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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Toying with tuna

I’m an addict. I admit it. My vice is tuna fish. My youngest daughter used to say my house could run on white wine, cottage cheese, tuna fish, and Paul Newman’s vinaigrette. I use tuna lots of ways—several versions of salad, casseroles, individual dishes with rice or tiny pasta. I have a recipe for crab/asparagus/cheese on toast (asparagus on toast is a very British thing—my mom used to do it for my dad) but I’m thinking of substituting tuna for the crab.

My current favorite tuna salad is a 7 oz. can albacore in water, drained and chunks broken up, plus juice of one lemon (use one of those good juicers so you get it all), 1 scallion chopped, 1 stalk celery, chopped, a bit of Dijon mustard, and enough mayonnaise to bind—not too soupy, please.

Another way I make it is to flake the tuna in a small food processor, then add the lemon, scallion, a healthy squirt of anchovy paste, and enough mayo to bind. Sometimes I make it with hard-boiled egg, or pickle relish, or cilantro and canned chillies. Tuna offers unlimited possibilities.

I don’t buy tuna at the grocery (I’ll get to an exception in a minute). I order it, by the case, from the Pisces cannery in Coos Bay, Oregon. They don’t fish with nets, so dolphins swim alongside their boats. Their albacore is canned and then cooked, which means it is only cooked once, instead of twice like most brands that are cooked, canned, and cooked again. You can tell the difference in taste and texture both. Pisces makes plain tuna, smoked tuna, salmon and smoked salmon, though the salmon is seasonal and often hard to get. It has more to do with large canneries and politics than supply and demand, but I love to get salmon when I can. Salmon cakes are high on my list. Pisces fish is more expensive—I readily admit that—but to me it’s so worth it.

I also order tuna salad a lot and I can tell you my favorites—right now they’re Swiss Pastry Shop and McKinley’s. I had a tuna sandwich recently somewhere else that was so juicy, it soaked through the bread and made it hard to pick up. Usually I prefer a tuna salad plate to a sandwich—get the taste of the tuna and avoid the bread.

Recently, I’ve discovered another tuna that I love. (Forgive the blurry picture, please.)I don’t’ usually use this blog to tout a product but here goes: I saw Tonino’s Tuna advertised in one of the food magazines I take and then found it on the shelves at Central Market. It’s in a smallish jar—I doubt it’s seven oz.—packed in olive oil and available in several flavors. I like it with oregano or garlic. Don’t want to try the red pepper and can’t see much advantage in the water packed. The texture is solid—great chunks of tuna—and the flavor delicious. Because I’m a cottage cheese freak, I mix it with that but you could drain and toss in a salad for a healthy and delicious meal. Or eat it plain. Save it for occasions--it's not cheap. Today I'm going to a birthday party for a neighbor--he's getting a jar of Tonino Tuna with oregano for a gift. I consider it an introduction.

Remembers tuna casseroles? Did your mom make them and now you can’t bear to think of them? Try this—the neat thing is you can determine your own veggie, carb, and seasonings.

1 cup white wine
Assorted herbs
1 can mushroom soup
1 7 oz. can albacore tuna, drained and broken into chunks
Cooked or canned vegetable of your choice (I like green peas)
Cooked rice, noodles, whatever you want (I usually use egg noodles)
Season to taste
French’s French-fried onion rings or other crumbly topping—shredded sharp cheddar mixed with crumbled potato chips would be good
Throw a bunch of herbs in white wine—parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, whatever comes to mind; I’d avoid Mexican flavors unless you deliberately want that taste. Boil wine hard until herbs are black.
Stir in remaining ingredients except topping. Season with salt, pepper, a dash of Worcestershire if you wish, perhaps a big pinch of dry mustard. Use your imagination.
Add topping and bake at 350o until casserole is bubbly and topping browned. Should serve four.

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