The perfect side dish for non-fans of raw vegetable salads like me. I know that making a salad with cooked vegetables takes more work than tossing together raw veggies, but wait ’till you’ve tried this technique.
Inspired by a recipe from a cookbook of one of the three non-Asian celebrity chefs that I have immense respect for. His name is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (the other two are Alton Brown and Tom Norrington-Davies). We used to catch his show on cable TV.
I really don’t buy cookbooks anymore. I already have huge collection, and the last few purchases turned out to be quite worthless. The very last one, bought at the Bangkok international airport while waiting to board the plane back to Manila, is about Thai food written by an American who says he has lived in Thailand for over a decade and has dedicated those years learning Thai cooking. Well, apparently, he didn’t learn much. The recipes in his book are plain bad.
But, last week, I made two rare trips to the mall. The first because we wanted a rowing machine (yes, you know, for exercise). At the same time, my mobile phone was taking its dying breath, and I really had to get a new one. At the mall, we passed by a stall selling fish in jars.
Tinapa is the generic name for smoked fish in the Philippines. It’s hot-smoked fish, not cold-smoked, so it’s fully cooked. It is available fresh (meaning, newly smoked and still warm), frozen or soaked in flavorful oil.
The latter is not a new way to sell fish. We’ve been buying similar products from the grocery for years, but this one looked better than others. The jar was packed to the brim, to start with (grocery stuff has more oil than fish), and there were some really interesting flavors.
Well, the gourmet hot and spicy tinapa was too salty. We paired it with rice but the saltiness was not sufficiently offset by the neutral-tasting carb. We put the jar of tinapa in the fridge and I thought of tossing the contents with pasta sometime soon.
But then, the following day, I had to go to the mall again to get a screen protector and silicone case for my new phone. And we passed by a stall selling second-hand books. My husband, Speedy, saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s name on one and showed it to me. I browsed through the recipes and, to make a long story short, we went home with the book.
Back home, I started going over the recipes in earnest. One of them was for a potato and green bean salad with canned tuna. I thought about the jar of tinapa sitting in the fridge. That’s definitely more flavorful than canned tuna we get in this country. And I had this theory that if the potatoes were given enough time to soak up the saltiness of the tinapa in oil, the result would be a salad with perfectly balanced flavors.
So, I put my theory to the test. I boiled water with a little salt and vinegar. I peeled two potatoes, cut them into cubes and dumped them into the boiling water. After about fifteen minutes, I pierced one piece with a knife. There was just a bit of resistance at the center. That meant it would be on the side of mushy after another ten minutes of cooking. That was when I added the trimmed green beans.
Ten minutes later, I drained the potatoes and green beand and placed them in a bowl. I spooned the tinapa from the jar, drizzled in some of the oil in which the fish had been soaking, and squeezed lemon juice over everything. Then, I tossed them together and left the salad to sit on the dining table for half an hour. And it really was a magnificent salad.
Potatoes and green beans salad
- Pour about six cups of water into a pot, add the salt and vinegar, and boil.
- Dump in the potatoes and cook for ten minutes or until starting to soften but the center offers a slight resistance when pierced with a knife.
- Add the green beans and cook for another ten minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and green beans and place in a bowl.
- Add the tinapa flakes.
- Drizzle in the oil.
- Toss to distribute the fish.
- Squeeze lemon juice over the vegetables and fish, and toss again.
- Leave the salad to rest for 30 minutes before serving.