Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuna Puri wins 2nd place at the Tournament de Tuna!

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I travelled the world in my mind with ideas for a winning combination of flavors that would wow the judges during Saturday’s Tournament de Tuna.  I bounced from Portugal to Spain, Northern Africa to Greece, and I finally settled way out east in India! 

Featuring canned Portuguese tuna, Queen of the Coast was introducing its products to the USA.   The Queen herself made a graceful appearance.

Queen of the Coast

It was an intimate affair – six eager contestants butting into each other in the home kitchen as we plated our promising dishes.  From left to right:  Todd Romero, Chantal Duvall, yours truly, Joni Buck, and Holly Erickson watched Jenn Molholt win with her tasty Baked tuna fritter with spicy/tangy tomato relish and avocado.   It was crispy on the outside, perfectly tender on the inside and delicious! 


After much hype on Facebook,  the romantic and adventurous Raphael made his grand appearance, fresh off his seafaring boat.  He was very handsome, charming and gracious, even when Chantal planted a big red kiss!  His accent made my legs buckle…and it looked like he was enjoying my Tuna puri! 

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Pani puri is an Indian snack (chaat) found in street food carts.  A foodie friend, Jay recently introduced me to a great vegetarian restaurant in Houston called Shiv Sagar.  Their dosas are excellent and that’s where I spotted the delicate pani puri.   (Thanks Jay for steering me away from making dosas, oy!)    I picked the soft-spoken restaurant owner’s brain for information and ideas for pani puri and eventually bought a package.  They had potential -  small, hollow, crispy fried breads are the vessels for spiced vegetables and sauces.   In order to incorporate the canned tuna, I checked with my Indian connection and knowledgeable friend, Manjula.  

A vegetarian herself, Manjula described the various sauces I should use and assured me that tuna would fit right in.  Her mother’s own garam masala and a fair amount of chopped onions contributed greatly to the richness of the filling.   Willing taste-tester and an excellent cook herself, my neighbor Cheryl stated that the sweetness of the yoghurt sauce balanced the spiciness of the serrano chiles in the green sauce.  The sauces – one sweet, one sour, and one spicy; and a variety of crunchy and leafy garnishes created a complete flavor and textural sensation. 

This was my presentation.  A shot of Mango lassi completed the plate.

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Thanks to Karen, Dwight, Joan and Amber at Soundworks for hosting the fun-filled affair and giving us amateur cooks an opportunity to experiment and revel in each other’s company.  Judges Brandy Graesser of Hubbell and Hudson Viking Cooking School, food marketing wiz George Darsey, and Raphael himself made positive comments and I walked off with a fantastic prize – cooking lessons at the Viking Cooking School, perfect for someone who’s always willing to experiment in the kitchen! 

Yours truly, Jenn, Raphael, Holly and the Queen of the Coast

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Now to the recipe!  Start with paper-thin Pani Puri (these are made by Satyam Foods & Snacks, Inc.), and thin, crunchy sev, a vermicelli-like snack made with chick pea (gram) flour.

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Here’s the filling…simple ingredients deliciously seasoned with garam masala and black mustard seeds. 

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To make a hole for the filling, tap the top of one side of each puri with the back of a spoon, and then fill it with the tuna mixture.  Drizzle with Spicy green chutney, Dahi, pomegranate molasses and top with sev, chives, tomato and cilantro.  Pop the entire puri in your mouth for a blast of savory, sweet, sour and spicy heaven!

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Tuna Puri   Please note that this recipe looks more complicated than it is!  You can substitute store-bought Spicy Cilantro Chutney and the rest of the components are very simple to assemble.

One bag (7.4 oz) Pani Puri (small, fried and hollow Indian breads, available at all Indian grocers)

Tuna and Chick Pea filling

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely diced onion

1 – 2 teaspoons garam masala (a spice mixture available at all Indian grocers)

½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes, seeds removed

3 cans (6 oz/170g each) Queen of the Coast Tuna Salad with Chick Peas, or 5 oz canned tuna in oil plus 11 oz cooked chick peas

salt, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes until beginning to soften but not brown. Add garam masala and mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and sauté for 1 more minute. Add canned Tuna Salad with Chick Peas and stir gently until heated through. Season with salt, if necessary.

