Lunch at Greens 2008, oil on canvas, 18 x 44 inches
My new year has arrived with resolutions and menus that include dishes made with simple winter ingredients. We received some wonderful food gifts for Christmas ─ jams and salsa from Zoë, a Spanish food assortment from James and Noriko and interesting olive oil and vinegar from sister Susan to add to the beans, grains and root vegetables of the season.
Instead of my usual habit of hoarding these special nibbles, I decided to use them without delay. So we had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with mustard and Zoë’s strawberry/balsamic jam. Delish! And shrimp and butternut squash tacos garnished with her Peach Salsa. The candied walnuts and Susan’s pecans quickly disappeared.
Included in our Spanish gift box were two jars of tuna packed in olive oil, something I have eyed in the La Tienda catalog but never ordered. Anxious to taste it, I fashioned a tuna and bean salad, with white cassoulet beans from my Rancho Gordo stash.
I warmed the cooked beans so the dressing would permeate more completely.
Then dressed them in a combination of lemon juice, mustard, minced garlic (for garlic-allergic Jan, use a shallot), a splash of the lemon-infused olive oil, salt, and some plain olive oil.
Added two stalks of thinly sliced celery and three julienned radishes, then the broken up tuna.
I plated the salad into two servings, then garnished them with chopped parsley, dill, and shaved parmesan. Served while the beans were still a bit warm.
At the last minute I decided to add a soft-boiled egg to each plate. I recently learned an excellent, quick method for cooking eggs ─ steam them. (Thanks to Kenji López-Alt.)
In a pot with a steamer basket bring an inch of water to a boil. Add the eggs, straight from the fridge. Steam for 6-7 minutes for a runny yolk, 9-10 minutes for a ‘hard-boiled’ egg. I find this method fast and dependable, especially when I want a soft egg. (I live at 6000 feet so adjust your timing accordingly.)
Serve the salad warm or at room temperature with slices of crusty bread and butter.
One of my resolutions for 2020 is to clear out the freezer and the pantry of past-their-prime foods or forgotten items. I had a frozen tub of sourdough starter saved for several years and wanted to see if it still had life. I nursed it along with daily infusions of water and flour until it was bubbly and fragrant.
I used a combination of recipes and memories to concoct loaves to bake in a covered cast iron casserole. One new trick is to do the final rise in a bowl lined with parchment. Then lift the risen dough into the very hot casserole. No inverting and having dough stick, or getting a painful burn.
I’ll continue to comb through my cupboards, spice drawer and the freezer for other forgotten goodies to enhance our winter meals.