Scallops with Capers & Brown Butter Sauce

Scallops, bacon, capers, lemon juice, bacon grease, and butter – how can you go wrong with that?

1 pound sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 slice bacon
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside to cool.

Drain off all but a teaspoon of the bacon grease and add olive oil. Heat until the oil begins to ripple, but not smoke. Turn pan to coat evenly. Add scallops and sear about 2 minutes on each side. Don’t overcook. The scallops should have a nice crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. Move scallops to serving plate and keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium and melt the butter in the same pan you cooked the scallops in. Crumble the bacon, add it to the butter, and cook until the butter stops foaming. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic and the butter just begin to brown, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and capers.

Spoon sauce over scallops and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This dish keeps your tongue dancing – between the smokiness of the bacon, the salty tang of the lemon and capers, and the sweetness of the scallops. It could be a little overwhelming, but the nutty brown butter makes it all work together nicely.

Due to some bad cooking instruction from the original recipe (that I am still just a little ticked off about), I did not get as good a sear on my scallops as I would have liked. I have adjusted this recipe so that your oil doesn’t burn before the scallops are done (grrrrrrrrr…).

The Nutrition:
Scallops are only 1 point and 30 calories per ounce, butter on the other hand… If you split this recipe between 2 people, each serving is 415 calories and 10 points per serving. Not bad if you serve it over some mixed greens or my rocking beet salad (recipe coming). But if you want to put it over pasta, I’d add some peas and divide it over 4 servings.

ONE YEAR AGO – Badly Bungled Black ‘n’ Bleu Bon Voyage

TWO YEARS AGO – Italian Beef


Planked Salmon

The Alaskan salmon season has begun and wild salmon are finally hitting our seafood cases! For those of you who don’t live for this springtime treat, these babies are the crème de la crème of salmon. Because some of these salmon swim 300 miles upstream to spawn (up the Copper River, in this case), these guys really chow down before the trip, packing on lots of fat in preparation. Since fat = flavor, pre-spawn salmon are very tasty – with a juicy, rich, almost nutty-tasting flesh that demands a pretty simple cooking technique.

I almost always go the traditional route and cook salmon on a wooden plank. Planking lets the smoke from the wood deepen the flavor while letting me use higher temperatures to seal and crisp the salmon.

For this monster fillet, I used two food-grade maple planks from Superior Planks. These planks are nice and thick and cut from sustainably harvested trees, so win-win.

I set up the Big Green Egg for a direct cook at medium-high heat (about 400°F). To prep the filet, I lightly oiled the skin side and seasoned both sides with a little ground sea salt. I topped the filet with some thinly sliced lemon, but I didn’t want to do much futzing that might hide the salmon’s flavor.

I would normally put the plank on the grill by itself for about 5 minutes, or until wisps of smoke start coming from the board, then flip the plank over and put the salmon on skin side down on the warmed side. But with having to use two planks. I just set everything up on a cookie sheet and slid the whole works onto the grill grate.

I closed the lid on the grill and let it cook for 10 minutes. I then checked it every 5 minutes until the flesh started to flake, but was still slightly translucent red inside. Remember that the fish will continue to cook a little once it’s off the heat, so you want it to be slightly underdone when you take it off. The total cooking time on this filet ended up being 20 minutes.

I let it rest 5 minutes and served it with a nutty quinoa salad (recipe coming soon).

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I LOVE salmon like this. It’s hard to go wrong with fresh, high-quality ingredients prepared simply. The lemon baked into the fish and left a nice fresh tang. The only thing I’d change is  slicing the lemon even thinner.

The Nutrition:
A 6-ounce cooked filet is 270 calories and 7 Weight Watchers points, but salmon is a superfood, loaded with healthy fats, so pair it with something green and you’re in business.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Cherry-Glazed Pork Chops

TWO YEARS AGO – No Fuss Ribs


Annoyed Shrimp

I have to confess, cooking has been such a pain lately that I was going to call this dish “Angry Shrimp.” But it’s not all that hot, and besides, I’m really feeling more stressed out and annoyed rather than out-right angry. It seems like I’ve suddenly lost my knife skills, am getting way better at spilling than stirring, my temperature control is iffy, and I can never find the ingredient I need when I need it. Grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!

But since this blog is called “Food & Fire” not “Food & Therapy” let’s get on with the cooking…

This recipe started out as Weight Watchers Sesame Noodles with Chicken, but I switched to shrimp, bumped up the veggies and heat, and stir-fried the whole works.