Spicy Cilantro Chutney ( substitute with store-bought chutney, if you wish)

3 green chiles such as serrano or jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

¾-inch piece peeled fresh ginger

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon oil

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar or jaggery (palm sugar)

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted

1 bunch cilantro (about 5 ounces) less about 6 stems- reserve for garnish

Place all ingredients except for the cilantro in a blender. Pulse until combined and finely chopped. Add cilantro and blend until smooth. Season with additional salt if necessary.

Dahi (sweetened yoghurt)

1 cup plain yoghurt

1 tablespoon sugar or jaggery (palm sugar)

½ teaspoon pomegranate molasses

pinch of salt

Whisk yoghurt, sugar, pomegranate and salt to blend. Adjust to taste.

For the garnish:

½ cup sev, a fried vermicelli-like snack made with gram (chick pea) flour (available at all Indian grocers)

pomegranate molasses or sweet tamarind chutney (available at all Indian grocers)

¼ cup finely sliced scallions or chives

½ cup chopped fresh tomato

leaves from about 6 stems cilantro (reserved from Spicy Cilantro Chutney), finely chopped

To assemble Pani Puri

Carefully make a hole on one side of each pani puri. Fill each one about ¾ to the top with warm Tuna and Chick Pea filling. Arrange pani puri on a serving platter. Drizzle with Spicy Cilantro Chutney, Dahi, and garnishes (sev, pomegranate molasses, scallions, tomato and chopped cilantro). Serve with a shot of Mango Lassi to cool the palate!


Mango lassi

2 cups plain yoghurt

2 mangoes, peeled and chopped, or 2 cups frozen mango cubes

¼ cup milk

toasted and ground pistachio nuts and a slice of fresh mango for decoration

Blend yoghurt, mangoes and milk in a blender. Pour into glasses and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Serve cold.

Mango lassi – refreshing and not too sweet!

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Click on the link for more pictures of the Tournament de Tuna

This post is my entry to the Magic Bullet To Go Giveaway, for which you can find details @ Fun and Food Cafe. You could win a Magic Bullet Food processor!  It’s easy!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Queen of the Coast Tuna

Queen of the Coast

I have entered a cooking contest!  My first one ever!  What was I thinking? 

I’m nervous!  I’ve cooked and baked for parties and family through the years and accepted their compliments and gentle criticisms, but I’ve never had my food judged by strangers before.   We’ll see if I have the thick skin necessary to accept any negative feedback!   What if they can’t stand my plate?  What if the presentation falls apart at the last minute?   I keep on trying to remind myself that it’s all in the name of fun, but as you can tell…I have real issues, unlike the serene beauty above!

I will participate in the Tournament de Tuna on Saturday!   It’s a means of introducing Queen of the Coast Tuna to the US.   Imported from Portugal by LaRuche Imports, Inc., the tuna comes canned in water or oil, or as ready-to-eat salads with either chickpeas; peas and carrots; black-eyed peas; and red beans and sweet corn.  All packed in easy-to-open cans, these salads stand alone as delicious and healthy meals. 


I am using the Tuna Salad with Chick Peas in my dish.  My mind is spinning with ideas and ingredients – I haven’t bought canned tuna in years because we have been enjoying the benefits of fresh tuna.  Do I play it safe with a Mediterranean dish?  Do I add a twist with Mexican flavors, Moroccan, Caribbean spices or how about a little Asian ginger and lemongrass?   As you can see, I’m all over the map but I’m narrowing it down slowly.   I can’t tell you what it will be…there are competitors lurking on this site, you know.

