Yesterday was definitely not a success on many levels. I ended up eating a little bit of something I shouldn’t have on all three counts: macaroni + cheese, definitely a not-vegan, wheat pasta, with some sugar in the mix. Yikes. That’s what happens when I’m not prepared and am making a snack for someone else, I guess. Was the addition of broccoli a redeeming factor? I think yes. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Other than that, I did definitely feel a little bit spacey and woozy. Possibly that’s because I went on a bike ride when I hadn’t eaten anything all day long, but it wasn’t a very long bike ride after all – only about 4 miles one way, and 3 miles when I came back a few hours later. But then it was crazy – after I ate the mac and cheese I felt hugely energized. I ate again – something better for me – a couple of hours later and then ended up walking 4 miles and staying up until 6AM. So I’m not totally sure what the effects of food on me were versus just having interesting conversations or whatnot, because it’s certainly not the only time I’ve eaten that late.
Food Diary, 9/5/12
- 6pm, Bolthouse 100% green smoothie – 90 cal
- 10:30pm, Pirate’s Booty – 65 cal
- 10:30pm, organic mac + cheese w/broccoli – 200 cal
- 12am, potato salad (recipe below) – 460 cal
- 3am, PBJ oat crackers – 470 cal
- Total ~1285 cal
Warm Tuna + Potato Salad
This salad is sort of a way simplified version of a French Niçoise-style salad, but you could jazz it up any number of ways – such as adding capers, olives, or other vegetables or garnishes. Or, you could reserve the tuna oil and whip up a vinaigrette, pouring it over all of the salad components – and you could chill it! Basically, endless variations. But for a quick, easy meal, here’s how I did it – serves 2.
- 6 small red potatoes, diced
- 1 c. frozen green beans
- 6-8 oz. jar of tuna packed in oil
- Cook potatoes in salted water until nearly done – about 8-15 minutes depending on the size of your potato pieces. Add the green beans about a minute or two before you take the potatoes off the heat. Drain potatoes and green beans.
- In the same pan, add the tuna and oil, breaking up the tuna a bit with the back of a fork if necessary. Heat over medium heat and add in potatoes and green beans when the oil is hot. Cook another 5 minutes, or until potatoes are completely cooked. Salt to taste.
Duck is probably one of the most common meats that I have eaten very little of in my lifetime. Actually, until very recently in adulthood, I could only really remember one meal where I had eaten duck, at a Chinese restaurant when I was fairly young. I remember it being fatty and savory and, to use a word that has been much overused in the culinary world as of late, unctuous. For a long time, I regarded duck as a primarily Asian ingredient, out of the reach of ordinary American home chefs, since I never saw duck in supermarkets.
Seemingly out of nowhere, duck fat has somewhat become the fat du jour, alongside bacon in its ubiquitous revival. I found it particularly interesting because in 1975, Julia Child wrote that “duck fat is not considered culinarily desirable.” Having had duck fat fries, I would have agreed that it didn’t add any particularly special quality to the already notoriously delicious fried potato. Still, I consider frying dinner’s potatoes in tonight’s rendered duck fat unwasteful, and indeed I found that the potatoes had taken on some transcendental quality that I could not quite identify. I wouldn’t say that I would go out of my way to use duck fat if I didn’t enjoy duck, but I definitely wouldn’t throw away the more than half-cup of duck fat I rendered off two breasts either.
As for the sauce, in a stroke of impulse, I slaved for hours over a hot stove making it. In other words, I opened a jar of jam and microwaved it for 15 seconds to melt it somewhat. Yes, it was that easy, and it doesn’t have to be blackberry. We have many jams in the fridge and I also considered lingonberry, marmalade, and apricot – cherry and raspberry might also be good choices. Or, I dunno, salted caramel sauce?
blackberry sauced duck (2-4 servings)
- 2 duck breasts
- 1/4 c. blackberry jam
- 1-2 russet potatoes
- Score the fat on the duck breasts in a cross-hatch pattern. Sprinkle generously with salt on both sides. Place fat-side down in a cold pan, and turn the heat up to medium-low. The fat will render out over about 15 minutes or so, and in my case, the fat came about halfway up the duck breasts.
