Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recipe Recap :: Asparagus Salad, Peppercorn-Crusted Tuna & Pestoed Polenta

Better late than promised, here's a rundown of those recipes I whipped up last Sunday for an impromptu dinner with two of my girlfriends (my studio apartment can sadly only fit so many people!). Standard practice, I assessed what I had in the fridge that morning, built a menu around the fresh vegetables and herbs I had lying around and then picked up a gorgeous piece of tuna steak from Whole Foods for the main entree. All said and done, I knocked out this dinner (4 dishes including a simple fresh ricotta appetizer) in under an hour...a suprisingly relaxing end to a long weekend.

Asparagus Salad with Pickled Rhubarb & Australian Feta Cheese
Serves 4

2 stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 black peppercorns
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Australian feta cheese *Australian is unbelievably creamy and mild tasting - you'll be an addict with just one taste!

Red wine vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar *I've been using the housemade red wine vinegar from the Meat Hook in Brooklyn - A-mazing!
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour 2 cups water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in rhubarb and blanch for 1 to 2 minutes. Place in an ice bath to stop additional cooking.
In a mixing bowl, place rhubarb along with red wine vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt and peppercorns. Set aside.
Toss asparagus spears with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet and roast for 18 to 20 minutes.
Arrange asparagus on a serving plate, place rhubarb in a horizontal line over spears and crumble feta over top. Drizzle with about 1/2 the vinaigrette.

For vinaigrette: Add mustard, shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in olive oil until well-blended.

Peppercorn-Crusted Grilled Tuna Steak with Spring Onions
Serves 4

1 pound tuna steak (or 2 - 8 oz steaks)
1/4 cup black peppercorns, crushed (I used a mortar and pestle, but you can easily use a spice grinder or simply press down hard with the flat edge of knife)
about 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
olive oil for drizzling
1 bunch spring onions, roots trimmed and bulbs cut into quarters

Set an outdoor grill or a grill pan to medium-high heat. Mix together salt and crushed peppercorns and on a clean work surface or plate, press tuna into mixture. Lightly drizzle olive oil over tuna. When ready to cook, toss the spring onions with a bit more olive oil and place on one side of the grill. Grill for about 15 to 18 minutes - do this prior to grilling the tuna. (Or you can roast the onions alongside the asparagus if easier).
When ready to grill the tuna, sear each steak for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.
Serve tuna on a bed of the grilled spring onions.

Pestoed Polenta with Braised Artichoke Hearts
Makes about 8 servings

Artichoke hearts
2 whole artichokes
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
juice of 2 lemons (divided)
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped

Pesto *will have about 1 cup leftover
3 cups fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup fresh grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cups water
1 cup polenta *not the quick cooking kind
1 teaspoon salt
about 2 tablespoons butter

For the artichokes, trim and peel off all outer leaves, leaving just the heart and stem of the artichoke. With a spoon or small paring knife, remove the prickly part of the heart. Trim the outer area of the stems, leaving just the inner white area. Cut each heart into quarters and immediately place in a bowl of cold water with the juice of one lemon to prevent browning. In a medium sauce pan, combine water, wine, garlic, lemon juice, chives and artichoke hearts. Simmer on medium heat for about 25 minutes until tender.

While artichoke hearts are braising, make the pesto. Place all ingredients but olive oil in a food processor. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while blending. Blend until smooth and set aside.

For the polenta: In a medium-large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil and slowly whisk in polenta in a steady stream until well blended, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cooked covered for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
When ready to serve, mix about 1/3 cup of pesto into the polenta and top with artichoke hearts, drizzle with a bit more pesto.

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