Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and the “Presto Chango” Effect

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and the “Presto Chango” Effect

We decided to paint the kitchen ourselves this past weekend. The quotes we were getting to do the job seemed over the top ridiculous.

Personally, I enjoy painting the rooms of my dwelling space.

I have learned to detest wallpaper and love the instant gratification of paint.

Immediate gratification.

The “Presto Chango” Effect.

Unless something technical needs to be done; I can paint walls and cabinets like a pro. Based upon what we found while doing this project, we certainly did it better than the last “pro” who was hired to paint.

I love doing it. There is another mental space I go to when doing these kind of projects. It is a fun place to go and I don’t stay long so it is best to take advantage when it comes around.

“Let’s go buy paint and get going ” we discussed one morning.

So off we went to the paint store to buy what we needed to transform the kitchen.

Robert was amazed as to how much we actually were able to do in a days time. We began on Saturday, mid-morning, and finished Monday around dinner time, after work.

Over last weekend we dismantled the kitchen; removed cabinet doors and hinges; and such.

This is how the sequence went: Degrease, wash, dry, sand, damp mop dust, dry, prime, paint 2 coats, let dry.

The kitchen is now back in working order and feels great to be cooking again.

Presto Chango. Gotta love it.

This is an easy recipe when you want something quick and easy. (And don’t want to mess up the kitchen.)

The entire dish is easily made in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

You only need a few ingredients.

Cannellini Beans, canned tuna, artichoke hearts, lemon and pasta and cheese if you like.

These are the major ingredients: Artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, anchovies, pasta, here we are using “orecchiette” and Tuna, which is not pictured.

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and Pasta

  • 1 – 2 ounce tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1/2 onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 – 5 ounce can of “Wild Planet” wild caught tuna. This tuna is not oil packed. (Use your favorite Tuna)
  • 1-14 ounce can of artichoke hearts – packed in water, not oil
  • 1-15 ounce can Bushes Cannellini Beans (also known as white kidney beans)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 package of your favorite pasta shape. I like Orecchiette for this because of the shape and the ability to hold on to sauce. (The pasta looks like little hats when cooked.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan or Asiago cheese to shred over top

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, salt the water and add pasta.

Note how long the pasta takes to cook so it does not get over done and mushy.

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the anchovies and saute until they “dissolve” while being cooked.

Add the  onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the artichokes, beans and tuna and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.

Add the lemon zest and juice.

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain and fold it into the pan with the other ingredients.

Top with shredded cheese and serve.

A salad on the side rounds the meal out nicely.

Tuna, white beans and artichoke pasta

A story about blue crabs

St. Johns River, Florida

There was a time in my life when I lived on the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville, FL in a small place named Switzerland.

We had a dock and a couple of boats and crab traps. The traps would get stuffed with chicken necks and then dropped in the river.

Most of the time, we could drop them right off the dock and get traps so full of blue crabs we couldn’t possibly eat them all.

So, we would build a bonfire on the riverbank, pull some coals to the side and place cast iron dutch kettles into the fire to

Maryland Blue Crab

boil water and then fill the pots with crabs, herbs, and seasoning, cover and put it back in the fiery coals to cook the crabs.

When they were cooked, the pot would be spilled all over the picnic table and another pot put into the fire.

Crabs for sale at the Maine Avenue Fish Market...

Friends, family, neighbors would all gather around, eat huge amounts of blue crab, drink beer, I think back then it was Rolling Rock and Heineken. It was great having everyone around talking, sometimes singing and having a great time.

1893 bird's eye view of Jacksonville, with ste...

1893 bird’s-eye view of Jacksonville, with steamboats moving throughout the St. Johns River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The families we were with at the time had actually settled the area in the mid to late 1800’s. There were stories of Reggie Moreman sailing down the St Johns to locate and settle the highest point on the river. There were stories of pirate ships sailing down the St Johns to Black Creek to fill water kegs with the tannin water for long voyages; stories of Indians and smoke on the banks across the river near Green Cove Springs.

Two families tried to tame the once wild river banks. One with potato farming and the other established some of the first orange groves in the state of Florida. They had docks that would load with oranges for shipping to anywhere. When the groves got frozen out, they moved to southern Florida to grow pineapples in what is now downtown Miami.

The Moremans stayed in Switzerland, Florida. When I was there, we still ran through the remnants of the groves plucking ripe fruit from the trees before the first frost. Most were sour oranges due to the base stock being sour, but there were still a couple of sweet trees.

The crabs always ran like this in the deep fall, or was it spring? I can’t recall exactly what time of year it was, other than it was chilly, the night air dry and crisp.

This is one of my favorite memories of living on the riverbank  and eating crabs in Switzerland, Florida.

Calling the ferry, St. John River, NB, 1915 (?)

And well before the river got so polluted the fish sprouted two heads. (Really.)

Stuffed Shrimp

Stuffed shrimp are so easy to make and are considered a quick and easy meal. While scallops are the original fast food, these don’t fall far behind.

Use the largest shrimp you can afford. I prefer wild caught shrimp. What I have read about farm raised shrimp has me not eating shrimp for the most part. The process of farm raising shrimp is disgusting. I wouldn’t eat them for anything.

Wild caught are another story.

You need to know where the shrimp were caught. Additionally, you need be reasonably environmentally aware of what is going on the in the world so you can make your own decisions as to whether or not you want to eat fish from questionable areas.

I still don’t trust seafood from the Gulf of Mexico or BP for that matter. I do not think the full truth has been disclosed about the Gulf disaster.

