Too, Too, Too, Tuna

I don’t know about you, Gentle Reader, but after enjoying this recent festive holiday season, I am feeling both penniless and puffy.

So, what’s a girl to do?

I cut back, both in calories and costs.  But protein is really important health wise (the ancestors of humans came down out of the trees and started making shoes and reading Mad magazine once they began eating protein). 

One of my life-long favorite foods is also a cheap protein that’s really good for you.

It’s canned tuna.

But first, I am Italian, and as a descendant of the boot, I have very strict notions about food.  And one of those beliefs is that cheese and fish do not belong together; except in a filet o’ fish, which is technically neither.  So, don’t come at me about tuna melt.  It’s an abomination.


But back to the fish.

You can eat tuna on just about anything that will hold it—from a fork, to a freshly baked fancy French croissant (Petey’s choice).

A few ideas:When I’m feeling especially off track, and in need of nutrition but very limited calories, I opt for a roll-up.  You can use zucchini, cucumber, carrot, sliced into thin strips, but I just love Boston bib lettuce.  I’m not actually fond of the lettuce with anything but tuna, somehow the astringent flavor of the lettuce works well with the rich, fecund tuna and its additions.When I’ve made a special trip to Whole Foods or La Farm Bakery Cafe for some of Chef Lionel’s Vatinet’s fresh, delicious, bracing sourdough miche, I have a sandwich on it.  There are few breads that even come close to Chef Lionel’s.  Frankly, it’s tough to find anything that comes close to the flavor and quality of the product they make and serve at La Farm.

And, when I was a child the stable we belonged to Lazy R, had a snack bar, and they served it on a buttered, toasted bun.  I still love it that way.And, when I’m feeling a little more laissez-faire health-wise, a special treat for the entire Matthews family is to eat tuna with a big old stack of scoop-shaped corn chips.  Fritos sells scoops, but the dollar store usually sells a generic brand that’s just as good as the name brand, and about two or three dollars cheaper.

Avocado can be a delicious partner for tuna.  Put it in the hole of a halved, seeded veg.  You can dice it up and mix it in the tuna, along with a splash of citrus juice to reduce oxidation, which causes browning.  Or, and stay with me now, mash up the avocado, and use in the place of mayo. Just try it.

Mix-ins.  I have a confession.  It doesn’t matter how puffy I’m feeling, I love mayonnaise on my tuna most of all.  But, I don’t drown it (unlike a Petey and a Kid that shall go nameless).  I leave the meat in chunks, and toss it with enough mayo to barely coat it.

Then I add interesting, tasty, and nutritious ingredients that ups the flavor and the healthy.Not always, but occasionally I add hard-cooked egg.  It’s great for stretching both egg and tuna.  It also changes the flavor completely, but in a really good way.  It’s like a disguise.

I always start with a big shake of toasted sesame seed.  It’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals in an almost unnoticeable way.  White onion, for me is non-negotiable, I love the crunch and that pop of onion funk. Image result for sesame sunflower seedsThen lately, I’ve started using sunflower seeds.  The texture it adds is addictive.  I’d miss it if I left it out. Petey’s not a fan, but The Kid’s a true convert.

What this new addition tells me is that to keep riffing on tuna.  That it’s never too late to teach an old tuna eater some new mix-ins. Thanks for your time.

How To Tune A Fish

There are two animal riddles from childhood that I still remember.

“How do you get down from an elephant?”

“You don’t get down from an elephant, you get down from a duck.”

The other riddle is similar.

“How do you tune a fish?”“You tune a piano, you don’t tune a fish.”

Hey, I didn’t say they were terribly funny, I just said I remember them.

Oh, tuna fish.

My mom loves it, so it’s no exaggeration to say I’ve been eating it since before I was born.  I love, and have always loved tuna fish.  But I don’t like tuna.Okay, fess up.  Did you just hear the squeal of breaks in your head, or the screech of a needle being drug across an album?  What the what?  How is it that I love tuna fish, but have no love for tuna?

Easy.  Because it’s two different things.  Tuna is what they make into sushi or eat seared on the outside and extra rare on the inside.  This tuna has first names like ahi, skipjack, and bluefin.  It’s carefully filleted and can be found on the menus of expensive restaurants and runs from $25 to $45 and up. On the other hand, tuna fish has first names like Star-Kist, Bumble Bee, and Chicken of the Sea.  It’s processed in canneries near the docks, and can be purchased in those cans for 1-5$.

Growing up it was chunk light in oil.  Then we made the switch to water.  Sometimes, Mom would add hard-boiled eggs.  It’s tasty.  And, genius if you don’t have enough for either all by itself.  It also makes a terrific addition to old-fashioned macaroni salad.Occasionally as a child, I’d dine at a friend’s house and we’d eat tuna fish.  Every once in a while, it would be fancy; solid white albacore in water.  And once or twice, I’d hit the tuna fish trifecta: solid white albacore, in water, and with chopped white onion.  I love the crunch of the onion, with the tiny bite of heat and touch of sweet.

I decided when I grew up, stocked my own kitchen, and made my own sandwiches, it would always be the deluxe version, with onions, too.  And, that’s the way it’s been.

My current tuna of choice.

Years ago, I started adding toasted sesame seeds to the tuna fish.  It brings a load of minerals to the party, as well as B vitamins and iron.  Plus, it adds flavor, texture, and fiber.

I started keeping flax seeds and sunflower seeds in the house.  About 6 months ago, I started adding both.  It’s awesome, no joke.  Sure, it ups the nutrition which is great, but it’s the flavor/texture component it gives to the tuna that’s got me hooked.  Try it and see.One of my favorite sandwiches starts with tuna fish.  It’s a little “unique”, but if you put aside your preconceived tuna fish notions and are open to the unusual, I think you’ll like it.

I don’t make it often, so I make sure all the ingredients are the best I can find and afford.  On the freshest of sourdough, I pile on my tarted-up tuna fish.  Then I lay strips of the crispiest bacon on top, and drop on a handful of pea shoots, alfalfa sprouts, or broccoli microgreens.  On the other slice of bread I schmear 3 or 4 tablespoons of whipped cream cheese, then season and devour.    And that creamy white spread from Philly is the only type cheese allowable.  It may come from a can, but it’s still fish, y’all.  And I may live in North Carolina, but I’m still part Italian, youse guys.Thanks for your time.