Ahi Tuna with Black Bean & Eggplant Dish

When I require a firm fish for creating recipes, I prefer ahi tuna over halibut, which tends to be drier.  I discovered in Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, that the excellence of tuna steaks is enhanced by both eggplant and black beans; lemon and garlic also compliment ahi.1   It took courage for me to experiment with blending all the above together in a dish needed for a special occasion, during which I honored the Lomilos from Uganda.

Cooking takes risks, as life does; nothing comes automatically.  A patient pressing-in is required to foster creative mastery.

I learned an important lesson in my early thirties when I moved to Portland, for then I was struggling to overcome an addiction to alcohol.  In the process of sobering up, I was taught to trust in the history of old-timers in areas that I didn’t yet have enough victory of my own.  As a result, I listened carefully to my elders’ testimonies, holding fast to their professed truths.  The pay-off was great, for I haven’t had a drink since 2/06/86.

In like manner, I have reached out to experts in the culinary field over the years; thus, amplifying my own inherent strengths.  The outcome is an acquired proficiency in successfully combining foods, as exemplified here.

I see parallels between skills gained in cooking and those procured in living.  If we continue with these teachings in my blog, I promise that ability in both these areas will be attained.

I can’t stress enough that patience and trust are essential elements.  Let us walk in the light each of us has, taking baby steps of courage to rise to our next level.

True to form, I sought help from experts in writing this recipe and its history.  For instance, I needed to know more about not overcooking tuna.  Harold McGee teaches about the meat-red color of certain tunas in On Food and Cooking; it is caused by the oxygen-storing pigment myoglobin, which is needed for this fish’s nonstop, high-velocity life.  This deep red color is lost, if this fish is not frozen well below -22 degrees F, which helps explain the brownish color of some frozen tunas.  When cooked, it looses this blood red color at about the same temperature that beef does, between 140-160 degrees F; it is best to undercook this food, or dryness will result.  If you like your meat rare, you will probably also like rare tuna; thus, be careful to check for color during its preparation.2

This ahi may be made with onions that are quickly sautéed, but it is better to carmelize them, a somewhat painstaking process if done correctly.  Next week’s entry will be for nutty, carmelized onions and carrots.  I encourage you to make a double batch of these onions ahead of time; they store for up to 3 days.  The proven result: both the carrots and this tuna will be fast and easy to execute.

Let’s humbly learn from the masters, purposing to keep all seeds of knowledge in fertile soil.

Eat hearty, this is a delicious fish!

  1. Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 187, 273.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 194.

black bean and eggplant dish

Ahi Tuna with Black Beans and Eggplant Dish  Yields: 4 servings.  Total active prep time: 50 min.

Note: if desired the onions may be carmelized several days ahead, using next week’s carmelized onion and carrots’ recipe; the eggplant & bean dish may be made several hours in advance and reheated 15 minutes before serving, as you cook the tuna.

6 1/2 tbsp oil  (Avocado oil is best, coconut oil will do; olive oil produces carcinogens when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, halved at the root and stem and cut in 1/8 inch slices

1 pound eggplant

1/4 cup water

3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed  (2 small lemons needed.)

5 tsp salt, or to taste  (The coarser kosher salt is best here for rubbing in tuna steaks.)

3 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

5 large cloves of garlic, minced  (3 frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe’s makes preparation easier.)

1-15 ounce can of black beans  (Organic is best; Simple Truth brand at our local Fred Meyer’s is very economical.)

2 tsp crushed dried red pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried ginger

2 tsp dried oregano  (Organic is available for $1.99 at Trader’s!)

4 ahi tuna steaks, or about 1 1/3 pound

1 tsp sesame oil

  1. fond on bottom of pan of eggplant

    For quickly sautéing onions, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; place a small piece of onion in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of onion and cook until well browned, stirring occasionally.  (Better yet, use carmelized onions by utilizing next week’s recipe to make a double batch of this time-consuming treat; they store up to 3 days.)  Meanwhile go to next step.