- When the skin is brown and crispy, flip the breasts and let them cook another few minutes. This particular poultry you can eat all the way up to rare, I understand, and for me (my breasts were butterflied) it took only about 3-5 minutes to get to well-done. So, a thermometer might be your best friend if you’re looking for a specific degree of doneness.
- Remove the breasts and set aside. Pour out all but 2 tbsp. of duck fat. Dice the potatoes in 1/2″ cubes and add to the skillet with a pinch of salt. Cook about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. If you find that your potatoes are sticking too much, and you don’t mind sacrificing the super-crispy skin, you can add a few tablespoons of water to the pan once or twice to allow steam to help the cooking process.
- Place jam in a small ramekin and microwave until melted. Slice duck breasts and pour sauce over. Serve with potatoes.
We really like ham around our house. Unfortunately, with only two full-time occupants, buying even a small ham can result in a lot leftover. I bought this natural-looking (read: not round) chunk of ham specifically to fry up and serve with cream biscuits on Christmas morning. Naturally that left us with a fairly sizable piece left and, while I’m not opposed to continuing to slice-and-fry, I was hoping for something a bit more imaginative.
With two bags of russet potatoes intended for latkes that never got made (because I am too lazy, apparently) and four leeks languishing in the fridge, I thought a thick, creamy soup would be perfectly appropriate for a cold winter night.
This soup recipe is incredibly easy, and it comes together in just about a half hour, with most of that time being inactive prep. My one tip would be to go extra-easy on the salt, since ham tends to be fairly salty and it can overpower the delicate flavors of leek and potato if you’re not careful.
ham, potato, and leek soup (3-6 servings)
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 4 leeks
- 2 russet potatoes
- 1 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 lb. ham, diced
- 1/4 – 1/2 c. cream, optional
- Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Slice the roots and dark green tops off leeks. Slice lengthwise, then cross-wise, giving you half-moon pieces about 1/2″ thick. Place leeks in a bowl, then run cold water over them until they are floating. Swish them around with your fingertips, separating the leek pieces so that the water can wash away any bits of dirt or sand.
- When the butter has melted, lift leeks out of the bowl with a spider, give it a quick shake to get rid of most of the water, and add leeks to the soup pot. Cook about 5 minutes or so, until getting soft.
- Rinse the potatoes and peel, if desired. Chop into roughly 1/2″ pieces and add to the pot, along with the chicken broth.
- Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Turn down to medium-high and simmer 15-25 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
- Turn off the heat. With a hand blender, blend until the soup is perfectly smooth, or still has some lumps of potato – to your preferred texture. Add ham and as much cream as you like. Heat through.
Potato salad is probably one of my all-time favorite foods. Though I usually like to stick with the somewhat heavier mayonnaise, yellow mustard, and hard-boiled egg variety – probably due to the first time I ever made it, out of an old cookbook, which was the best recipe I’ve ever found – I have also taken a liking to the warm bacon-dressing and cider vinegar potato salads. When I came across a recipe that used fat-free yogurt as a dressing base and added cucumber to the mix, it inspired me to try a lighter touch as a nice change of pace.
Turns out it really is a very refreshing, clean-tasting take on a summer classic. We had it with grilled sausages and carrots, and I recommend going that route, though I’m sure this would go with any variety of summer dishes. One of the best parts about this recipe – a trick I’m sure I’ll use in the future – was to freeze the potatoes after cooking for about ten minutes, which really cuts the need to chill the finished dish, so dinner is on the table much faster.
Cucumber Potato Salad (serves 2-3)
- 4 small red potatoes, diced
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
- 1/4 c. mayonnaise OR olive oil
- 2 tbsp. pickling liquid from a jar of pickles OR a healthy squirt of lemon juice and some chopped fresh dill
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook 8-10 minutes, or until tender.
- Drain and spread out on a baking sheet. Freeze about ten minutes, or until cool to the touch.
- In a medium bowl, whisk yogurt with mayonnaise and pickling liquid. Fold in cucumber, shallot, and potatoes.
- Chill a further 5-10 minutes if needed.