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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tuna salad and more

My ideal lunch
Salmon salad at top left, leftover tabouli next to it
fruit salad, with a couple of slices of leftover lamb shish kebab
I love tuna salad and go around town testing tuna salad almost any place it’s offered—I feel the same way about potato salad but that’s a different story. My current favorite tuna salad is at the Swiss Pastry Shop. It’s a scoop of tightly packed tuna, mild in flavor, a hint of lemon, and just enough mayonnaise to hold it together, not a bunch of other stuff like pimiento, bell pepper, egg, etc. Just tuna—that’s the way I like it. My idea of salads, be they tuna, salmon, egg or chicken, is purist—I do not, for instance, want pickle in my ham salad. The tuna at McKinley’s runs a close second in my personal salad poll.

I start my salad with that wonderful albacore I get from Pisces in Oregon. When I can I also get salmon from them—it’s not always available. The cans are more expensive, but the couple who own the company fish from their own boat, never with nets, and dolphins swim alongside. The tuna is packed in cans and then cooked once—most tuna you eat is cooked twice. No preservatives, just plain tuna. Both tuna and salmon are available smoked or plain, but I prefer the plain. The salmon is great in croquettes, one of my favorite foods, and the tuna s good for lots of things besides salad—creamed on toast, flaked into hot pasta drizzled with olive oil and topped with Parmesan. Somewhere there’s a book on all the things you can do with tuna.

For tuna salad, because the chunk meat is fairly solid, I give it a whirl in the blender, for an even, flaked base for my salad. Friends said it would just turn to mush, but it honestly doesn’t if you drain it properly.

To one 7 oz. can tuna, flaked, I add:
Juice of one lemon
2 chopped scallions
A squirt of anchovy paste (gives it a tang—careful or you’ll end with anchovy salad)
Just enough mayo to bind—start small and add more if you need it. Jordan and I used to make tuna salad that swam in a soup of lemon juice and mayo, but we’ve gotten over that.
Serve chilled if possible.

I use variations on this formula for other salads. For salmon salad, I skip the blender. Salmon is softer and flakes more easily.
In addition to lemon juice and scallions, I add finely diced cucumber.
And then the mayo.

For ham salad, I buy a slice of boiled ham between ¼ and ½ inch think, cut it in chunks, and flake it in the blender. (I buy a French ham called, in French, Three Pigs—mild and good.)
Add diced scallions and chopped celery to taste
A good squirt of yellow salad mustard
Mayo to bind

I don’t make chicken salad as often, and I’m not sure why. But when I do, I flake the cooked chicken. It’s easy to put a boneless half chicken breast in an oven-proof dish, cover with salt, pepper, and sliced onion rings, put foil over the top, and bake at 325 for half an hour or so until done.)
Cut down on the lemon, using maybe half a lemon
2 chopped scallions
Equal parts sour cream and mayo to blend
Plenty of salt and pepper, which the other salads don’t seem to require.

Egg salad for one
Two-hard boiled eggs—I discovered recently that one of my sons, who eats a lot of hard-boiled eggs, didn’t know to peel them under cold running water. Makes it so much easier. Dice eggs and mix with
Chopped scallions and diced cucumber
Squirt of yellow salad mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

My idea of heaven is to  have one of the above every day for lunch—not in a sandwich but on a salad plate.


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