  2. Cut eggplant in small 1 inch cubes, set aside.
  3. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with your hand to loosen juices.  Juice lemon and set aside 3 tbsp.
  4. If using fresh garlic, mince now.
  5. When onions are cooked, place in a bowl; next, heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in pan; place piece of eggplant in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of eggplant.  Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  After 5 minutes, add 1/4 cup of water and deglaze pan (scrape bottom with a wooden or heat resistance plastic spatula to loosen cooked on fond, see photo).  Cook until water is evaporated; this vegetable will be somewhat mushy.
  6. Stir in onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic; if garlic is fresh, cook only until you can smell it; see Tomato/Feta Chicken (2016/07/25) for tips on cooking with garlic.  If using the frozen cubes, cook just until melted and blended in well.
  7. Gently stir in the can of black beans, which has been drained; do not over-stir, as this breaks down beans.  Adjust seasonings.  May set aside to finish just before serving, or immediately proceed to step 9, in which case turn down heat to medium/low under eggplant/beans.  (See  above photo for finished product.)
  8. If finishing later, began the next step 15 minutes before serving time.
  9. Just prior to serving, blend together 4 tsp salt (preferably kosher salt), 2 tsp fresh ground pepper, dried red pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and oregano; rub seasoning into tuna steaks.  (If bean mixture is cold, begin reheating it for 8-10 minutes over medium heat before sautéing tuna, stirring occasionally.)
  10. Melt 4 tbsp oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large sauté pan over medium/high heat; just as it begins smoking, sear steaks in hot oil-2 minutes per side for medium rare, give or take 1/2 minute for rare or medium.  The time may need adjusting as thickness of steaks varies; you can check the color of tuna by piercing thickest part of fish with a sharp knife to check for doneness at the very end; it should be somewhat red for medium-rare.  Do not overcook tuna.
  11. Serve with carmelized onions and carrots (next week’s post).  Enjoy!

1880’s Escalloped Salmon

ingredients for escalloped salmon

Miss Parloa blessed us with escalloped fish in Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book, which Washburn-Crosby Company published in 1880.  This company’s successor General Mills brought these proven receipts back to America by printing an edition in the mid-twentieth century.  Both these companies are known for their production of Gold Medal flour, which they successively produced; thus, this product has been on the market for nearly two and a half centuries.

This 1880’s cook book was one of many written by Miss Parloa, who was an important figure in the gastronomical world of her day.  As director of the Boston cooking school, she became famous for her Boston Cooking School Cook Book, which was forerunner to the renowned Fanny Farmer Cook Book.

In this first above account, she taught “modern” techniques and included 93 “essential” utensils for the kitchen, which boasted of such items as an apple corer, melon mold, and squash strainer.  Her writings catered to the affluent, for she recommended that a dinner for twelve need cost no more than $25, this at a time when an unskilled worker made about $1 per day.1

In her preface to this book, she set forth her desire to give clear, complete, and concise directions, but these were vague compared to our present standards.  Her instructions, however, had far greater detail than those found in the contemporary cook books of her day.

This recipe required five pounds of fish to sustain a family of six at a meal, in contrast to providing for twelve guests at a dinner party, as these hospitable affairs were always profuse in delectable dishes.  My directive only calls for one pound of salmon for four people, because this is a rich food for our relatively sedentary bodies; in these former days people were highly active, requiring many more calories than we do today.

As with this outmoded receipt, things call for adaptation; we must learn to adjust to the required needs of any given time.  Our living God perpetually covers us in all instances of unforeseen change, bringing healthy modification, if we ask believing.

There are truths in his word.  When overwhelmed with trouble, our heartfelt cries go out to our Father: “Do I have what it takes to counter this storm?  How do I do this?”  As we quiet our souls, clear answers come; next, we proceed to follow our heart’s unction with our determined movement.  Victory always follows when we heed this inner voice carefully!

At times the process is slow; thus, patience is critical to success.  It is necessary to listen for “the winds in the mulberry trees”.2   Like these air currents in trees, which are constantly varying, our circumstances also rapidly change; therefore, we need to be very flexible when we receive guidance as such.

This is a joyful race we are running!  Nothing is too difficult for us.  We simply align our hearts to the “recipe” our Father is dictating at each turn, purposing to not be alarmed when our five pounds of fish becomes one pound, or with equal intention, staying calm when it reverses back to five pounds.

Recently I enjoyed escalloped salmon with friends I hadn’t seen for a long time; our reunion was marked with excellence in both fellowship and food.  This dish is a winner for special occasions, especially when served with next week’s entry 1880’s minced cabbage.

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 310.
  2. The Holy Bible, King James Version, 2 Samuel 5: 22-25.

baked escalloped salmon

1880’s Escalloped Salmon  Yields 4 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 15 min/  active prep time: 45 min/  baking time: 30 min.  This is adapted from a recipe in Miss Parloa’s Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880), a facsimile of this was printed sometime in the 20th century by General Mills.

