The best use for a tiny ciabatta roll

smoked-salmon-ciabatta

Since I baked up my teensy ciabatta rolls, people all week have been telling me that size doesn’t matter.  I decided to listen to them and enjoy them in the form of a diminutive breakfast sandwich.  After all, I love tea sandwiches and they make up for their size by sheer force of will.  Any good tea sandwich will be loaded with creamy, sweet, smoky, meaty, eggy flavors.  A tea sandwich is so rich that a smaller size is almost required so that the eater is not overwhelmed.

 

I haven’t gone to a favorite breakfast place of mine in awhile but that particular restaurant had the best bagels I have ever had (which probably isn’t saying much since I have never had a New York bagel, but trust me, these were pretty amazing bagels!).  One way they served their delicious bagels was as a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich.  I decided the mini ciabattas would make a great stand in for those wonderful bagels and once I heated them in the oven so that the crusts crisped back up and the insides became warm and soft from the heat, I had an amazing breakfast on my hands. 

 

Most smoked salmon sandwiches seem to be made with the kind of smoked salmon that comes in slices.  I prefer the chunks of smoked salmon instead.  I am lucky to have Trader Joes where I live and they currently have wild caught smoked king salmon.  The salmon is merely cut into half-pound slabs of salmon filet on the skin and then smoked.  I prefer it this way because the salmon seems meatier yet delicate in texture.  That texture is just right for such a rustic sandwich as this.

 

Smoked Salmon Sandwich

For each sandwich:

 

1 mini ciabatta roll, small multigrain bagel or two diagonal slices of

baguette (or the bread of your choice)

 

2 oz smoked salmon filet

 

1 tbsp whipped light cream cheese or regular cream cheese

 

Thinly sliced red onion to taste

 

Capers to taste

 

If using the ciabatta roll or a bagel, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  When the oven has warmed, put the bread in the oven to warm for about 3-5 minutes.  Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool slightly before slicing it open.  If the center of the bread is still very hot, let it cool slightly, then spread cream cheese on both halves.  Sprinkle the thinly sliced red onions onto the sandwich halves and then top with sliced salmon.  Sprinkle liberally with capers.  Enjoy!

 

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Sweet and Savory

I have to admit to debauchery this week.  It was my boyfriend’s birthday and we planned to travel and with travel for us comes eating.  We started out by driving to the Pasadena area to visit the Huntington Gardens.  The gardens were gorgeous and we made sure to see the lovely new Chinese garden as well as the Greene and Greene exhibit of craftsman furniture. But… we also stopped for tea at the rose garden tea room where tea is not the dainty thing a Victorian party would leisurely sit and pick at but an all you can eat extravaganza of tea sandwiches, scones, caviar, spreads and cheese, oh and really good tea.  The next day, we drove to Cambria and visited Hearst Castle for the evening tour but we spent two nights there and ate and drank to our hearts content.  It was a lovely time but I was very, very bad.

 

I would like to say that once we got home, I got back onto the healthy eating program, but I didn’t.  Not right away anyway.  Today we finally went grocery shopping where I found a wonderful fillet of Steelhead Salmon to go with some rainbow chard that I already had in my crisper.  I went to the Epicurious site to see if I could find something delicious but healthy and I found just the right things. 

The Salmon recipe called for making a glaze of honey, coarse grain Dijon mustard and crushed caraway seeds.  The glaze is broiled onto the salmon.  As the salmon cooks, the broiler heat caramelizes the glaze into a chewy, sweet and savory but flowery glaze that is just heavenly.  Here is a link to the recipe.  You must try this yourself!

The chard recipe calls for both the stems and leaves of the chard, which somehow makes me feel virtuous, like I am not wasting a bit of this delectable vegetable.  Redolent with garlic, the fruity sweetness of the currants and the tangy saltiness of a fine goat feta that I used, this was a remarkable side dish to go along with my salmon.  Go here for the chard recipe.

 

All in all, this meal was a winner.  I rounded it out with hot chewy short grain brown rice.  It was the kind of meal that feels decadent but really is virtuous and when you know you are taking care of yourself while pampering yourself, it is fine indeed.

Lean, Mean Tuna Salad Sammie

Attendance on this blog is dropping off precipitously.  Is it I? Do you not love me anymore?  Is it the fact that I have been posting new blog entries slower than a snail can cross the road?  Is it the fact that nobody is eating anything good around here and people are getting crabby?!  Can it be that someone posts a lovely peach cobbler weeks ago and then tells you that you can eat five pounds of fresh peaches for one puny slice?????

 

Anyway.  The weight loss program is working and it is working well so any of you that are still hanging in here with me, thank you.  Hopefully I will be sleek and sexy again in no time and then the lessons I have learned on this program will be ingrained and I will stay healthy for life. 

