Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

General Tso's bluefin tuna salad plus Menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, pasta carbonara, tilefish, blackfin tuna, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, pasta carbonara, tilefish, blackfin tuna, tuna salad, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Softie season

The highlight of the week (in the non-pasta department) was soft shell crabs. I love when these exquisite creatures show up in my fish share. I cook them simply: dredge in flour, pan-fry in butter, then douse with lemon juice. I bought a dozen Pirate Pearls oysters when I was at the fish market and had a few beforehand, saving the rest for an afternoon delight on Saturday afternoon. I know what you’re thinking.

Smoked gouda carbonara plus menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, tilefish, blackfin tuna, tuna salad, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Carbonara excess

The other highlight of the week was smoked gouda carbonara. Yes, you read that right. Travesty? Not in this house, although now I have a hankering for traditional carbonara. Oh my, this dish was really good. The onion and parsley I added made it even better. Pasta has always been and will always be my happy place.

More North Carolina fish

Another night we had pan-seared blueline tilefish in a white wine tomato basil sauce—a timely choice because my young basil plants needed pruning. I’ve relied on this recipe for years—it goes well with all kinds of fish. For the side, I roasted bite-sized pieces of potatoes and tossed them with sage pesto—a great combo.

I was planning to have the carbonara a second night but we ate too much on Sunday, and I thought the leftovers would make a better lunch, i.e., I didn’t want to share. So, plan B: pull some blackfin tuna from the freezer—and do what?

We’ve had a bottle of General Tso sauce in the cupboard since god only knows when—Jim bought it a long time ago—so I decided to give it a try. I seared chunks of tuna, then removed them from the pan. Sautéed red onion, poblano pepper, garlic and ginger, put the tuna back in with the gooey dark sauce (sugar and corn syrup were high on the ingredient list, ugh, but it served my purposes) along with a few generous spoons of sambal oelek (chile sauce) to balance out the sweetness. The results were pretty darn tasty.

But it got even better… The next day, I chopped up the tuna in the leftover sauce to make tuna salad. I added sliced green cabbage and green onions, diced carrot, a big handful of chopped cilantro and some mayo. Wow. I’ve been having it in pita halves. I will be so sad when it is gone.

General Tso's bluefin tuna salad plus Menu ideas and recipes for soft shell crabs, pasta carbonara, tilefish, blackfin tuna, greens, strawberries, asparagus and gnocchi

Spring gnocchi

I had high hopes for this sheet pan gnocchi with asparagus, leeks and peas recipe, but I messed up. I followed the advice in the comments and didn’t cook my shelf-stable gnocchi (I was lazy). If I had boiled it first, it probably would have been soft inside and crunchy outside instead of chewy.

Otherwise, we liked the dish, although I used red onion instead of leeks, skipped the shallots, and added only dill pesto (which has parmesan in it) and lemon zest. Got to do what you got to do.

Greens of the week

I sautéed bacon, spring onions, carrots and garlic in a mix of grapeseed and walnut oil with cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes. Added some sliced dates and almonds, then kale, radish, turnip and kohlrabi greens. Very nice. After two nights, the rest went into a frittata with chopped broccoli stems and gruyère cheese.

Strawberries round 2

Strawberry season is on full blast right now so I bought another bucket—and then thought, what the heck am I going to do with all these strawberries? I know, make strawberry margaritas for happy hour on Saturday. Although a strange accompaniment to my oysters on the half shell, they were quite tasty.

Here’s the recipe I came up with:

  • Purée 1# strawberries in a blender.
  • Add 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 cup tequila, 1/4 cup triple sec and 1/3 cup agave syrup and blend again.
  • Pour over ice into pint glasses.

Sunday morning, I baked these fantastic strawberry scones to have with our breakfast frittata and leftover roasted potatoes. I didn’t make the glaze for the scones, they were just fine without it. And the rest of the strawberries? I froze them.

Until next week, stay safe, stay well, take care.


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