1/4 cup bread crumbs  (May purchase these, or grind 2 slices of stale bread in a dry food processor; make extra, as these freeze well; for stale bread, leave it out for about 8 hours.)

1-1 1/2 lb salmon fillet  (A minimum of 1 lb is needed if fillet is boneless and skinless, more if there are bones and/or skin.)

1 tsp salt, or more to taste  (Real Salt is best for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)

1 cup whipping cream*, or half and half

1/8 cup water

1 tbsp flour

1/8 tsp white pepper, or more to taste

Steamed rice, cooked according to directions on package

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (if preparing ahead, wait and preheat oven 1 hr &10 min before serving).
  2. If salmon fillet is large, cut in pieces that will fit in a 3 quart saucepan.  Place in pan and cover with water, to which you have added 1/2 tsp salt; bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until center of thickest part of salmon is opaque, when pierced with a fork.  Remove from liquid and cool.  Meanwhile go to next step.
  3. If preparing your own bread crumbs, grind 2 pieces or more of stale bread in dry food processor, pressing pulse button repeatedly until crumbs are fine.  Set aside, freeze extras.
  4. Heat cream over medium heat in a small saucepan, only until a soft boil is formed, stir frequently, and watch carefully.
  5. While heating, dissolve flour in water.  Watching cream carefully, turn heat down to medium/low, as soon as it barely boils.  Stir is flour mixture with a wire whisk and cook, beating frequently, until sauce is thick.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and white pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings; set aside.
  6. Start rice, following directions on package (wait if you are preparing salmon ahead).
  7. Butter a small, 1 quart baking dish; place a light layer of sauce in bottom of dish.
  8. Skin and carefully de-bone fish, placing bite-size pieces in baking dish on top of layer of cream.  When all the salmon is thus prepared, press down on fish to make compact; cover the top with the remaining cream sauce.
  9. Just before placing this in oven, spread bread crumbs on top of sauce.  If a skim has formed on top of cream, gently break apart with a spoon, making surface wet again, so crumbs can stick; then, bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven to meld all flavors.  (If you are making this ahead of time, place dish in refrigerator; top with breadcrumbs just before baking, being sure to break up skim on top of cream first; cook for 1 hour in preheated oven; start rice when you place salmon in oven.)
  10. Serve with 1880’s Minced Cabbage, which is next week’s entry.

Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder

Salad with leftover Thai flounder

salad with leftover chilled Thai flounder

A long-awaited-for marriage took place in my church in October.  A feast at my bountiful table was part of my wedding present to our venerated couple.

Our bride Dina was particularly interested in learning how to cook, with ease, for her new groom.  My bright idea was to begin my dinner gift in the kitchen with teaching her how to make the meal.  I prepared all the steps, just like you might see on a cooking show: the ingredients were set out in small individual dishes, along with the corresponding pans and utensils. All was in place for the lesson to flow naturally.

My priceless inheritance from my parents was a gene that “knows” food. Therefore I intuitively conceived this delicious dish, which was specifically geared for her husband’s dietary needs.  An exquisite, ultra simple recipe resulted.

Surprise and hesitancy occurred upon my friends’ arrival, as I informed Dina that she was going to make dinner, under my close direction.  She, being true to form, rolled up her sleeves with courage.  Her nervousness soon dissipated, for the facility of my simple instructions comforted her.  Joy unspeakable resulted: a chef was born!  I have observed, as an aside, that this woman approaches all of life’s challenges with this same spirit.

Are you timid about stepping into the unknown, either in or out of the kitchen? May you receive encouragement to advance in faith; start by trying my recipes. They look lengthy at times, but are effortless!  The cause for this seeming protractedness is my inclusion of practical details, which make food preparation easy and enjoyable.  You’ll sense that you are in  cooking school, when you use my receipts, as I teach at every point.  Rest assured-I will educate you for the joy of cooking.

My favorite way to serve my smooth flounder, with its slight bite, is over a good pasta.  (However I used rice for my newly weds.)  Either will bless the taste buds. Also, cold leftovers of this fish top off a salad superbly.

This feast pleased Dina, Dale, and me as well!

Thai coconut lime flounder dinner

Thai coconut lime flounder dinner

Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder  Yields: 4 servings.  Total prep time: 40 minutes.

Note: flounders close relate to and resemble soles; thus, you may substitute any sole here (also see Parmesan Dover Sole, 2017/02/13).

