When I was a kid I loved tuna casserole. We had it often, as many families in the '60's did. Frozen mixed vegetables, Campbells Cream of Something Soup, canned tuna. I can't remember if there were noodles or the potato chip topping that others seem to be nostalgic about. Probably not chips, because we wouldn't have wasted a good chip that could have been dipped in Lawson's Chip Dip.
My mother's other canned seafood creation that made it into semi-regular rotation, Salmon Patties, however, was one of two things I pretty much refused to eat. Period. Liver & Onions is the other, in case you wanted to know. Which my sister loves, and actually has ordered it in restaurants. Go figure. The salmon patties featured dried breadcrumbs, celery, and bones, and fortunately the dog could be persuaded to eat some, although I remember balling up a fair amount and hiding them under my leg to escape the table.
The love/ hate relationship with canned seafood all came to a crashing halt on the fateful evening that Tuna Casserole night intersected with Stomach Flu visits the Snyder sisters night. I don't remember eating tuna casserole again after that, probably because, my mother had to clean up the mess and probably had no appetite for it again either.
As an adult, I have rarely peered into a tuna can, although I love it fresh or as sushi. But for some reason, I always seem to have a few cans in the house. And the Cook What You've Got Challenge seemed like a good time to get them on the table.
So last night, I sucked it up, and made this Nicoise Salad that I adapted from Fine Cooking's Big Buy Special.
Nicoise Salad with Green Beans and Fingerling Potatoes
Handful of fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
Couple of handfuls of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 1/2 T. red wine vinegar
2 t. grainy Dijon
1/2 c. or so of olive oil
couple tablespoons minced shallot
fresh thyme leaves from a few small sprigs
1 can of oil packed tuna, drained and flaked
1 T. capers in salt, rinsed
couple of tablespoons of drained diced fire roasted tomatoes (because I had them in the fridge)
handful of pitted kalamatas
Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water about 8 minutes, then throw in the beans for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In mini food processor combine vinegar, oil, mustard and pulse to combine. Add shallot, thyme, s&p, and continue to process until thick and emulsified.
Toss the drained potatoes and beans with a few tablespoons of dressing.
Toss the tuna, capers, and tomatoes with a few tablespoons of dressing.
Arrange on plate and serve with kalamatas. Throw in a hard boiled egg if you've got one.
When I opened the can of tuna the first thing I thought was CAT FUD (an old favorite Far Side cartoon featuring a dog hiding behind the washing machine waiting for the cat who is following the trail to the dryer that says CAT FUD.
I hesitated for a few minutes and tried to gain my composure. While not tripping over a couple of cats who heard the can and started whimpering. I thought about eating the vegetables and olives and giving them the tuna. Then I tasted it. It was good! No wonder those cats are doing the happy, happy joy dance when I pop those cans open.
I didn't eat a huge serving and I did share a little tuna with my favorite, senior citizen cat. But I conquered a fear of canned tuna that I've probably been fostering since the first or second grade. I still think it's better off left to the cats, but I can eat it in a pinch.
Which brings me to the next challenge: Conquer Your Biggest Cooking Fear. Stay tuned for more details - or visit my Facebook fan page to join in the fun.