Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

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Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken 🙂

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


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Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

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Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

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The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

Grilled pork tenderloin with Thai-ish green sauce and charred red cabbage

You guys. YOU GUYS! This experiment? Totally worth it. I knew I wanted the charred red cabbage. But I wasn’t sure with what to pair it. It was just hubs and myself so I knew I wanted meat but I had had steak the night before (and hubs had had salmon) and we have been tiring of chicken. So we decided on pork tenderloin. When I went to the store to pick some up, there was the most succulent looking basil hitting me in the face as I walked in. And the mint in the garden is a bit out of control. So I figured why not doing something similar to my chopped chicken, Thai style. Do I stuff it like this recipe? Or make it more like a chimichurri sauce? Or chop up the pork similar to the chicken and mix it all in there together, like this? I decided on something sort of in the middle of all of that. Grill the lime and ginger rubbed pork tenderloin and then make a basil-mint-lime-ginger pesto. And holy cow. It was juicy and flavorful and really delicious.

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Ingredients:

The pork

  • pork tenderloin
  • salt/pepper
  • lime zest
  • ginger
  • thai chili oil
  • grapeseed oil

The pesto

  • 1 cup of basil leaves
  • 1 cup of mint leaves
  • 2 inches off a knob of ginger
  • zest of two limes
  • juice of one lime
  • half of red shallot
  • a few drops of thai chili oil
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil

The cabbage

  • red cabbage
  • balsamic vinaigrette of your choice

When I told Hubs what we were having for dinner, he went outside to get the grill ready. He came inside and said, “okay, we have 20 minutes worth of gas!” so I made this dinner in a MAJOR hurry.  After patting the pork dry, I quickly rubbed on a bit of salt and pepper, a few drops of the chili oil, about a teaspoon of grapeseed oil, the lime zest and ground ginger (using my plane grater). I actually wore a disposable glove for this one because, not only did I have to move quickly, but I had other things going on at the same time and wouldn’t have time to deal with chili on my hands (avoiding my eyes, the kids, etc). Put it on a cutting board and then cut the red cabbage, after having removed the outer layer, into wedges (leaving the core intact), sidling them up beside the pork. Hubs is a master vinaigrette maker and I don’t really know what goes into his (oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, mustard, and sometimes plain yogurt I think…but I asked him to leave out the yogurt on this since it would be on the grill) but really, any vinaigrette would be okay here. I brushed it on one side telling Hubs that that side should go on the grill first.

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Out he went and I got to making the pesto.\

After washing and drying the basil and mint, I threw all of the ingredients into the cuisinart. I pulsed them, using a spatula to pull the displaced pesto back into the mix often, until it was pureed. I tasted as I went adding a dash more of chili oil or jalapeno if it needed more spice or ginger if it needed punch. At one point I considered putting in a bit of plain yogurt to smooth it out a bit…but I’m glad I didn’t. It REALLY didn’t need it.

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Hubs is a master griller so can tell when things are ready by touch. I need an instaread thermometer. With the cabbage, he grilled it until the first side began to wilt and char. He then doused the other side with the vinaigrette and flipped them so that the other side would char…about 10 minutes for the first side (depending on how hot your grill gets)? The pork and the cabbage will take almost the same amount of time to cook so they were a good match. When he taken all of the cabbage and the pork off of the grill, I went out with my jug o’ pesto and doused the entire thing on while it was still toasty.

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This wasn’t just beautiful to look at. It was GOOOOOOOD. Hubs likes his meat a bit more cooked so he took the ends. I like my pork pink in the middle (AS IT SHOULD BE!) so I took the center pieces. Both of us were happy.  The cabbage was caramelized on the outside with some crunch and the interior was a perfect mix of bitter and sweet. The grilling really mellows the flavor and the vinaigrette ups the flavor throughout.

My dad, who was delayed on his flight to visit us last night and didn’t land until 12:30am (5 and a half hours later…) had the last remaining piece when he arrived and, even cold, he was talking about it when he woke up this morning. A hit for sure!

Pea, Avocado and Mint Dressing Used Two Ways

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I’ve seen a few versions of this recipe floating around but I knew it wouldn’t be hearty enough on its own for a meal for my family (I kept on seeing it on toast or as a dip for chips). So tonight, as usual, I am going to MacGuyver that recipe and make it something the Suhlizis would eat.

As our au pair isn’t the biggest fan of chicken, I made two versions: veggie and chicken.

Ingredients (leave the chicken out if cooking the veg version):

  • Two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One bag of frozen peas
  • One avocado (peeled and seeded)
  • One cup of mint leaves
  • Jalapeno, finely diced, to taste
  • Half of a red onion, roughly chopped
  • One can of chickpeas (more will go into the veg version than the chicken version)
  • A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • A few stalks of raw dinosaur kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Limes (both zest and juice)
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • Half a cup of toasted pine nuts

Chop the boneless, skinless breasts into one inch chunks. Add salt and pepper and marinate in yogurt, sriracha and lime juice, covered and in the fridge, for a few hours.