 

One thing that you tend to do on Weight Watchers is try to lighten up your foods a bit because eating a giant hunk of real cheese could mean the difference between eating a satisfying amount of healthy food for the day and well… eating a huge hunk of real cheese.  So, you tend to make choices like:   I can go to a chain restaurant and eat a quesadilla or I can eat three meals and two snacks today.  One thing that I haven’t been eating is tuna salad and I certainly don’t eat tuna melts for now.  I love real mayo and I tried so hard to like reduced fat mayo in my tuna salad but it didn’t work out for me.  I just didn’t like it at all. For me, it is the real thing in all of its fatty glory and full serving size or none at all.  So I was pretty intrigued when I was browsing the Eating Well magazine site and came across a recipe for a hot tuna salad sandwich that had all sorts of goodies in it but very little fat.  I made these sandwiches today and they were surprisingly good.  Now, I do have to warn you that they are suffering from good marketing.  When I think of a panini, I think of gobs of melted cheese on artisinal bread.  This sandwich is a hot sandwich but it is not melty or moist.  But what it lacks in fatty goodness, it makes up for in clean flavor.  I lightened up the sandwich even more by toasting it up in my George Foreman Lean, Mean, Fat reducing grilling machine.  (O.K. go ahead and laugh but it is a great invention!).  Here is my version of the sandwich:

 

Mediterraean Tuna Panini

Adapted from Eating Well Magazine (use this link to find out what to do if you don’t have a George Foreman grill or a panini press)

Makes 4 Panini

 

2 six ounce cans of chunk light tuna, drained

1 plum tomato, chopped

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (preferably Mediterranean herb flavor)

2 tbsp chopped marinated artichoke hearts

3 tbsp minced red onion

1 tbsp chopped, pitted kalamata olives

1 tsp capers, rinsed and chopped

Juice of up to half a lemon

Black pepper to taste

8 slices whole wheat bread

Olive oil spray

 

Place tuna in a large bowl and flake with a fork.  Combine well with tomato, feta, artichoke hearts, red onion, kalamata olives, capers, lemon juice and pepper.  Divide Tuna mixture between four slices of bread.  Top with remaining four slices of bread.  Preheat your George Foreman grill to 400 degrees F. for five minutes.  Spray the inside of the grill with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange sandwiches in the grill and close the lid.  Grill for three minutes.  Remove the sandwiches and serve them immediately.

 

 

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Mint

This meal has become a standby this summer.  I have an herb pot on my patio that is full of perennial herbs.  I grow two kinds of mint, oregano, parsley, chives and rosemary.  This pot has gone to sleep each winter and come back to provide me with wonderful herbs each spring for the last decade.  The mint grows better than anything else and it is the herb I have the least use for.  I saw this recipe while looking through “Italy al dente” by Biba Caggiano this summer and I knew it would be a good use for my abundance of mint. 

 

The recipe is actually supposed to be a squid recipe.  Although I am not exactly a Locavore, I do try to be aware of where my food comes from and I try to buy local when I can.  Well, it turns out the squid I always assumed my little gourmet market sold was local, was actually defrosted from a big frozen block that is shipped in from China.  This kind of pissed me off.  The Santa Barbara channel, from what I hear has abundant squid, which we fish, and export all over the world!  So china ships us squid and we are probably shipping squid to China.  Makes a ton of sense.  I am able to sometimes get shrimp at the Farmer’s market, which makes it very local.  If not, the shrimp comes from Mexico at the market so it ends up being a shorter trip from producer to me if I go with shrimp instead of Chinese squid.  Besides, the shrimp tastes like it was made for this dish.  It is simply scrumptious.

 

If you decide to make this pasta, be sure to use good quality canned plum tomatoes.  The original recipe asks you to run the tomatoes with their juice through a food mill.  I just break them up with a spoon.  Any mint should do, but spearmint would be ideal.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Mint

Adapted from the spaghetti con Calimari, Pomodori e Menta recipe in Italy al Dente by Biba Caggiano

 

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

2 large cloves garlic, minced

 

1 small onion, chopped

 

2 to 3 anchovy fillets (packed in olive oil), chopped

 

Red pepper flakes to taste

 

1 28oz can plum tomatoes with juice

 

Salt to taste

 

1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined

 

8 to 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped

 

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

 

1 lb spaghetti or linguine

 

optional:  garnish with either grated or shaved parmagiano reggiano

 

Put water on to boil.  Add a couple of teaspoons of salt when the water comes to a boil.  Start cooking the pasta right about the time you are cooking the onions…

 

Heat the oil in a large skillet (you want a pan big enough to fit the sauce and the pasta).  Add Garlic and sauté for a minute.  Add onion, anchovies, and chili flakes.  Cook, stirring, until the onion is golden, 4-5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt.  Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.  Cook the tomatoes uncovered, stirring occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the shrimp, mint and parsley.   Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 4 to 5 minutes until the shrimp are just cooked through.  The pasta should be done right about now. The pasta should be tender but firm to the bite.  Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.  Toss the pasta over low heat until the pasta and sauce are combined.