Bloke in the Kitchen. Aztec salad with tortillas

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking 2016-03-18 17.19.59

Amelia’s Aztec Salad

Here on Bloke in the Kitchen we don’t go in for canned stuff much, but in this case what we’re using tastes fresh and is mixed with fresh things, so why not?

This recipe is dead easy and the result delicious. So we’re having it on its own, with tortillas. That’s the thin, flat, pancake-style bread tortilla, not tortilla chips (Doritos), although you could use them if you like. Normally you would decide on the main part of the dish: the meat, fish or whatever, and then think about what to have with it, but with this one, it’s a star in its own right, so if you want to serve it with some protein, that’s fine, but on its own is fine too.

You can buy packs of tortillas and use them just as they are, or put them in a hot oven for a few minutes and make them into ’baskets’ so you can fill them with the salad. So you have a soft wrap-style unit or a crisp, edible container.

INGREDIENTS

Ripe avocado

Sweetcorn (small can)

Fresh tomatoes

Black beans (canned)

Red pepper

Fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)

A lime or lemon

Olive oil

METHOD

Open the cans and drain them. Put corn and beans in a salad bowl.

Chop the red pepper into small pieces and add to the bowl.

Chop the tomato(es) up fairly small. Because they’re full of juice and seeds they will fall apart, but that’s okay.

Chop the cilantro and mix it in.

Chop the avocado into half-inch cubes and add to bowl.

Cut the lime or lemon in half and squeeze it over the mixture.

Pour on a little olive oil – just a glug or two. You don’t want it awash with oil, just to have everything glistening.

Mix it up – with your hands or salad spoons etc.

Taste it and add more oil or juice if required.

COWBOY TIP 1

You want to get a lot of juice out of the fruit, so one option is to lean on it heavily and roll it, which should weaken or break up the little pouches of juice inside. You could use bottled juice, but it really isn’t the same – it’s more acidic and less sweet.

If your squeezing grip isn’t that strong, put your hands together, linking the fingers, get the halved fruit between the heels of your hands and squeeze  with both arms. Or, of course, you might have a juicing contraption in the back of a drawer somewhere.

COWBOY TIP 2

If it needs a little salt, give it some, but only a little. The citrus should liven it up sufficiently.

 

MAKING THE TORTILLA BASKETS

If you’re crisping the tortillas, heat the oven to 200. Take an empty can such as the ones that contained the beans or corn you’re using. Remove the label, wash the can and stand it up, open edge down. Run some water over the tortilla and put it on the can, smoothing it down with your hands. There will be folds, which will look good when it’s cooked.

Place tortillas (still on the cans) in the oven, at the bottom, and give them 10 minutes. Check to see they’re not burning and are crisping up. When they’re done, remove the cans and use the tortillas as baskets for the salad, so you can pick them up and eat them like that.

rotated

 

 

Bloke in the Kitchen. Lancelot Salad: vegetarian with artichokes and pasta

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

lettuce
Yes, we’re using this. Lettuce. Mr Clean. Mr Bland. But we’re giving him a makeover. We’re giving him muscles, wit, power.

The very mention of the word ‘salad’ might suggest that it would be suitable for vegetarians, but that’s just not true. In some places (fast food outlets, for instance) they are quite likely to put bacon bits in there just so you don’t get away with eating healthily. If you think of a salad as something that contains lettuce, that’s just the classic plateful. Salads are usually cold, but can involve cooked vegetables. They can be warm, too – nothing technically wrong with that.

The one we’re looking at here is a vegetarian version of a tuna one we did a few months ago. It’s got lettuce and cold pasta, but if you take out the tuna, that’s all the protein gone. We are going to replace that with eggs. And we’re going to liven it up with artichokes and walnuts. If you never thought you would end up using artichokes – those spiky, weird things that look like medieval weapons and seem barely edible, be grateful to the people who cut them, prepare them and put them in jars.

The dish is a balance of vegetables, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and pasta, which gives it carbohydrates and bulk. But if you think of a meal of just pasta and lettuce, it’s like a film with no action, so we’re packing it with grenades of flavor.

penne
Get some of these down you, lettuce boy.
artichokes
And these: artichokes. You feeling tough yet?