Anyway, back to the shrimp.

These are wild caught 16/20 white shrimp from eastern coast of Florida. We have a wonderful fish market in town called Clean Catch Fish Market. They procure only the best seafood from around the world. The prices reflect it too, but so well worth the cost. When I decided to write about stuffed shrimp, I needed the best shrimp I could find. There was only one place to go, Clean Catch.

When buying shrimp, the numbers like 16/20 indicate how many of them are in a pound. 16/20 means there are between 16 and 20 in a pound. The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp.

When you see a size like U-10 or U-15 it means Under 10 per pound or Under 15 per pound which means you are going to get a really big shrimp, almost lobster tail size.

Note: Larger shrimp are easier to peel. If you are so inclined, save the shells for making shrimp stock. Freeze them until you have enough to run a batch.

Smell the shrimp. They should smell like the fresh ocean, not ammonia, iodine or dead fish.

Because only two of us were eating, I got 8 shrimp. No need to buy a full pound.

For this dish, you will peel and devein and butterfly the shrimp. You will leave the first tail section and the tail on for presentation.

Don't cut all the way through, just so it can lay flatInsert your sharp paring knife into the top portion of the shrimp and open the shrimp all the way to the first tail section. This makes shell removal simple, also opens the shrimp so you can remove the intestinal track. (Yup, that’s what that black line is along the back.) Cut deep so you can lay the shrimp flat, also known as “butterfly” the shrimp. Be careful not to cut all the way through.

Rinse under clear cold water. Label and freeze shells for later use.

Make the stuffing. Form into small balls that fit on the back of the shrimp. Fold the tail over the stuffing and spread or fan the tail out so it looks nice.

Place the shrimp on a baking sheet and bake in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

Remove from the oven and serve with Lemon Orange Horseradish Sauce and a nice salad on the side.

Stuffing for Stuffed Shrimp

This makes a generous amount. Freeze any left over so you can make stuffed shrimp again soon! Or use the stuffing in another seafood or  in mushrooms or quail.

  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon capers
  • 1 Teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced sweet onion or shallot
  • 1 scallion thinly sliced, from the white tip to the green end, use it all
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • Zest and juice from one lemon (the zest is a major flavor contributor, don’t leave it out)
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese – optional

Mix everything in a bowl. The mixture should hold together when you squeeze it.

Make small balls of the stuffing mix and place a ball on the back of the shrimp and fold the tail over. Fan the tail.

Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes or until the shrimp are pink.

Lemon Orange Horseradish Sauce

Super simple and versatile. This sauce goes well with these shrimp, coconut shrimp and spring rolls.

1/4 cup orange marmalade

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon horseradish (more or less depending upon desired heat)

Melt over low heat, whisk to incorporate. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. If it gets too gloppy, add a small amount of water.

Spoon the sauce around the shrimp on the plate and serve.


No more “lobster-cide”; I can’t kill lobsters anymore. Being a chef, and an instructor who used to be able to teach such things to poor unsuspecting students, this isn’t something you’d admit out loud.

I was reading Domestic Diva MD‘s post on having to cut up a chicken and kind of understood what she was crying about. I can butcher chicken and birds quite well, it doesn’t bother me at all.

Suppose that is because they are dead when they arrive on my cutting board.

This is a wooden chopping board with a chef's ...

Image via Wikipedia

Lobsters, on the other hand, come in live and kicking and probably pretty frustrated by having their claws banded shut. (thank goodness!) or OUCH! pegged shut. ( The would probably be more angry than frustrated.)

Lobsters shipped for consumption in the United...

Image via Wikipedia

They flicker their feelers at you, roll their odd eyes and foam at the mouth for desire to be back in the water.

They try to walk around so you have to watch them or put them where they can’t get away.They often pack fresh seaweed with them so they have something familiar on their death ride besides a waxed box with ice. That is most likely not the reason, but it is my guess for now.

In order to kill them correctly, you need to rub them between the eyes to calm them down and ‘put them to sleep’ before plunging a 12″ razor-sharp knife into their brains.

“Kills them instantly.” says Eric Ripert

Has he ever been a lobster? How does he know?

I can’t do that anymore. I am bothered by being able to do it in the first place. Once they are dead, no problem, just can’t kill them.

The last time I had to kill lobsters was for a dinner party I was doing for a friend in Atlanta. 14 lobsters for the appetizer.

14 live and kicking lobsters. I could hear them scratching around inside the box, slightly muffled by the seaweed packed in the box with them.

I placed them in the kitchen sink. I got creeped out by so many large weird leggy things scrambling around in the sink, I had to put some of them back in the box.

Then the killing started.

Rubbing the space between the eyes, they calm down. Ready, Aim, Plunge and split the thing in two.

OH! How it writhes and wiggles after!

After forcing myself to do all 14, I was a total basket case. Crying, kneeling down begging forgiveness for taking their lives, who was I after all to decide it was their time to die?

It was quite a horrible struggle emotionally and morally. I won’t kill lobsters anymore.

Not that way. If necessary, I’ll put them into a perforated hotel pan and pop them into a fully active steamer and slam the door shut for 8 minutes.

When I return, voila! Lobster meat. The shells have turned red and there lies the perfect ready to eat lobster, after you rip off its tail and claws.

(I worry about the students who ‘get a kick’ out of learning this. Glad they only get 1 lobster)

Melt some butter and Bon Apetit!

Just don’t ask me to kill them anymore.