RaphaelKaren, Joan and Amber at Soundworks have been a lot of fun as they have encouraged my friend Chantal and me along the way.   And there’s an added bonus – we will meet the mysterious and unabashedly handsome Raphael, lover of women, romance, tuna and the sea!   Follow the hype on facebook and enter the contest for a chance to win a trip to Portugal.  

And most of all - WISH ME LUCK!!!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Strawberry and blackberry shortcakes with Grand Marnier whipped cream

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It’s finally berry season and these strawberry and blackberry shortcakes went over very well at a meeting with my foodie friends at a backyard barbeque recently.   Slightly sweet and very tender, these shortcakes are a cinch to make.   Similar to scones and Southern biscuits, shortcakes contain a ‘healthy’ dose of shortening (or my preferred butter) which creates a “short” and delicate crumb.   Filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream and a combination of fresh summer berries soaked in a little bit of orange decadence (aka Grand Marnier), this dessert prettily announces the beginning of Summer.

As wonderful as all berries are, I had a major run-in with them in Oregon during a wine-tasting trip in the Willamette Valley.  It was late September and much to my delight I found the country roads surrounding our Bed and Breakfast lined with enormous wild blackberry bushes - hundreds of them – loaded with thousands upon thousands of blackberries at different stages of ripening!  These impressive, sometimes 12-foot tall plants use boundary fences and posts as support for their thorny, entangled canes.   They provide a wonderful feast for the birds for several months and I was astounded that so many perfectly ripe and sweet berries were left to rot.   I couldn’t wait to get my mitts on them!

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Fearless of the possibility of snakes which make the bushes their habitat, I dove in and moved from branch to branch and ate more than I was putting into my Ziploc.  I was not intimidated!   I conquered!   Unable to pace myself midst such glorious fruit, I became an uncontrollable glutton.   Here was my chance to load up for free on vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, fiber, and oh yeah…I forgot…sugar!  

It was a morning (and sometimes evening) ritual, with a healthy dose of wine-tasting in between (I know…more sugar).  I had totally ignored the warnings of my friend Ralph, who predicted my affliction.   In a couple of days my mouth was reeling from a serious overgrowth of yeast.   Generously fueled by my greed and the sharp increase in sugar, I had a veritable bloom of yeast buds splurging in my mouth.   It was not a pleasant feeling and nothing short of a drastic change in diet and a few pills would stop it.  

But don’t let me stop you from enjoying these shortcakes with berries…in moderation of course!  Our group is planning a wine-tasting trip to Washington state this fall...

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Strawberry and blackberry shortcakes with Grand Marnier whipped cream

Makes about 10 – 16 shortcakes. Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

¾ teaspoons salt

6 tablespoons sugar

1½ sticks (12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter), cut into small chunks

1½ cups cold heavy cream

Center a rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the chunks of butter and quickly work it in the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter until the butter is the size of small peas.

Pour the cream over the mixture and mix it gently with a fork until the dough is just combined but there is still flour on the bottom of the bowl. Use your hands to form a rough ball but don’t overwork the dough or it may become tough.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin to about ¾-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch or 3-inch cookie cutter, cut circles out and place on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Collect the scraps, re-roll and cut more dough circles. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, turning the cooking sheet around about half way through the baking time. When the shortcakes are light golden brown, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool.

When ready to serve, slice each shortcake horizontally in half. Place the bottom half on a serving plate and top with a couple of spoonfuls of the berries and whipped cream. Top with remaining half of shortcake and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Strawberries and blackberries in Grand Marnier

2 lbs strawberries and blackberries (the proportion is up to you)

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Wash berries and place on clean kitchen towel to dry. Hull strawberries and then slice them into thirds. Transfer strawberries and blackberries to a bowl. Add sugar and Grand Marnier and mix gently. Set aside to macerate for about an hour.

Grand Marnier whipped cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon orange zest

Whip cream and sugar in a bowl until it begins to thicken. Add Grand Marnier, vanilla essence and orange zest.   Whip carefully until it’s thick.  

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