Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spicy Grilled Tuna with Mango-Nectarine Salsa

We finally got a grill at our new place, so I've been cooking outside a lot lately. I'm pretty comfortable grilling most meats - chicken, steak & pork - no problem. But I've always been a little hesitant about fish. I think part of it is that I'm not as comfortable with fish in general as I am with other proteins. My go-to fish recipes are fish tacos (pan-fried) and white wine poached fish in the oven. Always on the lookout to bring more healthy foods into our diet and new recipes on to the menu, I decided to branch out and try grilling up some tuna.

I poked around for recipes and used this recipe as my inspiration. I changed things up to make it a little simpler (there were way too many ingredients in that first recipe!) and use up the last of my fresh nectarines. It came out really, really good! There was nice heat from the spice rub and jalapeno, with the mango and nectarine providing a sweet, cooling contrast. Served with a side of cous cous, red quinoa and baby garbanzo beans (Harvest Blend from Trader Joe's - so good!), it was a very tasty - and healthy - meal.

Spicy Grilled Tuna with Mango-Nectarine Salsa
(Serves 2)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (4-6 oz.) tuna steaks

1 small mango, peeled, pitted and diced
2 small nectarines, pitted and diced
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp. chopped mint
1 jalapeno, minced (seeds & all)
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix olive oil, 1 Tbsp. lime juice and minced garlic in glass dish. Add tuna steaks and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 and up to 3 hours.
Meanwhile, mix mango, nectarine, cilantro, mint, jalapeno and remaining lime juice in a small non-metal bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Letting it sit a couple of hours allows the flavors to meld.)
When fish is ready to be cooked, spray grill with oil, then turn on heat to medium-high. Let the grill heat up for about 5-10 minutes.
While grill is heating up, combine spices and salt in a small bowl. Remove the fish from the lime marinade and place on a clean plate. Sprinkle spice mixture evenly on both sides of each steak (it will be a fairly thick coating).
Place tuna steaks on preheated grill and cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until fish reaches desired doneness.
Top with mango-nectarine salsa before serving.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Easy Salsa Fresca (fresh tomato salsa)

The second weekend after we moved into our new house, I popped down to the local garden center to get some tomato plants. It was already early June - too late to start with seeds. But even getting the young plants, I wondered if we'd be waiting until September to see any fruit. (That's what happened to us last year in Massachusetts. In fact, we got our first frost before we harvested our first tomato!)

But, as we know, California's climate is much different than New England's. And so, the first week in August, our first little red beauties started to come in. I planted cherry tomatoes and 2 kinds of full-size varieties (Early Girl and Beefsteak) for a total of about 9 plants. There wasn't time to amend our garden area (it's so dry, it looks like the surface of the moon at this point!), but these plants have done very well in pots.

One of the first things my hubby requested was some fresh salsa - without onions. Yes, in addition to his lack of love for potatoes, he's not into onions either. Now, you might think that salsa without onions would be bland. But with a touch of garlic powder and some salt, the flavor pops right back up and you don't even miss the onions. Here's the recipe I came up with:
(Note: I just used a canning jar to store my salsa in the refrigerator. This is not a proven "canning-safe" recipe.)

Easy Salsa Fresca (fresh tomato salsa)
(Makes about 2 cups)

5-6 medium-sized ripe red tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds and all)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. Stir well to help dissolve salt and garlic powder. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving to let flavors meld.

So good - you'll have a hard time going back to store-bought!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nectarine bounty part 3 - strawberry nectarine jam

As I got toward the end of the nectarine harvest, I knew I had to come up with something to preserve these amazingly sweet little fruits. Yes, they were great to eat raw and made for some yummy desserts, but we were getting a little nectarined-out. Not to mention that I want to be able to enjoy some of the fruity goodness come winter. (That may sound strange considering I live in California where some kind of fruit is usually available - citrus at a minimum. But having lived in New England for the first 30 years of my life, I can't imagine anything other than a long, cold winter. It will be interesting to see how I feel about it after the first winter here!)

So, I decided to make a nectarine jam. And on my way to the store to get pectin, I passed a sign for a strawberry stand and decided we needed to add some of those, too!

The result was a naturally sweet (but not overly sugary) jam that's wonderful on freshly made bread and heated up and drizzle over ice cream. (That's what I've tried it on so far!)

