Cooking to Combat Cancer 2
|April and May bring two very important events that mean a lot to me. Two events that will bring awareness to many people. These two events are part of the effort to kick cancer's ass. Because seriously? Cancer's ass deserves to be kicked. Thoroughly.|
This first post is for Cooking to Combat Cancer 2 - an annual event held by one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met.. Chris. She's the author of Mele Cotte, a wonderful friend, and a cancer survivor. Thank you for doing this every year, sweetie.. your contribution to helping us to never forget is so very important. Love you!!
In November of 2005 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.. one radical hysterectomy later, and I was cancer free without much physical fuss. Meaning, I did not get sick. Mentally, there was fuss.. lots of it. When you've always taken for granted that you'd have kids one day.. and then are told it ain't gonna happen.. yeah, that kind of messes you up some. But, as I've said a million times over, I'm alive. I'm (relatively) healthy. I'm lucky. And I'm grateful for the chance I've been given.
Six years before my own brush with cancer, I was introduced to it's devastation when my great uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer. Coming from a large Italian family, I had many, many aunts and uncles. My father was 1 of 14. Yes, you read that right.. my dad had 13 brothers and sisters. And although I did love my paternal aunts and uncles very, very much.. it was my mom's great aunt and great uncle, who I was closest to. My Auntie Ann and Uncle Sol. My Auntie was and still is my mom's best friend. They are only 10 years apart, and they grew up together more like sisters than an aunt and her niece. So we spent a lot of time with them.
I consider my Auntie as my second mom.. for it was easier for me to talk to her than my own mother sometimes. And my uncle.. well.. he tortured me. har! My uncle never passed up the chance to pick on me, to annoy me, or to embarrass me. But this predicament I was in wasn't such a bad thing. No, for all of his fun had at my expense, the only thing that I took from all of it was how much attention he lavished on me. As I'm told often, I was the first girl in a family of boys. My uncle adored me. And I adored him.
When such an amazing man was taken away from us so abruptly, it felt like a betrayal. How could this be?? This was a man who loved his family so much, he was loved by everyone he met and he was such a wonderful uncle to my sisters and I. Actually, he was known to my youngest sister as her grandpa.. as both sets of grandparents had passed years before she was born, he and my auntie took on the role.
I rarely ever told my uncle how much I loved him. I assumed he always knew. As a matter of fact, the only time I can remember actually saying to him how much I loved him was right after he had the surgery to remove part of his lung.. he cried. I'd never seen him cry before. And he told me he loved me back. This was our first and only spoken exchange of our feelings for each other. He passed a couple days later.
To say I was devastated is an understatement. I was wrecked. I still am.. several years have passed and the pain isn't as constant as it was before, but I still can't control the tears and the hurt inside when I think about him. Oh how I wish that I would have told him how much I loved him until he was sick of hearing it! How I hate that I just assumed he knew. Although he didn't say the words to me either, and even though I knew from earliest memory that he loved me very much.. I still wish that I would have said the words out loud to him more than once. Just as I always knew his unspoken feelings for me, I can only pray that he knew my unspoken feelings for him.
The recipe I am about to share doesn't really remind me much of my Uncle Sol.. no, we were more of the pizza, soft pretzel, Twix bars kinda eaters. hee! But this recipe contains a few ingredients known to help cancer stay away, so I find it very fitting. I also find it very delicious and I'm glad we finally tried it.
It's a simple recipe for Salad Niçoise, which comes to us from Nice, France. This is a salad made up of seared tuna, blanched green beans, tomatoes, steamed red potatoes, boiled eggs and of course, Niçoise olives. Everything but the tuna is tossed with a simple vinaigrette which adds just the perfect tang. And the tuna is usually seared quickly on each side, then placed on the salad in thin slices. Never being one to follow a recipe to the T (Other than Daring Baker challenges!!!), I decided to coat my tuna in toasted sesame seeds first.
We fell in love with this salad immediately and it will become a common quick dinner in my repertoire. The tuna is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for a healthy heart. The green beans have been shown to prevent or slow genetic damage to cells. The garlic and scallions in the vinaigrette contain a number of compounds believed to slow or stop the growth of tumors. And the tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to be especially potent in combating prostate cancer. So all in all, this salad is not only delicious and quick, but very good for your body.
Makes 2 generous servings, or 4 small servings
8 oz. fresh Ahi Tuna or Albacore - (try to find sushi grade - you won't be sorry)
1 TBS olive oil or cooking spray
(recipe for sesame seared tuna below)
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched - (I suggest salting the boiling water)
3/4 pound of new red potatoes, quartered and steamed until fork tender - (My trick here is to put 2 crushed garlic cloves on the bottom of the steamer basket.. it gives the potatoes a light garlicy flavor that's delicious)
1/4 c. red onion, either thinly sliced or minced
1/4 c. pitted Niçoise olives
1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1-2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and quartered
2 TBS. Champagne vinegar - (I used Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
1 TBS. fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
3/4 c. olive oil
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
Arrange salad ingredients in separate piles on a large serving platter. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and then lay thinly sliced tuna on top. OR you can go non-traditional and put all ingredients in a large bowl with the vinaigrette and lightly toss (which is what we did). Serve alone, or with garlic toast.
If you want to use the same tuna that we did the recipe is as follows (I cut the recipe in half for one 8 oz. tuna steak):
Sesame Seared Tuna
Courtesy of Allrecipes.com
1/8 c. soy sauce - (I used reduced sodium)
1.5 tsp. mirin (Japanese sweet wine) - (We omitted this because we didn't have any)
1.5 tsp. honey
1 TBS. sesame oil - (Sesame oil is VERY strong.. I cut this down to 1 tsp.)
1.5 tsp. rice wine vinegar
4 (6 oz.) tuna steaks
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1 TBS. olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy, mirin, honey, sesame oil & the rice wine vinegar.
Spread the seeds out on a plate or shallow bowl. Dip the tuna into the soy mixture, making sure the whole steak is coated and then press the tuna steak into the sesame seeds - coating both sides well.
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over high heat until it's VERY hot. Place tuna steaks in pan and sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. You can go longer, but you chance the possibility of burning the seeds and over cooking the fish.
Slice thinly and place warm tuna over Salad Niçoise.
And hey.. if the opportunity to share a Twix bar with someone you love arises afterwards.. why not take it? :)