6 ounces gluten-free spaghetti
1/2 cup uncooked scallion, green parts only, chopped
1 pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups broccoli, chopped
1 cup carrots, shredded
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 gluten-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (get the real stuff made with plums if you can)
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon chili sauce with garlic
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper or Szechuan peppercorns
2 tsp sesame seeds

Arrive home with barely enough time to make dinner before heading out to yoga class. Change clothes and head to the kitchen to discover that your dear wife has the veggies chopped and the water boiling.

Thank dear wife.

Realize that the peeled and deveined shrimp aren’t. Prep shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and stash in the fridge.

Snap spaghetti in half, sending broken bits flying across stove top. Cook noodles according to package directions. Hunt for colander with one hand while trying to hold sauce pan full of boiling water in the other hand. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, honey, and corn starch. Find out that you don’t have enough rice vinegar. Call to dear wife to see if there is any more. No. Curse. Make do. Whisk to combine, making sure to break up and corn starch lumps that just don’t seem to want to break up.

Heat oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Dump in the still wet broccoli and bob and weave to avoid the splattering oil. Curse. Dig for the slotted wok spoon and stir to coat with oil. Sauté for about a minute. Add the carrots and sauté for another minute.

Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan. Bring to a simmer and add the shrimp. Simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and just cooked through.

Remove pan from heat and add the noodles, which have congealed into a stringy lump. Try to break pasta apart with tongs – no go. Look in three different places for pasta scoop. Break up noodles, add scallions and mix well to combine. Serve with more sesame seeds and some Sriracha hot sauce.

Pause, breathe, enjoy the meal, smile at dear wife, and then run off to class.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This is a very tasty dish that even shone through despite the rushed and disorganized cooking process. Love the sweet and tangy sauce that has just enough heat to make it interesting. For the next version I’m going to try grilling the meat and making the pasta and veggies as a side dish.

However, I was not at all happy with the whole prep and cooking process – too much stress and mess, not enough fun. It’s my hope that a combination of better menu planning, sharing some of the sous chef duties, taking some more yoga, and making a big effort on my part to get my cooking act together (the French call this mise en place, look for a post about this soon) will make it fun again.

The Nutrition:
Makes about 4, 1 1/2 cup servings at 10 Weight Watchers points per serving. I think you could easily add more veggies to this dish to make it even healthier.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Chicken Thighs & Alabama White Barbecue Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO – Pulled Pork – Hot & Fast Butts


Fish Tagine with Chermoula and Moroccan Rice Pilaf

If you haven’t figured this out by now, I really dig my tagine. At first I thought it was just a funny-looking Dutch oven, but I’m discovering that its unusual design is the reason everything that comes out of this North African cooking pot tastes so good.

The tagine’s wide, shallow base lets you start a dish uncovered on the stove top to brown meat and veggies or reduce stock like a sauté pan. Once your stock/sauce is ready, you can just add your remaining ingredients, put the lid on, and keep cooking on the stove top or move everything off to the oven for longer cooks.

Either way, the conical top allows air to circulate above the food without the flavors escaping. The food both steams and roasts (aka braising) at the same time. Yes, you can get a similar effect in a Dutch oven, but because the tagine is wider and shallower, more of the food gets braised rather than boiled.

Finally, it’s hard to beat the presentation when you set the tagine in the middle of the table, pull the lid away, and let all of the wonderful aromas billow out in a cloud of steam. That said, watch your fingers around that steam! I always open it by grabbing the top with an oven mitt.

The Chermoula
A fancy name, but this is just a flavorful Morrocan herb and lemon based marinade that’s traditionally used on fish, but would work well for veggies and chicken too.

1 1/2 pounds cod (or other firm, white fish) fillets
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Put the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the cilantro, paprika, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, oil, and lemon juice and give everything a whirl until it is well-combined.

Put the fish in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade. Toss to coat and stash in the fridge while you’re putting the pilaf together.

 Moroccan Rice Pilaf
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 dried cranberries, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads

Heat the butter and oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook until the onions are translucent and the rice begins to color.

Add the cinnamon, salt, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cilantro, apricots, and cranberries and stir to combine. Add the stock and saffron to the rice. Bring the stock to a simmer, and taste for salt. Adjust the seasoning. Cover the rice, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently and undisturbed, for about 25 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

While the rice is cooking, put the tagine together.

The Fish Tagine
The marinated fish and all of the chermoula
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup black and green olives, pitted
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the olive oil into the tagine base and heat on the stove top over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, ginger, salt, pepper, turmeric, and lemon juice and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the fish, all of the chermoula, and the olives.

Cover the tagine, and cook over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork.

To serve – put down a bed of the pilaf, top with a fish fillet, and cover everything with a scoop of sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
There are so many flavors going on in this dish that I have no idea where to start. I love the way the fresh green tang of the chermoula pulls the sweet and savory ingredients together.

