Orzo with White Beans and Tuna

Individually, I hate two out of the four main ingredients in this recipe.

Tuna stinks. To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually believe tuna stinks; what I know is that at some point when I was a child one of my parents made a comment about tuna stinking, and from then on, I believed wholeheartedly in the stinkiness of tuna. I can count on one finger the number of times canned tuna has entered my house — unless you count cat food.

Pickles? I remember the day I tried my first pickle. It was a pickle spear given to me at a dinner party the day my parents’ friends’ daughter made me cry by playing with my Barbie Ice Cream Shoppe. I was six. I might have also gotten a top stuck in my hair. The top could have been another time, but it’s a painful memory I associate with pickles, so whatever.

orzo with white beans and tuna

As with tomatoes, I’ve recently taken baby steps into eating both of these foods. I’ve had tuna in sushi or on salads occasionally, and when a can of tuna went into a lovely plate of beans and rice I ate in Costa Rica last year, I certainly didn’t run screaming. And at some point I realized it wasn’t the concept of pickles I hated as much as the cucumbers; salt and vinegar and I were cool. But would I have thought I’d be making an entree in which these two flavors are stars? Hardly.

Apparently, though, at some point I thought I might, because when I was putting together the recipe binder, I came across a recipe for white bean and tuna panzanella. I asked Pete if he had saved it. He had not; he hates tuna, too.

Why did we have a tuna recipe? A tuna recipe with a key flavor being pickles? I have no idea, but I felt weirdly compelled to make some version of it. Maybe the 2008 Real Simple-reading version of myself was trying to tell me something.

And…it was good! Sour and tangy, which is pretty much the best I could hope for. I swapped bread for orzo, erring on the side of something slightly less absorbent. I minced the pickles tiny, like almost relish-sized, so they’d be all crunch and no squish. And I went heavy on the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, with a little sherry vinegar tossed in for good measure.

The only small problem: I got sick of it fast. There’s only so much tuna and pickle a tuna-hating pickle-despiser can handle, and after a couple of dinners, I really wanted it to be gone. Plus, I was afraid to take it to work — because, y’know, tuna stinks. (I’m also not sure I’ve ever made it to the bottom of any leftover tupperware containing orzo. That stuff is the bunny rabbits of the fridge.)

I’d make about half the amount next time, or at least halve the orzo to let the other flavors stand out more. There might actually be a next time, and that’s the most shocking part of all.

Orzo with White Beans and Tuna

Ingredients
1 small (5-6 oz.) can tuna (if you really like tuna, use two)
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
2-4 sweet-and-sour pickles, diced
1 small red onion, diced
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Dash of sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
1 cup dried orzo, cooked, rinsed under cold water, and drained well

Instructions
1. Boil, rinse, and drain the orzo
2. Chop the onion and pickles
3. Rinse and drain the white beans, then drain the tuna
4. Dump the orzo, onion, pickles, beans, and tuna into a large bowl and stir well to combine
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegars, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour over the orzo mixture. Add additional vinegar, oil, or seasoning to taste.

Cauliflower, Shrimp, and Chickpea Stew

I have no idea how to cook for one. To be honest, I have no idea how to cook for two, either, but at least when I’m cooking for two, there are twice as many people eating the leftovers. When it’s just me, well, give me 48 hours and I’m drowning in food.

And yet. One day last week, while Pete was traveling, I found myself chopping up a head of cauliflower, throwing some tomatoes in a pot, and making this lovely little stew.

cauliflower stew

The basic idea came from this Real Simple recipe, another find from the recipe binder. The recipe as written was vegetarian, but I had some shrimp in the freezer and figured the flavors would mesh pretty well. (Trader Joe’s tip: the frozen uncooked shrimp are better than the frozen cooked shrimp, which don’t really have a taste.)

I happened to make this recipe on CSA box pickup night, so I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and because nobody but me was ever going to eat this, I didn’t bother to remove the tomato skins. I don’t think I even knew until a couple of weeks ago that I was supposed to be removing tomato skins — tomato newbie, remember? — and they don’t bother me at all, but I’m sure peeling the tomatoes wouldn’t hurt.

