I didn’t grow up eating fish. Although my father used to take us fishing every summer when we were young, for us, it wasn’t all about the fish; It was about spending quality time with my dad. If we were lucky enough to catch something, we kids never had to eat it – Mom and Dad did while my sisters and I were eating hot dogs. Canned tuna was the only fish we girls ate, whether it was my dad’s tuna patties or his tuna salad.
Dad’s tuna salad became my gold standard, filled with cilantro, onions, tomatoes, celery, pickles, black olives, chopped iceberg lettuce, mayonnaise, and mustard. The only difference I’ve made to the recipe over the years is that I like cabbage instead of lettuce (it stays crisp) and hard white pecans in water, while my folks prefer light cut in oil.
Eat tuna differently
The first time I saw my aunt eating tuna salad, she was brushing it on a store-bought tostada crust. The salad was a mustard yellow, smelled more like curry than tuna, and the crunch of the tostada every time I took a bite made me want to savor. It was like nothing I’d owned before, and it’s become a new favourite. Radishes, celery, and carrots provide texture, color, and crunch, while pepitas and sunflower seeds boost protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
When I brainstorm a blog with my aunt, I throw tuna salad into the mix to see how she will react.
She stopped, looked at me, and asked, “What are you going to call it?”
“Tuna Salad Curry Seal”.
“Okay, well then.”
A little of this, a little of that
As I mentioned before, we have a family of intuitive chefs. We savor while we cook and adjust on the fly. Why is this raised? Because like every time I try to get a recipe from a family member, this started out as a list of ingredients. Quantity? Sprinkle, dash, pinch, tablespoon full, about a cup (usually the current cup of coffee of choice). It makes writing family recipes a challenge.
I have to talk. I do the same thing, unless I’m creating a dish I plan to share with you. Recipes prepared for consideration published are carefully measured, recorded, and tested over multiple times to ensure that the measurements are spot-on and that the results are repeatable. I had my aunt jot this down while I was taking notes, and then I did it a few times to tune it in. However, a recipe like this can be easily customized: Don’t you like radishes? Leave it and double the carrots or celery. Or add onions, which I do now, although I didn’t include it here because Auntie, not a fan, doesn’t include it.
The dressing you’re using is my father’s version of the “secret sauce” for a major fast food chain. I remember it when I lived at home, but I never really cared, so I was glad to learn that. My father’s version calls for equal amounts of mayonnaise, yellow mustard, ketchup and sweet relish with a little Worcestershire sauce. Regardless of the sweet notes in the savory, Auntie does not like how sweet and sweet the ketchup is, so she significantly reduces the ketchup and uses the taste of dill instead of the sweet. It makes enough to fill an empty mayonnaise jar, so we’re always on hand for sandwiches or salad dressing. It tastes like a thousand island marinade, just more mustard.
As for bulgur, know that there are different levels of coarseness. I learned this the hard way. The first time I bought it, I bought it from Fresh & Easy (oh! how I miss you!). The bag denoted bulgur wheat, and the grains were roughly the same size as brown rice. When cooked, the texture was similar to rice. It was heavenly. When we ran out, I took some from the loose food area at a local market. I remember thinking it looked smaller, more bulky than the size of couscous. When I cooked it, the texture was completely wrong.
Since then, I’ve learned more about bulgur wheat. Bulgur, like cracked wheat, comes from wheat grains. There is a fundamental difference between the two: cracked wheat is made from raw wheat berries, and bulgur is made from boiled wheat berries.
When I shop for bulgur in Middle Eastern souks, the marked packages clearly indicate the level of coarseness: Fine #1, Medium #2, Coarse #3 and Coarse #4. Fine is best for dishes like Tabbouleh. I also used it to assemble meatballs and meatloaf. The medium is a good alternative to couscous and quinoa. It is most widely available in major supermarkets. Since the wheat berries used to make bulgur are partially boiled, you can make bulgur as you would couscous, simply by pouring hot water over the grains and letting them sit for 10 minutes. The medium grind can also be made this way or cooked like rice (which results in a more tender bite). Coarse and coarse can be cooked like rice and used in pilafs. I now generally keep fine, medium and coarse ones in my pantry.
Curry Tuna Salad from Aunt Sel
Because of all the chopping, this takes a little preparation, but I find the process meditative. You can significantly reduce the preparation time by using a food processor to chop all the vegetables, but I prefer uniformity and precision with the use of a knife. As for how to serve, I stuffed the salad between ciabatta here, but feel free to use your favorite sandwich bread. Or do as Auntie does and post it on a store-bought tostada.
Makes 6 servings
To prepare the bulgur:
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Maggi or Knorr chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup bulgur (#2 or #3)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ketchup
2 tablespoons of dill flavor
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To prepare the tuna salad:
10 ounces filtered hard albacore (two small cans filled with water)
cup finely chopped red radish
½ cup finely chopped carrots
½ cup finely chopped celery
cup chopped black olives
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle
Half a cup of salted pitas
½ cup salted sunflower seeds
1 cup bulgur, cooked and cooled
salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 ciabatta rolls
6 lettuce leaves, green or red lettuce leaves
Make bulgur wheat: Add chicken broth, curry powder, onion powder, broth, and some freshly ground black pepper to a small saucepan (you want one with a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat. Stir and leave warm for a minute or two. Taste the broth and adjust seasonings as needed. Add butter. Bring to a boil over high heat and quickly bring to a boil. Add the bulgur, cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to lowest and set the timer for 15 minutes. Resist the urge to lift the lid to move or peek. Most beans escape steam, and if you lift the lid, you are letting go of steam. Results? A starchy, sticky, lumpy, mushy mess. leave him alone. When the timer is ringing, do not lift the lid. Turn off the heat and set the timer for 5 minutes. When the counter rings the second time, lift the lid and rub the wheat with a fork. Spread the bulgur on a reinforced baking tray to cool faster.
Make the sauce: Add all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well to combine and set aside.
make power: Put the tuna in a mixing bowl. Peel the tuna as finely as possible, using two forks to break up the pieces. Add chopped radishes, carrots, celery, black olives, pickles, and both types of seeds. Stir the mixture well. Add 1 cup of refrigerated bulgur bulgur (save extra for another use or add more to salads to thicken it). stir well. Pour the sauce and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (you probably won’t need to add salt, but you may want to add more ground black pepper).
association: Place a large skillet over medium heat (or heat a panini press). Cut the ciabatta rolls horizontally across the center. Place on skillet or panini and roast until golden. Lift to plate. Put a lettuce leaf on the bottom and place the salad on the leaf. With cover on top. Serve with potato chips on the side.
Recipe is copyrighted by Anita El Arambola and reprinted with permission from “Confessions of a Foodie”.
Arambolla is the Director and Designer of the Food Division. She blogged at confessionsofafoodie.me, where the original version of this article was posted. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be reached at [email protected]