The dish did end up a little thin. I’d use half the amount of tomatoes next time.

The Nutrition:
6 servings (4 ounces of fish, 1/2 cup of pilaf, a few olives, and a cup of sauce), 443 calories, 11 Weight Watchers points. This is a filling dish, but I’d use less fat and more fish next time.

Caribbean Lobster

I’m back! Had a lovely time in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The island was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the food was outstanding. One of the highlights of our trip was being able to buy fresh local foods from the small markets around the island.

The pescaderia (fish market) was just down the street from the house we rented. When we wandered in there one day and discovered that they had a whole ice chest full of just-caught-this-morning lobster, we knew exactly what/who we were having for dinner that night.

We picked out one 3-pound and one 2-pound spiny lobster. Caribbean spiny lobsters don’t have claws, so all the meat is in the tail and body.  They aren’t as tender as cold-water lobsters, but have sweet and rich flavor that I prefer.

The fish monger recommended just splitting the live lobsters down the middle and grilling them. But these guys were very active and not at all happy about the prospect of being the guest of honor at dinner. I tried to put the big one on the cutting board and got the distinct feeling that he was sure he could take this gringo in a knife fight.

Time for Plan B – par-boil them first, then remove the tail and split and grill that. No muss, no fuss, and no late night trip to the emergency room with a lobster spine sticking out of my hand.

I brought some salted water to boil in the largest pot I could find. One at a time, I dropped them in the pot, covered the pot, and boiled them for 10 minutes. I then moved them to the sink and sprayed them with cold water to stop the cooking and cool them down enough to handle.

Now safely dead, I flipped the lobsters over, grabbed the tail in one hand and the body in the other and carefully twisted off the tail.

Using the sharpest knife I could find, I split each tail down the middle. I found it easiest to cut through just the back first, and then come back around to cut all the way through the tail.

Once the tails were split, I removed the dark vein that runs along the back. I melted about a half stick of butter and gave them a light basting. Now off to the grill.

No Big Green Egg here, but they did have a very serviceable gas grill. I let the grill preheat with the burners on high for about five minutes. I turned the heat down to medium and put the trails on meat side down for about 5 minutes just to get some nice grill marks.

I flipped the tails over, basted them again with butter, and let them cook another 5 minutes, just until the meat was opaque. I basted them one more time and took them off the grill.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Sweet, tasty lobster with just a kiss of char from the grill – it doesn’t get much better. The meat was a little tougher than I would have liked, but the flavor rocked. We served them with tostones and some freshly-made pineapple salsa.

The Nutrition
It’s vacation. There are no calories on vacation.

ONE YEAR AGO – Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

TWO YEARS AGO – Where There’s a Grill, There’s a Way


Surf & Turf

Steak and shrimp is one of my favorite meals – simple and classic in a supper-clubby kind of way. There’s very little prep involved and everything cooks fast on a hot grill, so just throw in an obligatory salad or baked potato and you’ve got a really nice dinner cheap and fast.

Spicy Asian Shrimp
I’m working on a base sauce for Kung Pao recipes, and these fiery shrimp are part of that experiment.

1 pound raw large shrimp, pealed and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
4 bamboo skewers

Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. While the skewers are soaking, combine the salt and peppercorns in a food processor and give them a whirl until the peppercorns break apart and combine with the salt. Add the chili paste, black bean sauce, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and wine. Pulse to combine.

Put the shrimp in a resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Toss to coat, then squeeze the air out, seal, and stash in the fridge while you get the grill set up.

Set your grill up for direct cook at a roaring 700°+F.  While the grill is heating up, season  the steak. For this nice, thick ribeye I used just a little kosher salt and some fresh-ground black pepper. Now is also the time to thread the shrimp onto the skewers.

When the charcoal looks like a pool of lava, toss the steak on for 90 seconds of undisturbed searing. Flip it, and let it go another 90 seconds on other other side. Flip again and check the internal temperature. I was looking for a nice medium-rare – 130°F with a hint of red at the center. It only took another 30 seconds a side to get there.

If the steak is looking good and you are getting close to your desired degree of doneness, flip the steak one more time and check again. If the steak is getting too blackened, but isn’t done yet, pull the steak from the grill while you reduce the heat (on the Big Green Egg I just shut the lower vent down). When the heat has dropped into the 500°F range, return the steak for another minute or so a side and check again.

Move the steak to a warm plate, cover with another plate, and let it rest while you grill the shrimp.

Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes a side – just until they start to curl up and turn pink.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The ribeye was perfect with a nice char on the outside and a tender, medium-rare interior.  The shrimp really stole the show – sweet and spicy with a great depth of flavor. Black bean sauce can be tough to find, but it’s what makes the dish. I had to turn to Amazon to find a gluten-free version, but you can find jars of the non-GF at your friendly, local Asian market.

The Nutrition
The ribeye is 2 Weight Watcher’s points per ounce. The shrimp are only 1/2 a point per ounce. We split the steak and had about 6 shrimp a piece. Add a small salad and the whole meal was only about 12 points.

ONE YEAR AGO – The Best French Onion Soup

TWO YEARS AGO – Pork in Adobo


Shrimp & Chicken Fajitas

I had really hoped to make this dish on the Big Green Egg using a cast iron griddle, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. I ended up cooking it on the griddle (highly recommended) on the stove top (not so highly recommended).

It looks like there are a lot of moving pieces here, but if you are organized you can put this on the table in about an hour and a half.

The Chicken
4 boneless/skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce

Put the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the lime juice, pepper, cumin, chili powder, soy sauce, olive oil, and hot sauce and give everything a whirl until it is well-combined.

Pour half of the marinade over the chicken, toss to coat, and stash in the fridge for at least an hour, but not longer than 4 hours. Reserve the other half of the marinade in the fridge for later.

The Shrimp
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon achiote oil
1 tablespoon Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce

Pour the  oil and hot sauce over the shrimp and toss to coat. Stash in the fridge while you prep the veggies.

The Veggies
3 large bell peppers (assorted colors are pretty) cut into strips
1 medium onion, chopped
3 gloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 scallions, roughly chopped

The veggies will pick up plenty of flavor from the griddle, so I didn’t season them at all.

The Cook
Think of the griddle as a flat wok – you want to get it hot and move the food on and off it quickly. So have all of your ingredients, and a large (pre-warmed if possible) serving platter arranged in front of you before you start.

Center the griddle over your largest/hottest burner on the stove (or across 2 burners if you have a large rectangular griddle) and heat over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

Swirl a couple of glugs of peanut oil on the griddle and let heat until it starts to shimmer (about 2 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange it on the griddle.

Let the chicken sear for about 2 minutes and then flip it over and let it cook for another minute or so until done (I like using a set of tongs for this).

Remove the chicken to the platter and put the veggies on the griddle. Cook these until they soften and start to char a bit, about 5 minutes (or until your smoke alarm goes off like ours did). Pour just a couple of tablespoons of water on the griddle to de-glaze it and steam the veggies a bit. Use a spatula here to scrape up the brown bits and work them into the veggies.

Remove the veggies to the platter and add the shrimp to the griddle. Cook these just until they turn pink and start to curl (about a minute), flip and cook the other side for another minute.

Remove the shrimp to the platter and drizzle the whole thing with the reserved marinade. Serve with warm tortillas and guacamole.

Lean meat and tons of veggies, what’s not to love? Just watch how many glugs of oil you use and go light on the tortillas and guac. Makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings. 270 calories. 6 Weight Watchers points.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
An outstanding weeknight dish. The griddle gave everything a nice char and the Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce added a little heat with a lot of slightly sweet smokiness. Th achiote oil was subtle, but it added a richness that helped round out all the flavors.

While the griddle did its smoky/searing job, it was a little too much for the vent fan in the kitchen. Between the smoke and the splatter, this would have worked at lot better outside on the grill.

Scallop Gumbo

Food & Fire has been a little shy on posts lately because our household has recently adopted the Weight Watcher’s PointsPlus® program and it’s taking some time to get used to it.  Never fear – this grillmeister will still be churning out some dishes that Jennifer Hudson would definitely not approve of, but I will also be working to adapt some of my recipes to be a little more “points friendly.”

You wouldn’t usually think of gumbo as a dish that could be lightened up without losing a lot of flavor, but this version from Mark Bittman is hearty without being too heavy.

1 pound scallops
1 link andouille chicken sausage (Amylu’s), chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour (Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix)
1 onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 -2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves

Heat the oil and butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Make a roux by whisking in the flour and cooking, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture darkens to a blond color and becomes fragrant (it should smell like popcorn or toast), about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and bump the heat up to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened – about 10 minutes.

Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and Cajun seasoning. Slowly raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom to remove any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook for about 20 minutes to let all the flavors get to know each other. Add scallops and cook just until they are no longer translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add salt, black pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve in bowls as a stew, or poured over rice.

Makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings. 275 calories. 7 Weight Watcher points.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
W0w – sweet and buttery scallops in a rich sauce. The roux makes a big difference – it not only thickens the dish but helps to pull all the flavors together. It’s well worth the calories.