IMPORTANT

Make more than enough. It’s not hugely filling and if you make a good one, people may well want seconds.

The choice of leaves is crucial, too, as some of the common types can be bitter. The very floppy green ones are just a bit too 1960s, when the world thought lettuce was lettuce and that was it. Iceberg is crunchy and easy to use but lacks flavor.

COWBOY TIP

If you’re not sure, buy a bag of mixed leaves. That will save you having to clean and chop them anyway, although unless it says on the bag that they’re washed and ready to eat, give them a rinse in a colander and a good shake to get rid of the water.

INGREDIENTS

Penne (or farfalle (bowties) or fusilli or rotini (the twisted ones)

Lettuce (cos or romaine)

Soft boiled eggs (one per person)

Artichokes (a jar or two, ready to use)

Walnuts (a bag or two, shelled and ready. Pecans would do)

Olive oil

Fresh lemons

walnuts
Walnuts. Do you know how much Vitamin C they contain? A lot, that’s how much

METHOD

Boil the pasta, drain it, return it to the pan, fill the pan with cold water and repeat until the pasta is cool. Make sure it ends up dry.

Boil the eggs (see below), cool them in the same way and shell them carefully.

Unless you have your own tried and tested way, try this: Put the eggs in the saucepan, cover them with cold water by about half an inch (1cm), bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and give them four minutes. Then get them into cold water so they don’t cook any further.

Put the pasta in a big salad bowl and add about the same quantity of leaves. Add the artichokes (drained, but a little of the liquid won’t hurt, because it has flavour). Sprinkle in the walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze on half a lemon for two people, more for more people.

Mix it up (with your hands is best, or use salad utensils).

Serve in big bowls if you have some, big plates if you don’t, and place the egg halves on top. Make sure there is salt and pepper on the table.

eggs
Boiled eggs. Just enough to set them. Don’t boil them to death, but you don’t want them bleeding all over the place either

 

 

 

Bloke in the Kitchen. All-in-one tuna pasta salad

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

Another absurdly easy meal to prepare. It doesn’t require any actual ‘cooking’ apart from boiling some pasta.

It is low in calories and full of goodness.

If you have kids to feed, you may even be able to get them to eat this. It has been known for me to be asked for seconds. Don’t bank on that, but it’s a possibility.

Ingredients (for two people)

Pasta (penne, fusilli, farfalle etc).

Lettuce (Romaine, Little Gem, whatever)

Can of tuna in oil

Capers

One fresh lime or lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Method

Logical tip

Do the pasta in advance. It will take 20 minutes or so to cook and then it has to cool. Keep soaking it in cold water and straining until it’s close to fridge temperature. When it has lost the heat, drain it well and mix it up with a little olive oil to stop it sticking together.

So: cook the pasta. Drain, cool and place in salad bowl.

lettuce

Rinse and drain the lettuce, just in case. Lettuce plants grow close to the ground, and although it is unlikely that you will find a slug, snail or valuable Roman coin in there, nobody likes crunching pieces of grit.

Chop (or tear apart) the lettuce and add to the bowl

Add the tuna (with its oil)

Sprinkle in a tablespoon of capers

Squeeze the lime or lemon over everything

Pour on a little olive oil

Mix with your hands

Add black pepper and salt to taste (it won’t need much)

Note: there is no need to mix the oil and citrus juice first.

Drink the rest of the glass of wine that you have already started.

pasta salad
This is the general idea, but you will have more of the green stuff. And you will probably be serving it on plates rather than in cute glass bowls.

 

Flexibility

You could use iceberg lettuce (bland as hell but easy to work with and it does keep better than most). Or if the lettuce in the shop is all rubbish, maybe you can find some nice spinach leaves.

The capers are like little grenades of flavor. You could add black olives, chopped sweet peppers, anything like that, but no onions: that would change it completely.

Lazy git tip

A bag of salad leaves will save you the trouble of tearing a lettuce apart, so if you’re into making Formula 1-like time savings, you could reduce the preparation time by 0.004 seconds in this way.