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As mentioned in several previous posts, I’m getting burned out on Trader Joe’s boxed salads as well as my own caesar salads made with romaine. A girl can only take so.much.lettuce. Had a desire for pasta salad with ham, peas and possibly cubed cheddar cloaked in a not too fattening white cream sauce. Also wanted it low in salt. Try finding that when ham is involved.

This is a actually a childhood memory type of dish. Oddly though, I don’t recall my mom ever making it, so it must have been served at assorted pot lucks for school or church. Or maybe it was a cafeteria lunch meal…I don’t know. Where do these memories come from? Regardless, I really had a taste for it.

Only problem for me as I said, is the amount of salt in ham. I did read once that ham could be soaked it in water for 20 minutes or so to draw out some of the salt. Then drain and dry it off really well. Haven’t tried this, so don’t know if it really works. But maybe I’ll give it a whirl. If I do, I’ll let you know the results.

The pasta can be a small type like macaroni or longer like fettuccine, it doesn’t matter. Actually I found many versions by googling “pea, ham, pasta salad images”. Up came the photos, linked to the source. I took a moment to check out a recipe on a blog titled “Mel’s Kitchen Cafe” and discovered it’s made with 1% milk and has light or regular cream cheese added. So if you added 8 oz. of cream cheese, you’d add 800 calories. Heavy cream weighs in at 1,500+ calories, so despite seeming equally decadent, it isn’t quite as bad. Sodium factor, still unknown.

Nigella Lawson’s sounds pretty reasonable containing only 5 oz. of heavy cream, 5 oz. of ham plus 2 T. parmesan (and of course peas and pasta). One catch, serves 2-3 children. Even though we’re talking about cooking for one here (namely moi), I really wanted leftovers. By the way, you can find her recipe (shown in top photo) here.

Well, while I contemplate my choices, I’ll leave you with a totally different recipe. (Nothing like a jarring little segue mid-post is there?) This is a really nice topping for almost any white fish, particularly ones that can be a bit on the dense and dry side especially if they get a bit overcooked. Actually, I’ll give you the complete original recipe, fish and all, so you’ll have a complete dinner not just the topping. You’ll note it calls the dressing a vinaigrette but it reminds me more of a salsa of sorts.

Sauteed Tuna with Warm Olive Vinaigrette (serves 2)

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

4 T. extra virgin olive oil
Two 1 inch thick tuna steaks*
5-6 Kalamata or other brine cured black olives, pitted and chopped
2 t. drained bottled capers, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. Dijon-style mustard
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 plum tomato, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 T. water
2 T. finely chopped drained, bottled roasted red peppers
1 T. finely chopped scallion
Lemon wedges

Rinse, pat dry tuna. In a heavy skillet, preferably nonstick, heat 1 T. of oil over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. In it saute the tuna steaks for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. NOTE:  Internal temperature with an instant read thermometer should be 125F (51C). You want it to be medium rare otherwise it will be dry and lose flavor.

While tuna is cooking, in a blender or small food processor blend together the olives, capers, mustard, vinegar, tomato and water. With the motor running, add the 3 remaining T. of oil, blending the dressing until it is emulsified. Transfer the tuna to plates and wipe the skillet out with paper towels. Pour dressing into pan, add chopped peppers and scallions. Heat over moderate heat, stirring, until it’s hot. Spoon the dressing across the tuna. Garnish with lemon wedges. Yum!   

*Trader Joe’s has such fish, frozen.

This really adds a lot of dimension to your dish and is really helpful if your fish is a bit dry. I imagine this could top thick grilled eggplant slices or a medley of grilled veggies for a vegetarian option. Upon further thought, once my grill is back up and running, I may try this with the fish in foil, topped with the mixture. Could lead to a lovely moist, flavor infused fish dish. As is it’s still very, very good! Enjoy