I ended up having enough fruit to make a big batch - 8 jars in total. And because I wanted to can my creation, I followed the directions for 100% nectarine jam to ensure there would be enough acidity. (Strawberry jam doesn't require added acidity in the form of lemon juice - but peach/nectarine jam does.) Here's the recipe I came up with courtesy of the guidelines on the Ball® low/no-sugar needed pectin bottle:

Strawberry Nectarine Jam
(Makes 8, 8-ounce jars)

5 cups peeled, pitted and chopped nectarines
2 1/2 cups hulled and chopped strawberries
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/3 c. water
6 Tbsp. low/no-sugar needed pectin
1-1 1/2 c. sugar

Sterilize canning jars and hold jars and lids in a hot water bath until jam is ready.
In a separate large pot (at least 8 quart), combine chopped nectarines, strawberries and lemon juice.
Mash with a potato masher until mixture is only slightly chunky.
Add water and pectin. Bring to a rolling boil that can't be stirred away. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.
Add sugar until jam reaches desired sweetness. (I added between 1 and 1 1/2 cups - you can add up to 3 cups, if desired.
Continue boiling for 1 full minute. Then cover and remove jam from heat.
Carefully remove jars and lids from hot water bath.
Ladle jam into jars, filling to within 1/4" of the top of the jar. Cover each jar with a lid and metal band.
Once all jars are filled, return them to the hot water bath. The jars should be covered with at least 1" of water.
Cover canning pot and bring to a gentle, but steady boil. Boil for 10 minutes (longer at altitudes above 1,000 feet). Turn off heat and let jars sit 5 minutes. Carefully remove from water and allow to cool. After 24 hours, check your lids to make sure jars are fully sealed. (Unsealed jars can be refrigerated. The jam should be used within a few weeks.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nectarine bounty part 2 - Nectarine muffins

After the cobbler, nectarine muffins were my next experiment. I based this recipe on an simple blueberry muffin recipe. With a little cinnamon kick and a sprinkle of brown sugar, it makes a lovely little breakfast treat (and another great way to use up those nectarines!).

This recipe makes about 16 regular-sized or 3 dozen mini muffins, and they freeze very well. (Just defrost overnight on the counter or pop in the microwave for about 45 seconds to enjoy again.)

Nectarine Muffins

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. diced nectarines
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat oil, eggs, milk and cinnamon. Stir liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix until well blended (batter will be thick). Fold in diced nectarines.
Ladel batter into lined or greased muffin tins. Fill each tin 2/3-3/4 full.
Sprinkle brown sugar over top of each muffin (about 1/4 tsp. per muffin).
Bake at 400°F for 15-17 minutes (for regular-sized muffins) or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
For mini muffins, bake about 8-10 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nectarine bounty part 1 - Nectarine cobbler

Finally - a free moment to share pics and post. As I mentioned before, our amazing nectarine tree has produced an incredible crop this year. They are white-fleshed, with bright pink centers that pull easily away from the pit. (My handy backyard orchardist book tells me this makes them a "freestone" variety, as opposed to "clingstone" - e.g. "cling" peaches.)

They are perfectly sweet and tender - great for eating fresh, chopping into yogurt or cereal and baking. I'm in heaven, even if it is a lot to keep up with!

The first creation I made was this nectarine cobbler:

It's based on a recipe I found in a charity cookbook for the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters that my sister-in-law gave me. (As an aside, I have to say some of my favorite cookbooks are these neat little church/charity books that all the members contribute to. Such interesting variety - and real world ease - unlike some celebrity chef books that have the strangest ingredients and 45 steps!)

Anyway - the recipe was a good base. Next time, I'd just add about another 1/2 cup of fruit, which is reflected in the recipe below. Very tasty - especially with fresh whipped cream!

Nectarine Cobbler
4 Tablespoons salted butter
3/4 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 1/2 c. sliced nectarines
2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut up butter into chunks and place in 9" pie plate. Put into oven for 3-4 minutes or until butter is melted. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, 2/3 c. sugar, baking powder, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg together until smooth. Pour into buttered pie plate. Layer fruit on top of batter. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar.
Bake at 350°F until browned and set in the center (about 50-55 minutes).
Cool at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. (It can also be served at room temperature.)

I'm linking this up to Sweets for a Saturday. Go check out the link for more amazing sweet creations!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Woefully behind...

I keep thinking I really should do a blog post. I've got recipes and pictures waiting... but it just never materializes. Between working, taking care of the house & fruit trees and running errands, bedtime seems to come earlier and earlier every night. (I can't even imagine how parents add kids into the mix!!)

Plus we just got back from a trip back east to find our nectarine tree fully ripe and already dropping fruit. In between recovering from the inevitable airplane cold, we've been rushing to save as much as we can - freezing, canning and baking. Cross fingers, I think we're finally getting it under control. Lesson learned: fruit trees don't take vacation or sick days!

No time for pictures or recipes today, but so far, I've made a nectarine cobbler, nectarine crumble and nectarine muffins. Promise to share just as soon as we get a break!