I had one brief moment of panic when I realized that by using fresh tomatoes, I’d lost some of the liquid that would have come from using canned tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of water wasn’t nearly enough to cover all the vegetables in the pot and bring them to a simmer. I splashed in a little bit of broth that I happened to have in the fridge and hoped for the best. Of course, eventually, the tomatoes released more liquid and I had a bit of a soupy mess on my hand. Another 15 minutes of simmering and all was well.

Even by week-of-many-leftovers standards, this held up well in the fridge and was pretty decent cold (though better once reheated). Not sure how often I’ll have these exact ingredients in the fridge, but if I ever do again, I’ll be coming back to this.

Cauliflower, Shrimp, and Chickpea Stew
(Adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients
1 medium onion, chopped
28 oz. tomatoes (canned whole or chopped fresh, peeled or not)
15 oz. chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
5 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
6-8 large shrimp, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup to 1 cup of water or broth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan (I used my Dutch oven) over medium heat. Cook the onion until softened.

2. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid, if using canned, or a bit of broth or water if using fresh), cumin, ginger, and salt and pepper, and stir

3. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower, chopped shrimp, and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit more water or broth.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce has thickened

5. Remove from heat and, working in batches, stir in the spinach until just wilted.

Serve by itself or over couscous or rice. (Serves four.)

Fish Chowder

In addition to the standard turkey and all its accoutrements, my family has another Thanksgiving tradition: crab cakes. Thanksgiving falls just after the start of Dungeness crab season here in San Francisco, and so for the past couple of years, we’ve spent one of the days of Thanksgiving weekend cracking, picking, and cake-ing some local crab legs. This usually leaves us with a pile of crab shells stacked high on the kitchen table, and this year, we decided to stuff them in a big pot and simmer them for stock.

There was just one problem: It turns out I don’t traditionally make things where fish stock makes sense. Which of my go-to recipes use stock at all? Chili. And the idea of chili with fish stock was a little squicky, so since November, I’ve had several baggies full of frozen stock taking up space in the freezer.

Fish Chowder

(Yeah, I need to stop making yellow food and photographing it in yellow bowls.)

In retrospect, soup seems like the obvious solution, but it wasn’t until I spotted this fish chowder recipe that I felt motivated to make it happen. The corn was what got me; I see myself eating a lot of corn between now and when it goes out of season. But the flavor that really worked in the finished soup was the thyme. Use it liberally — it tastes lovely in here.

Looking at the recipe, I was worried it didn’t include enough liquid to take this from soup to stew, but it turned out to be just about perfect. We had thawed a little extra stock, though, just in case, and I’d recommend having some on hand if you’re going to keep any of this as leftovers. If anything, the flavor was better the second day, but the liquid had almost all absorbed/evaporated, so I just dumped the extra cup or so of stock into the pot when I reheated it, and that thinned it out nicely.

Fish Chowder
(Adapted from Generation Y Foodie)

Ingredients
1 lb. fish filet (we used tilapia; any whitefish would probably work)
3 ears of corn
1/2 lb. potatoes, cut into chunks
3-4 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2 slices bacon, diced
12 oz. fish stock
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. milk
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
1. Grill, roast, or otherwise cook your corn and remove the kernels from the cob
2. In a large saucepan or pot (we used our dutch oven), saute the diced bacon, then add the onion and cook together until the onion softens
3. Add the celery and saute until it starts to soften (about another 3 minutes)
4. Add the fish filet and lightly brown (about 2 minutes per side). Remove from the pot and cut into chunks
5. Add the corn, then the potatoes, and saute about 5 more minutes
6. Add the stock, cream, milk, salt and pepper, and the thyme and simmer for 10 minutes, covered
7. Add the fish chunks and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, uncovered
8. Top with lots of black pepper and dried or chopped fresh thyme

Served with some of our toasted spent grain herb bread, we got five servings out of this recipe.