Monday, May 09, 2005


Childhood Revisited - Tuna Fish Salad

There is a certain class of foods that I avoid trying to make for other people, (I suddenly wondered if I really mean other people, or if I mean boyfriends and children…but whatever) for the simple fact that they just don’t taste right unless they are made exactly the way Mom did.

The strong associations of childhood somehow manage to seal the mind and lock the palate in a permanence that no fancy tweaking can undo. Oh sure, people try an update here and again, but deep in the psyche, these recipes can only really, truly be good if they are made the same way it was made when we were four.

Luckily for me, these sacred recipes don’t come up very often in entertaining because they are inevitably lunch foods. Egg salad, baked pasta with cheese, (ok, ok, you know I mean Macaroni and Cheese) tomato soup, grilled cheese and tuna fish salad. (Interestingly we all seem to outgrow cafeteria style pizza though...) I can just hear my first boyfriend now, leaning over my shoulder as I grudgingly mixed the jarred mayo into the mashed, boiled eggs, whispering seductively into my ear “Don’t forget the onion…no, no, it has to be chopped smaller…”

This past weekend I dropped by a friends house and was asked to make a few sandwiches for a last minute lunch that would include a few children.

With 20 minutes to spare I riffled through their larder and brought together a lovely combination of soprasetta, mortadella, tomato, cheddar and a quick garlic aioli; and assorted roasted vegetables on a baguette with a robust and salty kalamata olive tapanade. Suppressing my urge to dress the last sandwich up, I turned on my inner culinary autopilot and 5 minutes later stared in wonder. I had made the tuna fish salad of my youth.

While I doubt it could be considered gourmet in any way, it is a great exercise in stripping down a recipe and mastering the basics before trying anything complex. Let's face it, while we love to think all children (and boyfriends) are open minded about trying new things, sometimes the old ways are just as good too. Try, and enjoy.

Tuna Fish Salad Sandwich – Childhood Version

1 can tuna fish in spring water, drained
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 stalk celery chopped fine
1 teaspoon pickle relish
4 slices white sandwich bread

Mix everything but the bread together in a medium sized bowl. Serve on white bread cut in half.

Tuna Fish Salad Sandwich – Adult Version

6 oz. Tuna steak (do not bother with sushi grade tuna for this.)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large tablespoon home made garlic aioli
1 teaspoon Dijon style mustard
4 small capers, minced
1 stalk celery, including leaves, minced
1 tablespoon chives, minced
3 teaspoons flat leaf parsley, minced
Fresh ground black pepper

In a small sauté pan, heat the oil. You are not trying to sear the tuna, you are cooking it through, so keep the heat on medium to prevent it from drying out. Add the tuna and cook, turning once, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. When cool, flake with a fork.

In a medium bowl, combine the aioli, mustard, capers, celery, chives and parsley. Season with pepper. Add the tuna and stir to combine.

Serve over a bed of chopped endive and spinach.

Serves two.


25 years ago large Atlantic bluefin tuna (250 to over 1,000 pounds) sold for a penny a pound for catfood, if it sold at all. Today, that same bluefin tuna will sell for up to $50 per pound ($50,000 for a large fish). - Food

"StarKist brand does not purchase any tuna caught in association with dolphins.
StarKist continues its practice of refusing to purchase tuna caught with gill or drift nets, which are known to be dangerous to many forms of marine life. StarKist condemns the use of these indiscriminate fishing methods that trap dolphins, whales, and other marine life along with the intended catch of fish" -

40 percent of kids say that their most "fun" school lunch would include pizza, followed by soda (21%) and a sandwich (19%).

StarKist, brand (began in 1917,) is the nation's number one packaged tuna brand. Charlie the Tuna was introduced to consumers in 1961, and has been the brand's spokesfish ever since.

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