Sweated Onions

August 8, 2007

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If I had to choose one basic ingredient I absolutely could not do without, rich, succulent Sweated Onions would win hands down. Sweating does not give you the sharp drama of fried onions. It’s more the sweet, rich surprise of onions inside battered, deep-fried onion rings. If an onion is very dry, it probably won’t sweat well. I like sweet onions best, like a Vidalia or Texas Sweet. They support so many fabulous dishes I couldn’t possibly list them all. But we’ll make them one by one—I promise. SAM

4 large onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large chef’s pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until a piece of onion lightly sizzles. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low, cover, and sweat until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Use in soups, stews, salads, and gratins. Pile on bruschetta, mix with couscous, or spread on flatbread or savory pastry.
Makes about 2 cups.


Tuna Salad

May 31, 2007

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The kids in my neighborhood used to call this ‘tuna fish salad.’ It’s a perfect hot weather meal that begs for potato chips. You can serve it as a real salad on lettuce or vinegar-based slaw. But with fresh bread and lots of creamy mayonnaise, tuna fish salad sandwiches are one of the joys of summer. SAM

2 (6-ounce) cans white albacore water-packed tuna, drained
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 medium center rib celery with leaves, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus additional for sandwiches
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Lettuce, tomato, avocado
Sandwich bread
Potato chips

In a medium bowl, flake the tuna with a fork and stir in the onion, celery, relish, parsley, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve on lettuce with tomato and/or chopped avocado, or in sandwiches.
Makes 2 cups or 4 servings.


Steak Salad Pita

May 27, 2007

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In 1762, so the story goes, James Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, had his cook stuff meat and cheese between two slices of bread so he wouldn’t have to leave the gaming table. It was one of those Eureka moments in history. It’s always seemed curious to me, though, that a notorious 18th century English gambler had to invent the sandwich. Everyone knows cooks in the mid-East had been stuffing food inside bread since at least the Pharaohs. One day when you’re on a roll, try this handy pita lunch. But grab some extra napkins. You wouldn’t want to drip on the cards. SAM

1 (1 to 1 1/2-pound) flank steak
2 medium red onions, finely chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 pita rounds
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into thin wedges
4 Romaine lettuce leaves, shredded

Broil the steak 3 inches from the heat until done (5 to 6 minutes per side for rare). Cut in half lengthwise, then across the grain into very thin, slanting slices. Cool briefly and combine with the onion, oil, sour cream, horseradish, salt, and pepper. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours. Roughly mash the avocado with the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add the capers and parsley, stirring until just blended. To serve, cut the pita rounds in half and fill each with 1/8 of the steak mixture, avocado mixture, tomato, and lettuce.
Makes 4 servings.


Hummus

May 23, 2007

 

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Hummus is one of those ancient mysteries of food and chemistry. Every recipe calls for basically the same ingredients—and every dish is different. This one is easy because you use canned chick peas. The better the olive oil, the richer it will be. Cumin is a nontraditional twist, but don’t be stingy with it if you like a spicy kick. However you make your hummus, though, let it sit for while before you commit to the final seasonings. It needs time for the flavors to meld. SAM

2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 2 small lemons (4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional for serving
1/2 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin, or to taste
Sea salt to taste
1/8 to 1/4 cup water (as needed)
Pita bread for serving

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chick peas, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, tahini, garlic, cumin, and salt. Process with an immersion blender until smooth, thinning with water as necessary until the hummus is the consistency of ricotta cheese. To serve, place a small amount of hummus on a plate and fill a well in the center with additional olive oil. Serve with pita bread.
Makes 3 cups.


Dilled Cream Cheese

May 21, 2007

 

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Sometimes the things we love the most we take the most for granted. Take Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese. It’s been around since 1880. It’s cheap. It’s everywhere. Add a shredded cucumber or a handful of chopped green olives and you have an elegant sandwich. You can melt it into spicy tomato aspic or whip it with confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice for a killer cake icing. My grandmother—who never cooked a day in her life—used to mix it with heavy cream and chopped pecans and stuff it into celery sticks. Cream cheese is something you should keep in your fridge at all times. That way, when the unexpected guest wanders in at cocktail time, you can conjure up the ghost of my grandmother’s celery or make this snappy dill spread. SAM

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 medium red onion, finely grated (2 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Celery sticks, crackers, or country bread

In a small bowl, mash the cream cheese with a pastry fork and stir in the dill, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Serve on crackers or country bread or stuff into celery sticks.
Makes 1 cup.