17 April 2014

It's time for the Improv Challenge!

The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's assigned ingredients are not really ingredients, technically.  More like a theme: ebony and ivory.  Interesting!  I did a bit of searching, mostly on Pinterest, and found lots of yummy desserts with a dark chocolate layer and some kind of white layer (either white chocolate or vanilla).  They all looked delicious, but you know me, I wanted something more "outside the box".  I found a black and white cocktail I thought about trying, but then I realized it was made with Kahlua, which I don't like, and half-and-half, which I can't drink because I'm lactose intolerant.  So that was out.  I kept searching and eventually stumbled upon something genius.  A recipe from McCormick seasonings for Black and White Encrusted Tuna Steaks.  Tuna steaks!  Yum!  And I happened to have both black and white sesame seeds in my pantry already.  (The white are a pantry staple and I bought the black last fall for my Ginger Sesame Grilled Chicken Salad.)  I had not bought tuna steaks in years, because they are so expensive and way out of my grocery budget.  But I love them and order them at restaurants when I have the opportunity.  I was so excited to find some Ahi Tuna Steaks in the frozen section at Sam's recently.  They were very reasonably priced, much more so than their fresh counterparts, so I just had to try them.  The McCormick recipe included a wasabi aoli, but I don't care for wasabi, so I found a yummy peanut dipping sauce instead.  It's slightly adapted from For the Love of Cooking.

Black and White Sesame Encrusted Tuna

¼ cup sesame or olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp powdered ginger
4 (5 oz.) ahi tuna steaks
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Pour oil, soy sauce, garlic powder and ginger in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Mush the bag to thoroughly mix.  Place tuna steaks in bag and close it up, removing as much air as possible.  Place bag in refrigerator and marinate for an hour.  Remove from refrigerator at least 15 minutes before ready to cook.

Mix sesame seeds and salt on large plate. Remove tuna from marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Coat tuna steaks on both sides with sesame seed mixture, pressing firmly so the mixture adheres to the tuna.  Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add tuna; cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.

Slice tuna and serve with peanut dipping sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp garlic powder
2 tsp sesame or olive oil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Combine the soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, garlic powder, oil, and red pepper flakes together in a bowl. Whisk until well combined. Set aside for 10-15 minutes before using to allow the flavors to combine.  Whisk again right before serving.  Store remaining sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Makes about ¾ cup.

Note: These recipes are gluten-free provided your soy sauce is gluten-free.

Oh my goodness, this was amazing!  I served it with Ginger Scallion Noodles and Roasted Asparagus.  I had been looking forward to that meal all day and it did not disappoint!  

I cooked my tuna very lightly, keeping it nice and pink in the middle.  It was a little underdone for my husband, so he nuked his a little bit.  It will definitely still be great if you cook it through more than I did.  Usually you have to worry about it drying out, but the marinade makes sure that won't happen.  So cook it as thoroughly as you like.  Even as rare as it was, my six-year-old gobbled hers up without complaint.  My three-year-old took one bite, said she liked it, but then didn't eat any more of it.  

Both of these recipes, the tuna marinade and the peanut sauce, called for sesame oil, but I have found that I don't like it. It tastes like burnt plastic to me.  So I always use olive oil instead.  But if you like cooking with sesame oil, then definitely use that for even more sesame flavor.

I am definitely going to stock up on this tuna the next time I go to Sam's so I can make this all the time!

Check out the other "ebony and ivory" dishes below and come back next month to see what I make with lemon and lime.


    An InLinkz Link-up

06 April 2014

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

This month I was assigned the blog Kitchen Trial and Error, written by Kate, a wife and mom of one with another on the way this month (congrats Kate!) in Rochester, New York.  I was familiar with Kate's blog and have had it on my blog reader for a long time.  So I knew I would have no problem finding something yummy to make this month.  Funny story: when I received my assignment, I started exploring Kate's blog to decide what to make.  Pretty quickly, I found her Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Drumsticks.  First, it sounded really good, then it started sounding really familiar.  Not only had I pinned that recipe when she first posted it, but it was actually on my meal plan for that week!  What a coincidence!  Unfortunately, I couldn't use it for my SRC post because that recipe is so awesome that Ilona's Kitchen picked it last month when she was assigned Kate's blog.  But I had no trouble finding other options.  I considered her Pretzel Chicken with Mustard Cheese Sauce, Soy-Glazed Cod with Zucchini, and White Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Blondies before settling on something very classic.  Something classic and relatively simple, but something I had not ever made before: Meatball Subs.  

Meatball Subs

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 eggs
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp Italian seasoning (Pasta Sprinkle)
½ tsp salt
1 jar pasta sauce
6  sub rolls
1½  cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine ground beef, eggs, parmesan, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt.  Mix well.  Form into 2 tbsp-sized balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.  Remove from oven; do not turn oven off.

Heat pasta sauce in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  When meatballs are done, remove meatballs from baking sheet and place them in the sauce.  

Split the sub rolls and place 4-5 meatballs and some sauce on each one.  Top with mozzarella and place on a baking sheet.  Put them on the top rack of the oven and bake a few more minutes, just until the cheese melts.  Remove from oven and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Why have I never made these before?  I knew my husband liked them because he orders them at restaurants, but I never thought to make them at home.  There's no reason not to, as they are really easy to make.  I love Kate's recipe because it's a great combo of homemade and convenience.  Homemade meatballs and jarred pasta sauce.  I'm not a big fan of making my own tomato sauces, but I much prefer homemade meatballs to the frozen kind.  So Kate's recipe was absolutely perfect for me.

Kate used a mini muffin pan to make her meatballs, but I don't have one (I have regular, square, heart-shaped and jumbo muffin tins but no mini!), so I used my 2 tbsp measuring spoon and that seemed to be just the right size.  I think I got about 30 meatballs that way.  It was more than we needed for dinner that night, but my husband loved having subs for lunches the next two days.

My husband and my kids loved these.  Messy, but good!  I made the mistake of trying to melt the cheese with the broiler the second time around and even though they were in there for only a minute, the bread burned, so definitely do it like Kate says and use the 400° oven instead.

I was a little conservative with the cheese on the sandwich in these picks because I wanted you to be able to see the yummy meatballs.  But feel free to pile it on for the ultimate gooey melty cheesy experience.

Thanks for a great recipe, Kate!


    An InLinkz Link-up