Nice Nicoise

My Tuna Nicoise

 

 

Our weather has been a roller-coaster here in central Texas. After record-breaking non-stop heat, I believe we had 45 consecutive days  of triple-digits, now we are in our normal fall pattern of hot-cold-hot.

One day it’s in the 60’s, the next it’s in 90’s. Two days ago I wore a sweatshirt, jeans and boots… this afternoon, I’m going over to the pool. We have a saying here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute… it’ll change!”

We’ve passed the mid-way point of October, and although I couldn’t wait for the heat to end, (I was beginning to doubt that it would) now that I know with certainty that it will, I am savoring these last few days of summer.

It was too hot to cook one night, so I kept it simple by preparing a hearty Salade Nicoise.  (In case you haven’t head of it before, it is pronounced “ni – swaz,” meaning in the style of Nice.) I knew it was a town in France, but what I didn’t know was that it’s on The Riviera; famous for it’s perfect sunny climate, spectacular views, aqua water, and stunning beaches. Think Cannes! Monaco! Bond!

This salad makes perfect sense coming from a place where food is made from what is locally and seasonally available at their markets.

From Shutterstock.

 

I first had it years ago prepared with seared tuna atop crispy Romaine lettuce and veggies. I thought that was how it was supposed to be served.

After delving into it’s gastronomic history, I found out that ain’t necessarily so.

At it’s simplest and most traditional – it’s lettuce, green beans, beautiful black olives, capers, fresh anchovies and a dressing of virgin olive oil, vinegar, and fresh garlic, basil, salt & pepper. It usually accompanies fish or chicken. Just a salad.

Workers made it into a hearty lunch by adding boiled potatoes and a soft hard-boiled egg or two.

I sear either Ahi or Yellowtail tuna outdoors on the grill. Indoors, I do it with the vent-fan on in a very hot skillet, and it has “pride of place” on top of my salad. You can also use tinned tuna from Italy –  it’s very different from ours. Otherwise, just use good albacore tuna from your grocery store.

You needn’t get too hung-up on ingredients, use what fresh ingredients you have on hand and enjoy it!

Sometimes I will eat the potatoes, sometimes I choose not to – staying true to my Primal Lifestyle diet, which has really helped reduce auto-immune disorder aches and pains.

I have yet to add anchovies, but may buy some jarred ones and after rinsing and patting-dry, give them a try. Do you have a favorite meaty, not-too-salty, brand I can try?

Here is my favorite dressing, a simple vinaigrette from Martha Stewart:
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL fresh lemon juice
3 TBLS wine vinegar
2TBLS Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBL fresh chopped basil
1 TBL fresh chopped parsley or dill

Whisk it all together. Let me know your thoughts, send in photos with a comment – I’d totally love that! And let’s enjoy these last few days of summer together, over a meal.

XO Donna 


Now We’re Cookin’

I don’t know whether my favorite room in our new house is the bathroom, or the kitchen – well, put that way, the kitchen wins –  but it’s been such a pleasure to take a long warm shower in such a roomy space. A luxury that I often took for granted before our RV life!

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I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking – I love to bake, (in the 70’s and 80’s I baked all of my own breads) and I love having my tools and a big oven again! I want to share this GF Carrot Muffin recipe with you, not because it’s inherently healthy, or even healthier, but because it’s a darn delicious recipe. And it had me scratching my head, then laughing at my dense-ness, over the directions!

But, before I get to that, I want to chip in my two cents about GF cooking and the fact that going gluten-free isn’t healthier than eating gluten. Gluten isn’t some evil poisonous thing that’s been added to our food. Gluten is a protein found in flour, nothing more. It is this protein that grants things made with flour their elasticity, texture, rise, and exquisite flakiness. 2D676278-6ADA-48B8-947D-63F91A2274D8

Only a small percentage (1-2%) of the population are truly gluten intolerant (celiac disease) while 6% are gluten-sensitive and, like me, plain old allergic to wheat. We must avoid it to be well and healthy.

Switching to GF substitutes made of white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, etc. isn’t going to help if you’re switching  hoping to lose weight: pizza, even a GF one, is still pizza.

A cold-weather cozy: if you have access to Netflix, I highly, highly, highly recommend watching Michael Pollan’s fascinating four-part series, COOKED. The section entitled AIR is my fave… about bread.

If you want to make a healthy change, try switching to organic breads, and using organic flour for your baking. I personally use King Arthur products (and, no, I’m not being given anything for saying that) and they have a wonderful website and a good GF flour blend. I’ve worked out, and adapted, some great GF recipes… for when I want a treat. I’m happy to have them, but they are no comparison to wheat flour…  That said, this Carrot Muffin  recipe from The Minimalist Baker (nothing minimal about this recipe, the ingredient list is a mile long, but worth it) is pretty darn close!

