Grilled Tuna and Avocado Salad and Panna Cotta with Balsamic-Black Pepper Strawberries.
As a child I was enamored by cooking shows. You might remember my favorites. Of course, Julia Child on The French Chef. How could you not love Julia? But I also eagerly watched Wok With Yan, mostly focused on Asian stir-fries and The Cajun Cook, Justin Wilson, who seemed to shove whole garlic cloves into just about everything. I'm showing my age, aren't I? These shows were delightfully quirky and on some level...enlightening!
Now days there are two people I always stop to watch: Bobby Flay and Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. As I have already given away my feelings for sweet Bobby in Ready For A Throwdown, I'd now like to take a moment to pay Ms. Ina her proper respect.
What to say about Ina. (Sigh.) She's like a young aunt, or older friend, to whom you would unabashedly pour out your soul, over a couple cosmos, homemade smoked salmon spread, and freshly baked baguettes!
I don't generally make a habit of getting starstruck. In fact, I can't think of a single Hollywood celeb that I would really care to meet. But Ina's different. With her freshly cut peonies, her colorful friends in magenta sweaters, and her soothing river-stone voice, she lures me in every time. Plus I love the way she talks about her husband Jeffrey. She obviously, sees him as the sun and moon--and that just endears her to me even more.
Ina's carefree cooking style is something I aspire to. She focuses on revamping the classics, and celebrating ingredients in a minimalist way. She doesn't worry herself with trends and lavish presentation, just quality. Because of this, she exudes confidence and simple elegance in a way I rarely see. To top it all, every episode ends with a party or a quaint dinner-for-two in the garden. I can only dream that someday my days will end like The Barefoot Contessa!
So in honor of Ina, I give you two of her dishes that are perfect for summer. An easy (and artful) Ahi Tuna and Avocado Salad, and her lusciously creamy Panna Cotta with Balsamic Berries and Black Pepper. Both came out of her Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook...and are completely sublime!
Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable. ~Ina Garten
Love you Ina!
Grilled Tuna Avocado Salad
2 pounds very fresh tuna steak, cut 1-inch thick
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black, plus extra for sprinkling
2 limes, zest grated
1 teaspoon wasabi powder (or paste)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
10 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
2 ripe Hass avocados, medium diced
1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks in a very hot saute pan and cook for only 1 minute on each side. Set aside on a platter.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pepper, lime zest, wasabi, lime juice, soy sauce and hot sauce. Chop the avocados and add them to the vinaigrette.
Cut the tuna in chunks and place it in a large bowl. Add the scallions and red onion and mix well.
Pour the vinaigrette mixture over the tuna and carefully mix.
Panna Cotta with Balsamic Black Pepper Strawberries
* The only alteration I made to this recipe was to add extra vanilla extract. Sadly, my vanilla bean was all dried up!
1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 pints (4 cups) sliced fresh strawberries
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated lemon zest, for serving
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the cream, the yogurt, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds.
Heat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream and the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine.
Pour into 4 (6 to 8-ounce) ramekins or custard cups and tap gently to remove the bubbles. Refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and pepper 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Set aside at room temperature.
To serve, run a small knife around each dessert in the ramekin and dip the bottom of each ramekin quickly in a bowl of hot tap water.
Invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and surround the panna cotta with strawberries. Dust lightly with freshly grated lemon zest and serve.
* I have several Barefoot Contessa Cook books in my online store, for much less than you'd spend in a bookshop!