1 ½ tbsp coconut oil  (Other oils will do, but coconut is best for flavor and quality here.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, halved at the core, and thinly sliced

1 lime, juiced

7 oz Extra Thick Coconut Cream, or half of a 14 oz can (This is available at Trader Joe’s.)

¾ tsp dried, crushed red pepper (Save spice jars and refill yearly with cheap, up-to-date “bulk’ spices.)

¼ tsp salt

4 fillets of flounder, approximately 1 lb  (Wild-caught is best; may substitute sole, which is a close relative to flounder.)

Boiled pasta or steamed rice

  1. Start cooking rice, according to directions on package.  If using pasta, begin boiling water in a big pot; to which you add 2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp of oil-any kind of oil will do.
  2. Place 4 individual dinner plates in oven; set the temperature on warm.
  3. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Place a small piece of onion in oil; it is ready when onion sizzles.  Add the onions and stir well; carmelize, cook until dark brown.  (See Tomato/Feta Chicken, 2016/07/25, and Cooking with Kale, 2016/09/07, for more about sautéing and the 19th century history of this technique.)
  4. Meanwhile roll lime on counter; press down hard with your hand, until the meat of the fruit is broken down and softened.  Juice lime.  Set aside.
  5. Place whole can of coconut oil in a small storage container.  Stir thoroughly until milk and cream are completely blended.
  6. Add half of the coconut cream (7 oz), lime, red pepper, and salt to carmelized onions.  Stir well and slowly bring to a soft boil over medium heat.  If preparing for guests, you may choose at this point, to set aside coconut mixture and heat it 15 minutes before serving.  If you are waiting, be sure to have the plates warm, rice cooked, or water boiling ahead of time.  (Note: you can freeze leftover coconut cream, or use within a week.)
  7. Start cooking pasta in boiling water about 12-15 minutes before dinner time.  Boil until it is al dente, about 10 minutes. Watch, as not to over cook. Drain and place on heated dinner plates when done.
  8. Meanwhile add two fillets of flounder (more if using sole) to hot coconut cream mixture, which has been heated over medium temperature.  Poach briefly on each side, only until color in center is opaque.  Do not overcook. Remove to heated dinner plates-on which you have placed pasta or rice. Repeat this step with the remaining fillets. Cover with sauce.
  9. Serve it forth!

Lemon/Spinach Chicken or Ahi Tuna

Lemon spinach chicken

lemon/spinach chicken

Back to cooking with greens with another delightful dish!  This simple spinach recipe utilizes the bounty of my friend’s fall garden.  She replants her leafy vegetables mid-August for a late harvest, with which I am blessed. However one 10-12 oz bag of fresh spinach will do, if you are buying it.

This recipe is high in protein and iron. It has vitamin C as well, which increases the absorption of dietary iron according to the Mayo Clinic.  They recommend using any of the following for this purpose: broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, leafy greens, melons, oranges, peppers, strawberries, tangerines, or tomatoes.  Lemon juice and tomatoes were my inspiration here.

It is important to use coconut or avocado oil, as olive oil produces carcinogens, when heated to high temperatures.

I always use Real Salt or Himalayan salt, which have all the necessary minerals. Other salts (including white sea salt) don’t have these essential nutrients.  High quality salt, which is pink in color, and electrolytes are both necessary for good health.  You will notice a stabilization of your emotions, when these are balanced in your system.  Arbonne sells excellent electrolyte powder at a reasonable price, especially when you consider the cost of coconut or vitamin waters and Gatorade.  The caliber of Arbonne’s electrolytes far exceeds that of these drinks!

The first time I served my lemon/spinach creation was for a couple from my church.  His mother had just passed and we were celebrating her life with utter joy!  There were jocund accounts of her life’s victories, as well pictures of her holy marriage in the 1940’s.  The Spirit of God moved during our festive fellowship.

I used ahi tuna steaks that night in this recipe, instead of the chicken tenderloins. Either version is powerfully good.  Note: be extra careful not to overcook the meat or fish.

Enjoy perfect simplicity here!

Lemon Spinach Chicken   Yields: 4 servings.  (Note: may substitute ahi tuna steaks.)

3 tbsp of oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best.)

1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 medium lemons, squeezed

12-16 chicken tenderloins, thawed  (Natural ones are available at Trader’s inexpensively, or you may substitute 4-6 ounce ahi tuna steaks.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in the health section at local supermarkets)

2 medium/large tomatoes, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped  (For a change, I used elephant garlic which is milder; if using this, double the amount.)

10-12 ounces of fresh spinach

Steamed brown rice  (Basmati rice from Trader’s is my favorite.)

