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.

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Tri-tip steak with a brussel sprout and pancetta side (and grilled corn! and tomato/cucumber salad!)

We eat a lot of grilled corn around these parts. Especially in the summer. It is a specialty of Hubs and often requested by friends and our extended family.

Our lovely au pair has family in town this month and, on the night her best friend arrived, we invited him to join us for dinner. I found a lovely looking tri-tip steak at the local natural food store, too. We also had some brussel sprouts and pancetta that was reaching its life limit. And, as said before, our tomatoes are abundant. With that, a meal was made.

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Ingredients:

The steak

  • one large tri-tip steak
  • soy sauce (about a 1/2 cup)
  • hoisin (two tablespoons)
  • tomato paste (about a tablespoon)
  • worchestshire sauce (about a tablespoon)
  • sesame oil (one tablespoon)
  • rice wine vinegar (one tablespoon)
  • brown sugar (two tablespoons)
  • lime zest
  • salt/pepper
  • lime juice (one lime)
  • grated fresh ginger (about one inch of a knob)

The brussel sprouts

  • one cup of cubed pancetta
  • one pound of brussel sprouts, ends cut off, outer leaves removed and cut in half
  • half of a vidalia onion, cut against the grain
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic
  • toasted pine nuts

The corn

  • as many ears of corn for as many people you have
  • one lime per four ears
  • sprinkling of salt

Tomato/cucumber salad

  • tomatoes from the garden, cut into rough chunks
  • two cucumbers peeled and cut into one inch chunks
  • basil to taste
  • balsamic to taste
  • salt/pepper

In a large glass baking dish, whisk all ingredients for the marinade (everything but the steak). Once thoroughly mixed, add the steak, fat side up, and let it sit, covered for as long as possible. Flip halfway through the amount of time you have available. I didn’t have too much time (about an hour) but it was still enough to get the flavors intermingled.

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While that marinates, cut your brussel sprouts and onion. In a saute pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or grapeseed) and add the onions. When softening, add the pancetta and cook until done. Take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon (leaving as much of their grease as possible) and put them on a paper towel to drain.

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Add in the cut sprouts, cut side down and let that cook until the cut side is browning. When you see a bit of brown, add a splash of wine and a splash of balsamic and mix until all are covered.  Once the sprouts are cooked, add the pancetta and onions back in to the sprouts. This is often best if it has been sitting for a bit in the pan, letting the flavors meld together. Heat up in the pan right before serving.

When ready to cook the tri-tip, turn on your grill to the lower temperature setting. You will use the burners for the corn and the steak will be on indirect heat, on the rack above. Grill the steak on the upper rack for 15 minutes on each side with the lid closed. When the internal temperature (using an insta-read) reaches 135, take it off and let it sit covered in tin foil for 15 minutes more.  While the steak is resting, turn the heat up on grill and put the corn on. Turn only when the kernels begin to char. When charred on all sides (about 15 minutes, but maybe quicker depending on the corn), squeeze a lime over the corn and sprinkle with parmesan.

Chop the tomatoes and cucumber and mix with basil and balsamic, salt and pepper. Turn the heat up high on the sprouts to quickly heat through. Add the pine nuts now (otherwise they can get soggy).  Slice the steak into thin slices and serve!  This tri-tip was so good that we made it again a few days later.

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Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi and Mama’s Asparagus Salad

Last night was another “experimenting” with what is available kind of night. In my freezer I had frozen Trader Joe’s Mahi Mahi filets and a knob of ginger. In my refrigerator I have three bunches of asparagus. And on my counter I had a handful of “on the brink” basil and some “starting to shrivel” cherry tomatoes. I wanted to use that basil. I didn’t realize when I started that the tomatoes would really make this meal.

The Salad:

  • 3 bunches of asparagus
  • large handful of basil
  • tablespoon  of pine nuts
  • table spoon of good olive oil
  • table spoon of balsamic glaze
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt/pepper
  • 10 cherry tomatoes

The Fish:

  • 2 small filets per person, so 8 small filets
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
  • salt/pepper

Knowing that my kitchen would turn into a madhouse at 530 when the kids came up to eat, I decided to roast the asparagus early and then reheat it at the end. I cleaned and broke the asparagus, lining it up on a pan as so:

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I salted and peppered and oiled them up and placed them in a 425 degree oven on the top shelf.

While those cooked I marinated the fish. In a bowl I whisked the soy, honey, balsamic reduction, olive oil and ground ginger. In a Pyrex dish I poured the mixture then placed the fish, skin side down, covered and refrigerated until I was ready.

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Next was the sauce for the salad. I knew I wanted to use the basil but wasn’t sure how. So, I thought, maybe a pesto of sorts? I chopped up a bit, added some pine nuts and a bit of olive oil and, using my immersion blender, puréed the ingredients. It tasted bitter so I added a bit of lemon. Better, but not quite right. Salt and pepper? Better still, but not 100%. Balsamic reduction?! Almost there! A few overripe cherry tomatoes?!! By Jove! It was delicious. But I needed more of this…so I did it again in a bigger bowl.

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I had to stop myself from drinking this concoction. I could eat that every day.

When the asparagus were close to done, I removed them and set them aside until we were at the end.

While the kids ate, I toasted 1/3 cup of pine nuts and set them aside.

Fast forward an hour and the family was close to being ready to eat. I put the oven at 400 and, after turning the fish to coat twice, they went into the oven for 15-20 minutes. When I turned them halfway through the cooking, I put the asparagus back in the oven below the fish. I also quickly cooked up the pancetta, draining it on a paper towel. Remove the fish from the oven when it starts to flake and put the fish on a plate. Pour the marinade into the pan in which you just cooked the pancetta and cook the mixture down a bit. Add a tiny bit of arrow root if it needs thickening.
Put the asparagus, pine nuts, pancetta and sauce in a large bowl and mix. I’m not kidding when I tell you that you may have to hold yourself back from devouring the entire thing right then and there.

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I maaaaaaay have eaten the leftover pine nuts and pancetta with a serving spoon, standing in the kitchen, right before going to bed. It was that good.

After plating the fish and salad, pour the reduced ginger glaze over the fish. Enjoy!

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