After these muffins are baked, they must cool in the pan for a bit, then the directions tell you to, “turn muffins on their side in the pan.” I swear… I was stumped!  Do what? How?  Then I realized that she meant turn each muffin sideways in it’s space so air could circulate around the bottom. Like this: 6E2A9BF2-4150-4D15-8DF4-373F9E76EB3F

I couldn’t wait to eat one, but they must cool completely or half the muffin sticks to the paper! And, GF tends to taste better after it’s cooled, honest.  I store them for a couple of days in a big ziploc, then refrigerate or freeze. Let me know what you think!

XO Donna

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The City of New Orleans

Life has been a whirlwind since my last post – we stopped in Austin for a couple days to handle some business, and it began to rain. (I’m sure you heard about the flooding here in Texas).

Lake Georgetown, TX

 

The lake we were camped beside rose dramatically overnight, and it was “colder than the dickens,” so we left and headed to Houston. Gratefully, they had space for us. It was warm, mostly sunny, and their pool was heated. It was fun, but we were so impatient to “laissez les bon temps rouler,” that we both woke at 5:00 a.m. the morning we left for New Orleans! 

 

 

 

The last time we drove through Louisiana, I-10 was in horrible condition. Looking for alternate routes, we followed the advice of another RVer, taking a road they said was better and more interesting. Ugh. It was even worse than I-10. But, it was more scenic!

We drove past endless fields of sugarcane, a crop neither of us had seen before. We drove over too many bridges to count, and sailed past a sea of cattails (another thing neither of us had ever seen).

 

 

French Quarter RV

 

Finally, we crossed the enormous Mississippi River, curved around the Superdome, made an incredibly narrow, and gut-wrenching, turn and arriving at our “securely fenced” RV park in the French Quarter – right beside the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. I couldn’t wait to go explore!

 

 

 

Vessel NOLA

 

We were meeting friends for dinner that night at 7:00 pm, and I was tasked with finding a place. I chose a restaurant named Vessel, housed in a beautifully restored 1914 Lutheran church. The beams in the open-ceiling bring to mind an old ship, and bar reaches skyward in front of golden glass windows. The bottles residing on the  top shelves are reached via library-ladder. Classic cocktails are their specialty, with an emphasis on  the proper glass (vessel) and ice for each, and their food was delicious, fresh, beautifully presented, and affordably priced. Vessel lived up to all of our expectations!

 

 

Beignets (ben-yays) @ Cafe du Monde

Early the next morning I dragged my sweetie out into the streets to head to Café du Monde for beignets since he’d never had one. The walk was only 8 or 9 blocks, the sun was shining, and the St. Louis Cathedral Bells were chiming as we enjoyed our beignets and lattes. What a guilty pleasure!

We strolled for a while before heading “home.” We were meeting Mike and Patricia for a late jazz brunch in the Garden District at Commander’s Palace, an elegant old mansion that’s been operating since 1880. I appreciated that there was a dress code: no jeans or shorts, men needed a jacket. What a pleasure… everyone looked great and “acted right!” I’ve been thinking about their Ramos Gin Fizz every day since!

 

 

The mansions there were so grand, that the next day we hopped onto the streetcar and rode all the way through the incredible Garden District. However, the return trip was so claustrophobic, that thinking we were closer, I insisted we get off and walk home.

Garden District

It turned out to be a 2.2 mile walk! We missed lunch, but grabbed some lattes-to-go and hustled in order to meet our friends on time for cocktails at The Roosevelt Hotel, they were both looking forward to having a Sazerac, since it was invented there. Afterward we strolled down Canal Street to the Palace Café for a light supper. 

The day before we planned to leave, we met Mike at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which includes the Museum of the American Cocktail. Leave it to Mike to find a place this interesting!  There was a lot to see, but not on an empty stomach. We enjoyed lunch, and a Prohibition Cocktail, in the adjacent restaurant, Toups South. (during Prohibition (1920 – 1933) bitters were created, and a “cocktail culture” was born in order to cover up the taste of wood alcohol and bathtub gin.)

 

SoFAB

After lunch we strolled the large open museum, seeing many items we remembered our parents, and grandparents using as we grew up.

There were also many items we knew nothing about. As we perused, we listened to a tour group in an open classroom. They came in for a private class on Absinthe, and every one had a glass of the pale green liquid in front of them… silver sugar-cube spoons (above) and all.

 

St. Louis 2

 

The day we were supposed to leave it was windy and raining hard in the morning, so we asked to stay an extra day. Luckily, the weather cleared, and we walked to Acme Oyster Bar for lunch (personally, I wouldn’t go again).

On the walk home we finally had both the time, and an unlocked gate, to stroll through the St. Louis 2 Cemetery. There are three Roman Catholic cemeteries, built in 1789, 1823, and 1854 respectively. The graves are above ground in New Orleans because of the high water table, and the fact that in places, New Orleans is below sea-level.

 

 

 

Many have nobody left to attend to them, and are in various stages  of disrepair, but a group is currently working to restore “abandoned tombs” in St. Louis 1 & 2.  It was beautiful, sad, and inspiring to think about the courage of these people who braved the journey, leaving so much behind them, to settle in a new territory so completely different and begin the process of that would create this unique and historical city. I loved New Orleans.

XO Donna