Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Catch a can of tuna

How could anything as good and as handy as canned tuna fish fall from favor? It is a precious commodity fished for with tradition and respect. Preserved in good olive oil, tender and briny and delicious it is good enough to eat straight from the can. If you don't want the olive oil calories, you can, of course, buy it preserved in water. But, you save so few calories why buy water? It is tastier if it has been traveling around bathed in oil.

Drained of its oil and mixed with a little mayonnaise tuna can become the unsung hero of your kitchen. Of course, real mayonnaise is best, not the reduced-fat (which means reduced-flavor) variety of mayonnaise. Homemade mayonnaise is best of all and it is very easy to make in a blender or food processor. It keeps forever and should be in any self-respecting refrigerator at all times.

Before diving into the tuna can, be certain that the tuna you buy is sustainable and dolphin-friendly.

We all have our own ideas about tuna salads and tuna sandwiches, even tuna casseroles. But there are a few ingredients that need to be included in all three of these old favorites. A bit of chopped onion--red, white or scallions--is essential. A bit of mustard--any kind that you prefer. Chopped celery with some of the tender, inner leaves included. Also capers, if you have them handy, because they add a surprising burst of salty flavor. I personally like a bit of dill, as well, but use whatever herbs you prefer to create your own signature.

Quick and Easy Blender Mayonnaise

I always add mustard to this, sometimes curry powder as well, and coarsely ground pepper. A dash of hot sauce does no harm.

1 egg
1 teaspoon ground mustard, more if using prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or more
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Measure into blender container the egg, mustard, salt, cayenne, sugar and 1/4 cup oil. Cover and blend until thoroughly combined. With blender still running, slowly add in a thin stream 1/2 cup vegetable oil and then the lemon juice. You may need to stop the blender occasionally and scrape down the sides so that you can incorporate all of the oil. If it becomes difficult to blend in the remaining oil put the mayonnaise in a bowl and gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil using a whip. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Old-Fashioned Tuna Salad

Add capers and fresh or dried dill to make this special. Chopped parsley makes it prettier. If you have any watermelon pickles hiding anywhere, they are delicious with tuna. Toasted nuts sprinkled overall add both crunch and flavor.

1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well drained
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (include some of the green tops)
1 inner celery stalk, chopped or very thinly sliced
1 or 2 teaspoons capers with a few drops of their brine
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon mustard (not dry), or more
Lemon juice, just a little
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Chopped dill and parsley, fresh if possible

Flake the tuna with a fork until it is loose and light, then mix in the remaining ingredients and season to taste. You don't want it too juicy. Serve on lettuce and tomatoes as a salad or spread on whole grain bread and top with lettuce for a sandwich.

Open Face Avocado and Tuna Melt

Thick slices of hearty whole grain bread carry this dish off nicely. But, even English muffins can be the carrier. This is a good way to use small bits of cheese begging to be eaten. If you love avocado you may want to use two of them.

8 slices bread
1 ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Tuna salad (see recipe above)
Thin slices of cheese: cheddar, jack, fontina, or almost anything else

Lightly toast bread and arrange on a baking sheet. Top each slice with a layer of avocado slices, onion slices, a thick layer of tuna salad and then gently layer the top with cheese slices. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Broil until the cheese melts. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Julia Child's Near Nicoise Salad

You can add the dressing at the end or dress the green beans with vinaigrette before arranging on a platter.

1 large red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, peeled if you wish, cut into strips
1 cup or more green and black olives
2 to 3 cups small tomatoes or use tomato wedges
1/2 pound green beans (you can use frozen), dried and chilled
1/2 cup or more vinaigrette dressing
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halves lengthwise
1/3 cup or more mayonnaise
1 can (2 oz.) anchovies, packed in oil
1 can (12 oz.) tuna, packed in oil

Toss the onion to separate the slices and mound them loosely in the center of a platter. Divide the pepper slices into 2 equal potions and arrange on opposite sides of platter. Similarly, arrange olives and tomatoes each in 2 piles on either side of onion mound, creating a symmetrical design. Then toss green beans with a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette to coat evenly; arrange them in remaining opposite spaces on the platter. Nestle each of the 8 egg halves in between the vegetables. Top each egg half with a teaspoon of mayonnaise, drape an anchovy fillet over the mayo and drizzle the anchovy oil on top. Invert the open can of tuna directly over the onions, and shake to release the fish (with all of its oil) in a round in center of the salad. Lastly, drizzle 1/3 cup or more of the dressing over entire salad. Makes 4 servings.

You won't need to fish for compliments!

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