Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Of Tuna Steak and Pommes de Granade

I think I may have already expounded on this blog on how I could live off salad alone--it's only been a year and I'm way past repeating here folks. But there are certain things that go into a lovely salad, I'll let you in on a few secrets: cheese and dressing. I usually go with feta, but in a pinch I've usually got some Laughing Cow spreadable swiss cheese lying around or its cute little round of sharp cheddar cheese. I'm sort of obsessed with parmesan, but I reserve it for hot things that it can melt into. HyVee was a total gold mine this week. I found this chevre goat cheese there that Wohlners' doesn't carry--die. I couldn't get enough of it, and since I didn't have crackers I was spreading it on leaves of spinach, rolling them up and sharing them with my roommate.

Dressing is the most important part of a happy salad. I pull a little "semi-homemade with Sandra Lee" on this one by buying a powdered mix and combine it with my own vinegar and olive oil. I get both of these from my mom--genius that she is.

This salad also marks my first go at cooking a tuna steak--and fina-freakin-lly I don't completely screw up something new. The fishmonger at HyVee was filled with nervous excitement when I asked for the ahi tuna. He politely posed probing questions like, "Have you ever had tuna like this before? Are you going to grill this?" I humored him--OK, that's not true, I totally needed courage to cook this rare--and asked his recomendations. He warned me not to overcook it, that this was no Chicken of the Sea fish, the delicate flavors would be lost the longer the steak was on the heat. Honestly, I was so excited that he cared about the fish he was selling that much. That never happens--I realize that working with meat, poultry and fish is an art form, but I don't think big grocery stores like HyVee generally acknowledge that (probably costs too much). Whenever I ask for help with weird things like tahini or flax seeds I get blank stares, so it's nice that someone working at the fish counter at HyVee loves fish enough to make sure I don't screw them up.
So this salad was bomb (sorry I love that word, it's annoying, I know). But I'm going to geek out a little more with the pomegranates right now. (Imagine me pushing my glasses up high on my nose)

Pomegranates come from Grenada, Spain, and that's how we get the word. In French, pomme means apple, pomme de terre literally translates to "apple of the earth" but is actually the word for potato, so pomme de Granade means apples from Grenada. (Another side note, Thai does this same sort of play on sematics to form words: nom means water in Thai, hong means room, hong nom means water room or bathroom, som means orange, nom som means orange water or orange juice, I could keep going, it's so cool.) OK, back to pomegranates. Pomegranate juice is used to make grenadine (get it, Grenada, grenadine)--the sweet syrup used in cocktails or to make a regular 7Up into a Shirley Temple.

Before we conclude this episode of random, food-related ponderings, let's review what can make you a good lettuce salad: fresh, crunchy greens; vinegar-based dressing (because that's the best kind); cheese; something else crunchy (fresh red/yellow/green peppers, pomegranate seeds, nuts); I love the earthy element mushrooms lend; and something meaty like croutons, deli meat, roast chicken, tuna steak or sauteed squash. Et voila! Une salade parfaite.

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