Ceviche de Camaron con Cholula

The fine folks over at Cholula Hot Sauce were nice enough to send me a 4-pack of their sauces to try out. I’ve been a big fan of their original sauce for years. It doesn’t have much heat or vinegar, but it’s got a solid chili taste that works great on almost any Mexican dish.

There are now 3 new flavors of Cholula – Chili Garlic, Chili Lime, and Chipotle. Of the three, the Chili Lime caught my attention first. I thought it would be a great addition to my Shimp Ceviche recipe.

1 pound cooked medium (41-50) shrimp, shelled and deveined (get the freshest you can find)
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cocktail sauce (Trader Joe’s in this case, but any sauce with some horseradish in it will work fine)
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons Cholula chili Lime hot sauce
16 – 24 pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 avocado, sliced the long way

In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the shrimp, salt, and lime juice. Let this sit for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, cilantro, cocktail sauce, jalapeños, oil, Worcestershire, horseradish, hot sauce, and olives. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for about an hour so the flavors all get to know each other.

Arrange the avocado strips into a little nest on a small plate or bowl. Mound the ceviche in the center of the strips.  Serve with lime wedges, more hot sauce, and tortilla chips or (strangely, but traditional) saltine crackers.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
This dish just screams sand and surf. I really liked the addition of the last little tomatoes from our garden. They are so perfectly ripe and intense that they are just little flavor bombs.

The Cholula Chili Lime Hot Sauce really shines here – the base chili flavor isn’t too hot (more flavor than fire) and the zip of the lime brings out the freshness and sweetness of the shrimp. I think it’d be great with almost any seafood.

Next time I’d use a different size shrimp. I’d either go large/jumbo so you could pluck the shrimp out with a fork and scoop the remaining sauce up with a chip, or use little cocktail shrimp so you could just scoop the the whole works up.

Hearty Grilled Tuna Nicoise

I was very excited to make this dish, and I can’t tell you what that means to me.  I’ve been suffering from some serious food blogger ennui lately, and it ain’t pretty.  It’s just been hard to be excited about cooking. Isn’t that weird?

Maybe it’s the end of summer blues? I don’t know, but rather than fight it, I figured I’d just sit around and eat Doritos while it ran its course. Thankfully, when my dear wife called and said she’d found some nice yellowfin tuna, I knew exactly what I wanted to make – Tuna Nicoise.

Tuna Nicoise is a traditional French composed salad usually served as an appetizer or a light dinner. I wanted something a little heartier that would benefit from some time on the grill, so I bumped up the amount of meat and potatoes and substituted grilled asparagus for the usual haricots verts.

Note: this recipe looks complicated, but the walk though is pretty straight forward.  If you have everything prepped and ready before the tuna comes off the grill, it goes together in moments.

The Tuna
2 pounds yellowfin tuna steaks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup of the marinade (recipe follows)

The Marinade & Dressing
2 anchovy fillets, drained (or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

The Nicoise
1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thick rounds
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
4 cups mixed greens or Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Make the dressing and marinade first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallots are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin the thicken and form an emulsion, kind of a like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Marinate the tuna by pouring about a 1/4 cup of the dressing/marinade onto the bottom of a lidded container. Arrange the tuns steaks on top of the dressing and turn to coat. Season both sides with a little salt and pepper. Stash in the fridge along with the remaining dressing.

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and nuke another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Put the asparagus in a zip-top bag and season with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Shake to coat and stash in the fridge.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grill the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears start to brown and caramelize. Set asides and keep warm.

Grill the tuna steaks for between 30 seconds to a minute per side, checking for doneness often. For this dish, I like the steaks medium rare where the tuna will be gently yielding when you press on it with the tongs. Anything past medium is headed for cat food territory, so it’s best to pull the steaks off the heat just before they are done and let the carry-over heat do the rest.

Remove the steaks to a plate and drizzle with some of the dressing.

To serve, arrange all the goodies on the table and let everyone assemble their own plates. I like to put down a layer of mixed greens; top that with the tuna and some capers; then surround it with the potatoes, olives, eggs, asparagus, and tomatoes; and top it all with a healthy drizzle of the dressing.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow, this was good! The meal was rich (perfect for a chilly early fall day) but not overwhelmingly so. I like grilled tuna anyway, but the marinade keeps the fish moist while adding an herby zip. All the other goodies then just come together to compliment each other. The olives and capers play off the salty tang of the dressing while the eggs and asparagus help to ground everything.

I can see mixing the leftover dressing with some canned tuna for an outstanding tuna sandwich.