August 2, 2011

Checking in (and a tuna Niçoise recipe)

I'm alive! *dusts off blog* Whew, it's been a while since I've posted, hasn't it?

Fried cheese curds at Bastille Days in Milwaukee
Work and a lot of travel has kept me crazy-busy. Since my last post, I went to New York for a week and a half, Vancouver for a few days (including a crazy YVR-San Francisco - Tokyo - HK return flight due to the Fly America Act and missing my flight because of delays), Bangkok again in June, and Jon and I just returned a few days ago from three weeks in the US. (It looks like there's going to be another New York trip as well as Shanghai trip in early September too -- I like NY, but I'm at the point where I just want to stay home for now and don't want to travel for work!)

We went on a pilgrimage to New Glarus Brewing Co in New Glarus, Wisconsin (which is a mock-Swiss chalet town)
But let me think about happier things - like the great vacation I just had :). We spent three weeks visiting Jon's family and friends in Madison & Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (or, to be more accurate, Jon was the one who drove), where we eat a lot of good fresh food and drank even more fantastic craft beer (we squeezed in trips to two breweries - New Glarus and Lakefront). We also went to the Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field in Green Bay (it's an NFL American football thing, but it was pretty neat to see the Lombardi Trophy and Aaron Rodger's Superbowl ring).

It's funny, because I used to be such a geographical snob -- growing up, my family lived in Vancouver (Pacific Northwest) and I went to college in upstate New York, or having a transfer flight at O'hare airport, I didn't know much about the mid-West ("the fly-over" states?!) The only time I had been in the Mid-West was during a crazy 3-week road trip from Vancouver to Prince Edward Island and back (West to East Coast was through Canada; East to West was through the US on the I-90), where we ate Chinese food almost every night, thanks to my dad's need to eat rice with every meal. But that's another story for another time.

Cattle prices on the Agricultural reports on the TV news
What I want to say was I found myself really, really liking Wisconsin and the U.P. -- the commitment to sustainable local produce, the appreciation for the good things in life (cheese curds, sausages, beers, frozen custard!) and the friendliness and lack of pretentiousness that people had. It's very different from big-city Hong Kong or New York city, where I get tired about all the prattling about brand names and money and showing off. 

Jesse works for Alterra Coffee, which has awesome coffee and baked yummies. Their graphic designer is really talented - I love my Alterra T-shirts! :)

Here's one meal that Jon's sister Jesse and I made one sweaty evening in Milwaukee during that heat wave where it was in the 90s (Fahrenheit, which is about 32 C or so -- but in a place where they don't have air cons!).

Tuna Niçoise

Jesse bought the tuna steak from Trader Joe's. The fingerling potatoes and green beans we bought from the local farmer's market (not really a market, more like a cluster of stands on a street corner) in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee where she lives. The lettuce were grown by Jesse in planter pots on her deck.  It was one of the best meals I've had in a long time -- the potatoes were fresh and sweet, and the beans were crisp and tasted of sunshine and good things.

 Tuna Niçoise Salad

  • Tuna steak in chunks
  • Whatever lettuce you have handy
  • Green beans
  • Waxy new or fingerling potatoes
  • Olives
  • Eggs
 I don't give quantities here as it's really up to you how much you want to include of each item.
  1. Defrost tuna. Marinate for an hour in soy sauce and ground black pepper (put it in a Tupperware container or bowl).
  2. Top and tail the green beans; remove the "string" down the middle.
  3. Boil a large saucepan of salted water. 
  4. Boil potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove, drain and set aside.
  5. Using the same pot of water, add in the green beans. Boil for only 1 minute or so. Remove, drain and set aside. 
  6. Using the same pot of water (water is a scarce natural resource, after all!), boil the eggs. Remove them and IMMEDIATELY run them under cold running water (this makes the yolks stay yellow and prevents that nasty greenish tinge that sometimes forms). Set aside to cool, then peel and slice.
  7. Toss some sesame seeds into the tuna (optional).
  8. Heat a lightly-oiled cast iron skillet. When it's very hot, put the tuna on and sear both sides of the chunks/steak. You want to leave the middle of the tuna a bit rare inside, as it continues to cook after you remove it from the heat; so no more than 1-2 minutes total for 1-2 inch-thick pieces.
  9. Assemble all the ingredients and serve. We felt the salad didn't need dressing, but you could add a balsamic, miso or other light dressing of your choice. Enjoy!

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