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leek salad 
Warm Leek and Avocado

tuna with capers
Pan-Seared Tuna with

polenta cake
Polenta and Cheese

Sautéed Spinach

Menu Plan for the week of Jan. 18, 2013: Friday's Recipes

Warm Leek and Avocado Salad
Pan-Seared Tuna with Capers
Polenta Timbales with Cheese
Sautéed Spinach

Cooking time:  40 minutes for menu          Cooking schedule: see below for instructions

   I used 3 medium - large leeks for the salad.  It looks like a lot but they are quite light and cook down.
The tuna and the spinach should be finished after the starter, while the polenta rests. If you have spinach leftover, use it as a bed for the salad on Saturday or add it to the Risotto on Sunday. Save the chicken stock for use during the rest of the week.

Warm Leek and Avocado Salad                          Preparation and cooking time:  15 minutes
     Leeks belong to the onion family but are much milder.  They are used a lot in French cooking and are often seen as a first course. Paired with the avocado, this makes a lovely winter salad.

2 large or 3 medium leeks
3 cups chicken stock
1 small, ripe avocado
6 - 7 olives, any type: green, black, kalamata
2 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 tbs white Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
3 tbs good olive oil

Cut root end off leeks.  Cut tops leaving 2 - 3 inches (5 - 7.5cm) of pale green.  You should have 6 - 7 inches (15 - 17.5cm) of leek.  Cut leeks in half the long way and discard outer leaves.  Rinse under cool running water fanning the layers a bit to get out any possible sand.  Heat chicken stock in large skillet to a simmer.   Lay leeks in a row, cut side down, in the simmering broth.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  The broth should cover the leeks completely; if not, add water.
Cut the avocado in half, remove pit.  Remove avocado halves from skin and slice.  Roughly chop olives.  Make vinaigrette.
To finish:  Spoon a bit of vinaigrette into the center of 2 plates.  Uncover and remove leeks with a tongs, draining and trying to keep them together.  Lay leeks on the vinaigrette.  Arrange avocado slices to one side of leeks.   Drizzle remaining vinaigrette around the edges of the leeks and over the avocado.  Sprinkle with olives and serve.  Reserve chicken stock for other use - it can also be frozen

Whisk together mustard, herbs and vinegar.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly.  Vinaigrette will be thick and creamy.

Pan-Seared Tuna with Capers                             Preparation and cooking time:  15 minutes
     This is best with good sushi-grade tuna that is quickly seared on both sides and cool or just barely warm in the center.  If you get regular tuna you will need to cook it until it is closer to medium - well. Ask your fish monger (I love that word)... or the guy behind the counter.

2 tuna steaks, 6oz each (180gr)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 clove garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs capers
3 tbs chopped olives - kalamata or Greek black (or green if that is what you have)
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup (4oz, 120ml) cup white wine

Mince garlic.  Chop olives.  Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, fennel seeds and sauté 1 minute.  Remove and reserve.  Add tuna and sauté 3 - 5 minutes per side (depending on thickness - 3 minutes if 1 inch (2.5 cm), 5 minutes if 2 inch (5 cm)) for medium-rare, longer if you want them more done.  Remove and cover with a lid or foil to keep warm. Return fennel and garlic to pan and add rest of ingredients.  Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes.  Pour over tuna and serve.

Polenta and Cheese Timbales                                  Preparation and cooking time: 35 minutes
    These slip out of the ramekins easily but still hold their shape making for a very pretty presentation. The Caramelized Shallots add an unexpected crunch!

1 cup (8oz, 240ml) chicken stock   check your package for correct amount of liquid
2 tsp olive oil
2 shallots
1/4 cup polenta    quick cooking
1/2 cup (2oz, 60gr) shredded cheese  cheddar would be nice, but whatever is on hand
2 tsp olive oil for ramekins

Clean and slice shallots. Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking until nicely brown and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes longer.
Heat stock to boiling in a small saucepan.  Add polenta, whisking constantly - or it will have little volcanic eruptions spewing polenta all over your stove.  Turn heat down and cook about 5 minutes (or whatever your package tells you), stirring constantly.  When done, remove from heat and stir in caramelized shallots. 
Put 1 tsp oil in each of 2 ramekins and brush around the bottom and sides.  Divide 1/3 of the polenta evenly between the 2 ramekins.  Sprinkle each with 1/3 of the cheese, divided.  Repeat these 2 layers twice more, ending with the cheese on top.  Place ramekins on a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 10 minutes, 400F (200C).  Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer.  Remove and let rest a minutes or two.  Run a knife around the edges of the ramekin.  Put a plate on top and tip over, releasing the timbale onto the plate.  Serve.

Note:  I'm assuming that your ramekins hold app. 1 cup (8oz, 225ml).  If they are smaller, you may need to make a third ramekin to use all of the polenta... Share.

Sautéed Spinach                                                        Preparation and cooking time:   10 minutes
   This is quickly done and best if done at the last minute.  A sprinkling of lemon juice and sea salt is all that's needed to let the spinach shine.  The leaves should be barely wilted.

6oz (175gr) fresh spinach
2 tsp dried chives or 1 tbs fresh
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp good olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice
salt - sea salt is nice, and pepper

Wash and stem spinach if needed.  Drain in a colander.  If you don't feel you need to wash it - do it anyway.  We want a little bit of water on the leaves - what ever is left after draining well - and shake them around a bit, too.  Cut big spinach leaves into strips.  Snip chives if using fresh. 
Heat 1 tsp oil over medium high heat in large nonstick skillet. Add spinach and herbs.  Quickly stir-fry, 1 or 2 minutes.  The spinach should just start to wilt.  Remove.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil, lemon juice, sprinkle with salt, pepper and serve.

Cooking Schedule: 40 minutes for menu
Assemble all ingredients and utensils
Utensils: measuring cups, spoons, knives,
2 small bowls, whisk, 2 large skillets, one lid, (1 skillet
used 2 X), small saucepan, small skillet, ramekins,
baking sheet

Turn oven on, 400F (200C)
Slice shallots, sauté
Heat stock for leeks
Prepare spinach, set aside
Mince garlic, set aside
Chop all olives, divide
Chop capers (if large)
Put olives, capers, lemon, wine for tuna in bowl
Reduce heat under shallots
Shred cheese
Clean, cut leeks, rinse
Heat stock for polenta
Prepare ramekins
Poach leeks
Make polenta
Add shallots to polenta

Assemble ramekins
Bake polenta
Sauté garlic, fennel for tuna
Make vinaigrette
Put fennel, garlic in bowl with capers, etc.
Spoon vinaigrette onto plates
Remove leeks, arrange on plates
Pit, slice avocado, arrange on plates
Drizzle remaining vinaigrette, garnish with olives
Uncover Polenta
Serve Leek Salad
Reheat skillet for tuna
Remove Polenta
Sauté tuna
Remove stock from leek skillet, heat skillet for spinach
Turn tuna
Plate Polenta
Remove tuna, cover to keep warm
Add fennel, garlic, etc. to skillet, simmer
Make spinach
Spoon caper sauce over tuna, Serve all

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