  1. Heat 1 ½ tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add small piece of onion; when it sizzles, add the remaining onion.  Carmelize onion (cook until dark brown).  Set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile roll lemons on counter, pushing down hard with your hand, to loosen the juices inside.  Squeeze lemons. Set aside.
  3. Melt remaining oil in frying pan over medium heat.  Pat thawed tenderloins or tuna, somewhat dry, by using paper towels.  (A little moisture will help the adhesion of seasonings.)  Be sure to salt and pepper raw meat/fish generously.  Cook chicken tenderloins or tuna, in hot oil, in batches if necessary.  Cut tenderloins into bite-size pieces with spatula.  Cook only until very pink inside.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!  (The inner meat of the tuna or chicken should be almost red, as it will cook more later.)  Place pieces in the bowl with onions as each is done.  Watch very carefully, as not to overcook.  Leave fond (pan drippings) in pan.
  4. Add tomatoes and garlic to hot frying pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until soft and chunky.  Deglaze the pan (scrape fond off bottom with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon), while tomatoes are cooking.  Note: there is an abundance of flavor in fond.
  5. Add half the spinach to hot sauce; stir well, by distributing the tomatoes over greens.  Repeat step with rest of spinach; cook briefly, or just until leaves are slightly limp.
  6. Place meat or tuna, onions, and lemon juice in frying pan with spinach/tomatoes.  Stir well.  Cook mixture just until hot.  Do not overcook the meat/fish.
  7. Adjust seasonings.
  8. Serve with steamed brown rice.  So delicious!

Curried Pineapple Ahi Tuna

Curried pineapple ahi tuna

Curried pineapple ahi tuna

I had a fresh pineapple crying out to be used and a dinner guest about to arrive. This easy, outstanding dish resulted that tantalized my company. The sauce may be prepared ahead of time; you may cook the tuna just prior to serving it.

Nearly every person in my family (parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews) possesses this gift of developing imaginative, delicious recipes. Many are (or have been) professional chefs.  My brother and sister were the backbone of inspiration behind my family’s restaurant high in the Rocky Mountains, at the east entrance to Glacier National Park in Montana.  This establishment belonged to my family for just over 50 years; it was famous in its day for its cherished food.

My brother Paul was trained at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. He brought his polished innovations to our eatery.  On the other hand, my sister Maureen just knows food intuitively.  Her exciting supply sang with nutrition and tastes that blessed the public!

My sister has taught me so much about cooking with optimum health benefits.   She is a master at creating beautiful foods that nourish body and soul.  I am so indebted to her for her nutritive excellence in my skills.

Intuitive wisdom about the preparation of ailments is in my family’s genes. It’s my fundamental inheritance:  I just know how to cook. My “formal” training in this endeavor is limited to one day, as a visitor, at Cordon Blue Cooking School in Paris, France.  The lesson was taught in French, of which I understood very little, but the dishes looked, smelled, and tasted glorious!

Note: I am the only one in my clan that applied higher education in food history to our joy of cooking.

Curried Pineapple Ahi Tuna Simple and superb!  (Yields: 4 servings.)

3 tbsp. oil (coconut or avocado oil is best)

1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 pinches of sugar

3 large carrots, thinly sliced at a diagonal

10 oz. frozen broccoli florettes (organic at Trader Joe’s is best,) partially thawed

2 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. flour

1-15 oz can of chicken, vegetable, or fish broth/stock

2 cups of fresh pineapple, cut in small pieces (or well-drained, canned crushed pineapple)

4 ahi tuna steaks

salt and pepper to taste (Real Salt is best-available in natural foods at local supermarket)

brown rice (I prefer basmati,) cooked according to directions

  1. Melt 1½ tbsp. of coconut oil in a large frying pan, over medium heat. Add onion and sugar when sizzling; stir and carmelize (cook until well browned.) Set aside in a bowl.
  2. Heat remaining coconut oil; add carrots and broccoli. Cook until tender. Add onions.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour. Whisk and cook over a medium heat for 30 seconds. Slowly add broth, whisking well with each addition. Cook until thickened, stirring with whisk. Add pineapple (sauce will get runny with fruit.) Cook, whisking, until thickened again (won’t be quite as thick.) Add to vegetables in the large frying pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. May set aside at this point and finish just before serving.
  5. Wash tuna steaks and pat dry. Salt and pepper generously.
  6. Place steaks in hot sauce mixture and poach. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  7. Serve with rice.