Tuna, it's not just for a sandwich or a salad anymore

April 10, 2013 

A tuna fish sandwich is about as old-school Southern as you can get. Mixed with a little mayonnaise, perhaps some chopped pickles and slapped between two pieces of bread and you're good to go. It remains lunch for the masses.

Tuna was first canned in the United States in 1903 and has been popular ever since. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, so it is popular with the muscle-building crowd. It's still relatively inexpensive and few people will complain when a tuna sandwich is offered and there are even those who wouldn't complain if a tuna casserole was served.

Tuna casserole may be an acquired taste. Traditionally its main ingredients are canned tuna, noodles, mayonnaise, cream of celery soup, evaporated milk and a few other ingredients. For those modern cooks who reject without question any Southern recipe made with canned soup this one is grim. It just might be saved if it is made from scratch, a cream-based sauce being a primary ingredient, but its reputation for blandness just might be irrevocable.

Another incarnation of canned tuna is a tuna salad, which can be basic, with just lettuce and tomato added to the sandwich recipe above, or more exotic (see recipes on Page 3D).

In more recent years the "foodie" craze has made people a bit more creative, and they have added celery, fresh chopped tomato, cucumber, olives, red wine vinegar and a host of other ingredients to turn the simple tuna sandwich into some

thing a little more sophisticated. Carefully place a dollop on a croissant, and you've got a $10 lunch.

When the sushi craze first came to California in the 1980s the idea of raw fish served on a small mound of rice was repugnant to many Americans. But this mainstay Edo style of sushi won people over and a small piece of blue fin tuna served very simply with nothing but a bit of Wasabi and soy sauce now is quite common and delectable.

But there's a lot more you can do with fresh tuna. The one critical point is to find fresh tuna that has not been frozen. Fresh tuna is blood red and has no odor. If it smells slightly fishy then it is old and should be avoided at all costs.

Fresh tuna cooked on the grill is perhaps the best method of preparing it, but seared in a hot pan will do nicely, too. Make sure you do not overcook the filet you just paid some pretty serious money for. It should be pink in the middle. When overcooked it becomes dense and unappetizing. Certainly, if millions of people eat it raw then there is nothing wrong with serving it rare.

Creamy Avocado Tuna Salad

This tuna salad replaces most of the mayonnaise with avocado. Is it tuna salad, or guacamole? Out with the bad fats, in with the good.

2 (7-ounce) cans tuna

2 avocados

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 red onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 clove garlic

1 lemon

Dice the celery, carrots and onion. Grate the garlic with a microplane. Strain the tuna. Remove the avocado from the skin and mash. Salt and add lemon juice right away to prevent browning. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Serve on a sandwich or in a salad. I like it with balsamic, cucumber and tomatoes. If saving some, be sure to push plastic wrap directly on the surface of the tuna to prevent browning.

-- McClatchy Tribune

GOURMET TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4- 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

10 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced1/4-inch thick (4 cups)

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/4 cup sherry

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (6-ounce) can tuna in olive oil, drained

6 ounces dried curly egg noodles (Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3-1/4 cups)

1- 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices white bread)

4 ounces coarsely grated cheddar (1 cup)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in 1- 1/2 tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then saute until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about two minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, three minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, five minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish, spreading evenly. Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Serves: 4 to 6.

-- From www.epicurious.com, is from the May 2004 issue of Gourmet.

BASIC GRILLED TUNA

One 3/4-inch filet per person

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 crushed cloves of garlic

Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the grill to about 400 degrees or oil a sauté pan and heat until smoking. Add the oil to a large bowl, add the garlic and black pepper and marinade the tuna for 30 minutes or so. Make sure to turn the steaks, so they are evenly coated. Grill for about two minutes per side for rare. Strain the marinade and use as a sauce. Serve with a fresh green salad with lots of tomatoes and a glass pinot noir.

GRILLED TUNA WITH AN ITALIAN TWIST

1 filet of tuna for each person

Zest of 1 lemon

3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1/2 cup cilantro

3-4 crushed cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 cup cannellini beans

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped red onion

Combine the lemon zest, rosemary, cilantro and garlic and chop vigorously. Add enough olive oil to moisten and season with pepper and salt. Cover the tuna with the mixture and let marinade for at least 30 minutes. While waiting for the tuna to marinade combine the beans, onions and tomatoes with good quality olive oil and season to taste. If you like, add just a bit of red wine vinegar. Set this mixture aside in the refrigerator until well chilled. Grill the tuna as in the basic recipe above. Remove, plate and top with the cannellini bean salad. If you like you can break the tuna up into bite sizes and toss it with the cannellini beans. Serve with a good bottle of Beaujolais.

TUNA TACO

1 tuna filet per person

1 quartered lemon

1 package yellow corn tortillas

1/2 cup chopped tomato

1 package coleslaw mix

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the coleslaw mix, mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar and mix well; taste and season as necessary. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Prepare the tuna as in the basic grilled tuna recipe. Once off the grill break the tuna up into bite size pieces. Spritz the tuna with lemon and set aside.

Place a little oil in a large sauté pan and heat the yellow corn tortillas until warm and as crispy as you like them. Place 4-6 pieces of tuna in each taco, top with the coleslaw and garnish with the chopped tomatoes. If you like top with chopped cilantro and to add a bit of heat use a pinch of red pepper flakes. Serve with a cold local brew.

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