing.
If I am choosing a salad at a restaurant, I look for these elements. Panera has a Thai chicken chopped salad that tastes amazingly good without dressing because it follows these guidelines.

There are also several ways to make your own low-acid salad dressing. In the U.S. we think all salads need acid, but that isn't understood as necessary everywhere. A popular salad in Argentina is a carrot salad, which is made only with good-quality shredded carrots and olive oil. Here are some low-acid dressings:
  • A good olive oil. Try also walnut or almond oil, which are a bit sweeter.
  • Canola oil + fresh mint + parsley + ground coriander + honey = sweet dressing. Good for shredded shredded green cabbage + blueberries, or carrots + raisins.
  • Olive oil + goat cheese + lemon zest + salt + pepper. I like this on fresh peas.
  • Canola oil + crumbled feta + oregano + onion powder + salt + pepper = Mediterranean dressing.
  • Plain Greek yogurt + finely chopped cucumber + fresh mint + lemon zest = Greek-style dressing.