Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dinner on the Porch has MOVED to Wordpress!

Well, after a grueling 8 hours of work on a new blog format at's finally all set up!

You can now find Dinner on the Porch at:  I've moved all my past blog posts there as well so everything is at the new address.  Posting comments on the site should be easier AND there is a print button at the bottom of each post! I hope you like the new look!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ratatouille - enjoying summer's vegetables

The finished Ratatouille after it's baked in the oven for a little over an hour.

To say that I love ratatouille...well, I made the huge pot you see in the picture and although I did share two small containers with some friends, what remained has been feeding me all week. Ratatouille is a wonderful way to highlight the beautiful vegetables of summer - zucchini, eggplant, colorful bell peppers, tomatoes - and it can be eaten as a side dish with any protein. Or if you're a vegetarian, completely on it's own. It is also delicious for breakfast topped with a fried egg, sunny-side-up, and a little grated parmesan cheese.

Ratatouille is very simple to make with the only time consuming part of preparation being the chopping of the vegetables. Once that's completed, it comes together quickly on the stove top and then finishes cooking in the oven.


1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion
5 medium-large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 can tomato paste
3 bell peppers (I use one each of red, yellow & orange)
2 medium zucchini 
2 small or 1 large eggplant
6 roma tomatoes or small on-the-vine tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
More salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop all vegetables into 1-2 inch cubes and keep them separated in their own bowls. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the red onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and stir until it coats the onion and garlic. Add the remaining vegetables in order listed and the 1/4 teaspoons of salt and pepper, stirring well after each addition to coat vegetables with the tomato paste.

Once all the veggies are in the pot and have been stirred and coated well with tomato paste, put the lid on the pot and place in the oven.  Cook the Ratatouille with the lid on for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, cook uncovered for another 30-45 minutes, until all the vegetables are very tender. At this stage, I am stirring the vegetables every 15 minutes. Finally, add salt and pepper to your preference. All of the natural moisture from the vegetables create a wonderful natural sauce from cooking.

Let the Ratatouille cool completely in the pot before saving in storage containers. Of course you can enjoy a bowl before you do that! It's also great with feta cheese crumbled on top!

Even though the heat has caused the trees and grass to lack vibrancy, summer vegetables still show off their splashy colors
All the veggies in the pot! Mixed well to ensure the tomato paste is coating all the pieces - then into the oven!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Curried Tuna Salad sandwich on toasted homemade oatmeal wheat bread

Wow, it is officially too hot to turn on the oven unless absolutely necessary. The baker part of me is sad but I guess I should blog about recipes other than just baked goods. So since I have to eat lunch, I thought I'd share my recipe for Curried Tuna Salad. I actually enjoyed a similar sandwich at a local restaurant called Shade and loved it so much I had to attempt to recreate it at home. The curry combined with the sweetness of the red grapes and the nutty toasted goodness of the walnuts is a divine way to elevate your standard tuna salad.

Before I get to the recipe, there is a funny side of tuna salad for me. I cannot make, eat, order, or even think of tuna salad without remembering (and laughing) about a very humorous childhood incident that involved tuna salad...and my oldest sister. I am hoping she'll get a kick out of me sharing this story.

Growing up, we lived in Valrico, Florida, just a little east of Brandon. My paternal grandmother (mi abuela) and my aunt Patty (my dad's sister) lived in Tampa. We would often visit both of them at my aunt's house because my grandmother would often stay with her. And we would often eat tuna salad for lunch. At the time of this incident, I was 7 or 8 which means my oldest sister was 11 or 12 and I was not particularly fond of anyone's rendition of tuna salad. Specifically because chopped pickles always seemed to end up in the mix and I had not yet acquired that taste. My sister however, had already graduated to liking pickles.

On this particular day, my grandmother made my sisters and I tuna salad sandwiches for lunch. We always sat on bar stools at the little bar area that was part of the kitchen counter (which of course kids love to do) to eat our lunch. Because I didn't like the pickles, I picked their little chopped selves one by one out of my sandwich and continued to eat. I stacked their tiny shriveled pickle bodies in a pile on a napkin next to my plate. After I had collected quite a pile, my sister asked me if I was going to eat them and I said "no" so she asked if she could have them. Of course I said yes, I sure wasn't going to eat them, and she proceeded to eat them. It wasn't until she was almost finished with the entire pile of pickles that I remembered, suddenly, with my hand clamped over my open, horrified mouth, and confessed that I had sucked each little chopped pickle to remove the tuna and mayonnaise that coated them. I do not remember if she was mad at me then (probably!) because all I can do is laugh when I think of that story now. Hopefully it brought you (and my sister - love you!) a laugh as well.

Now on to the Curried Tuna Salad recipe which low and behold, does not contain pickles (although I do like them). Recipes like these of course are not an exact science so feel free to increase or decrease the mayo, add chopped red onions, more or less curry, grapes and walnuts. The sandwich pictured was delicious.

Curried Tuna Salad with Red Grapes & Toasted Walnuts
adapted from Shade Restaurant in the Heights

2 5-ounce cans of white albacore tuna
2 tablespoons olive oil mayo (I use Hellmann's)
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup red grapes, sliced in half
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts (I had some leftover from another recipe - I always toast extra - so I didn't have to use my oven today!)

2 slices of your favorite wheat bread, toasted
mixed greens
2 slices of tomato 

To toast walnuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and spread 1/2 cup of walnuts in a single layer on pan. Place pan on the middle shelf and toast walnuts for 10-12 minutes until fragrant and color has deepened slightly.

Drain tuna and empty cans into a bowl large enough to contain all ingredients. Break up the tuna chunks with a fork. Add the mayo, curry powder, and salt and mix well. Gently stir in the grapes and toasted walnuts. Cover and chill for at least one hour (because tuna salad tastes better chilled).

Toast your favorite bread and add a thin layer of mayo. Add tuna salad, mixed greens and sliced tomato. And enjoy!!