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Cook the peas as directed on the package. As mentioned previously, I like the steam in the bag kind. Cooks for five minutes and little to no mess. While that steams, in a dry sauté pan, toast the pine nuts and set aside.  The picture here shows the before and after. A lot of times I toast them up a bit darker as hubs REALLY likes that, um, burnt flavor. Not my thing. I went a bit less toasty tonight.

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In a food processor or using a stick blender (whichever is handy…I made the mistake of being TOO handy and using my vitamix. NOT the best tool suited for the job), puree the cooked peas, the avocado and mint and a few pine nuts until smooth. Tasting it along the way, I also pureed in some jalapeno, lime juice, some lime zest and salt and pepper.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil and a pat of butter into the pan over medium high heat. When the oil is glistening, add the half of the red onion and then, a minute or so later, the chicken. Turn the chicken once the panside is slightly browned. If the yogurt becomes too liquid-y in while you are cooking, drain it out and put it back on the stove. The more liquid, the less browned. Continue to turn and cook through (using a instaread thermometer if needed) and remove to a separate plate. Dollup on a few spoonfuls of the pea/mint/avocado mixture to the chicken.

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Add a bit of olive oil to the pan and add the rest of the red onion and the chiffonaded, stemmed kale, cut into small pieces. If you have any handy, pour in a 1/4 cup of wine (any color) when the kale starts to turn color. It really adds a depth of flavor and cuts the sharpness of the kale. Add the cherry tomatoes whole and chickpeas to the pan to warm. Cook the kale until tender but not wilted.

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(This is when I add the wine…when it looks like this)image (4)-005

Because two plates of the three will be non-veg, put this together on/in the plates/bowls you will be using. Chop the spinach into one inch pieces and then put the fresh spinach on the bottom of the bowl. Top with a bit of the pea/mint/avocado mixture. If you are adding the chicken, add it now. Then top with the veg mixture. More chickpeas for the veggie dish. Then add some more of the pea/mint/avocado mixture and top with a boat load of toasted pine nuts and more sriracha.

This was INCREDIBLY filling. I could have had half a bowl and been satisfied. But it was so GD healthy, that I stuffed it back guilt free. This would be fantastic for a group of people (luncheon, shower, etc.) and could probably be improved by grilling the chicken instead of sauteeing it. I might also consider thinning out the pea/mint/avocado mix by making it more of a dressing…maybe some vinegar/olive oil? More like a salad dressing. It was so thick, it was a bit difficult to mix.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Broccolini

Last night’s dinner was a super success. I had hubs pick out the fish for us when we were at the farmer’s market yesterday (quickly becoming my favorite Sunday morning activity with the kids — helps P try new foods, too!) as I really want to get him involved in the food we eat. The best way to do this (in my experience) is to have him grill the food…and to have him pick it out himself.

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Yesterday he chose a GORGEOUS mahi mahi (after helping P make friends with the little guy to our left…this lil’ dude was about three inches long).

I wasn’t sure what I could do with the mahi mahi as I sometimes have a major fear of “new to me” ingredients. But if he was comfortable grilling it, I was sure I could figure out a side, marinade and/or sauce. Apparently, I mastered two of the three (in hubs’ opinion).

Once we were home and were unpacking the days glory, I noticed that the pineapple that I had purchased two weeks ago (before “the sick”) was on last legs. It had to be used. And from there I got creative!

The fish marinade:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (we used low sodium)
  • 3 limes (zest and juice)
  • 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons of cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt/pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (for the high temps)

The pineapple topping/salsa:

  • At least a cup of freshly cubed pineapple (reserve the juices when cutting)
  • 1/2 of finely chopped vidalia onion
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of super finely chopped jalapeno
  • 12 mint leaves chiffonaded and then finely chopped
  • Squeeze of lime juice

I forgot to take a picture of the final plate…because we dove into it so quickly that I didn’t even have time to consider it. It looked and smelled THAT good.

Before doing anything else, whisk all of the ingredients for the marinade together and then place the fish flesh side down (skin up) into the marinade in a dish (I used a pirex pan).

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Then, go outside and clean the grates on your grill VERY well and coat them in grapeseed oil…while the grill is still cold.  Come back inside and prepare the salsa.

Chop all of the ingredients, mix in a glass bowl, taste and add more heat from the jalapeno if it seems light on heat or add some more lime juice if it needs more acid and let them sit. Make sure you have put back all of the pineapple juices lost when cutting it up. Because hubs likes his food extra hot, I chopped up a bit more jalapeno for him to add after I had plated dinner.

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Once the fish has sat in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, it is ready to grill. Hubs took over at this point but we followed this tutorial. Basically, hot grill skin side down first for 8 minutes or until the bottom side is turning white (1/4 of the way up), flip and cook until the other side is almost completely opaque (about another 8 minutes). Hubs made sure to pour the marinade over the fish throughout the cooking.

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While he was outside cooking the fish, I steamed the broccolini in my wok with the bamboo steamer. I salted the water prior to turning on the heat and squeezed a bit of lemon on it at the very end of cooking.

Once the fish was finished cooking, we served it immediately. And it was freaking DELICIOUS! The perfect mix of hot and sweet and tangy. It tasted fresh and light…but amazingly filling, too. The perfect meal.

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