Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring, Herbs & Tuna Salad

Spring is really here, the new herbs are potted, the old ones repotted at last, and I've finally got a sunny day, so my garden has a chance of growing.

dill, new oregano and tarragon peeking through in the back
And to celebrate the herbs it is Tuna Salad Day*.  Also because it is Tuesday, but that's another thing.  And really it is more of a Take Back Tuna Salad day.  I don't know how we let this perfectly nice, low-stress, tasty way to transform leftovers into something delicious into a vilified sink of greasy blandness, but we have.

It must stop now.  Lunches, snacks and dinners need to be revived with the real deal, and we can all make it ourselves, especially when we're in a hurry, or have nothing in the the fridge.

Basic Tasty Tuna Salad
Eat as a sandwich, or my favorite, scooped up with grainy-seedy crackers. 

cutting board
small bowl
measuring spoons

3 oz tuna - or other leftover fish (about 1 small can's worth/ 1 generous palm full)
1 garlic clove or a bit of leftover onion
1/2 rib of celery or *additions*
1 tsp mustard 
2 Tbs mayonnaise
splash of vinegar
salt & pepper 
bread or crackers (or tortillas?  flatbread?)

Prep & Cook:
Place the tuna in the bowl.  Slice up the celery and smash, peel and finely chopped the garlic (or something similar to the onion).  Add these to the tuna.  Stir in the mustard, only 1Tbs of the mayonnaise. Taste.  
Add salt, pepper and vinegar until it tastes almost right.  
Stir in some of the rest of the mayonnaise until you get to a taste and texture you like.  This may mean a bit more mayo, vinegar, salt & pepper (maybe even a bit more mustard) and it may mean less than the full 2Tbs.
Always add a bit, and then taste again.  Easy to add more, tough to remove.  Let your own personal taste be your guide.

But that is only the basic recipe.  Back to the herbs that brought me here.  Time to get out the scissors and start clipping to make up some spring time specialties.

My three favorite combinations so far this spring have been:

1) French Inspired Tuna Salad 
Take out the watery sweet celery and instead use 
-a few leaves of nice sour sorrel
-a few leaves of mysterious licorice-y tarragon 
-and some lemon (or regular) thyme.  
If it is in your fridge, go for the spiky flavor of dijon mustard.  
Maybe add a few more leaves of sorrel as the lettuce on your sandwich.

oregano front, marjoram next to the ball

2) Italian Leaning Tuna Salad
If you have some oil packed tuna - this is a great place to use it.
Track down all the Mediterranean leaning herbs (even that "Italian Seasoning Blend" will do in a pinch!)
Skip the celery, and instead use
- a sprig of thyme
- a few leaves of peppery oregano
- a sprig of marjoram (if you don't have it fresh, toss in some dried)
- leave out the mayo, and use olive oil to make up the creaminess.  
- use red wine vinegar
Bonus: throw in a chopped tomato if you happen to have some about.

chives almost ready to bloom

3) Swedish-ish Salmon Salad 
OK, this one isn't a tuna recipe, but it was the perfect way to rescue the overcooked parts of the salmon.
- replace the celery with a half a pickle chopped into smallish pieces
- add a few sprigs of chopped dill, until it tastes dill-y enough for you
- add some chives if any are on hand
- use onion instead of garlic, and use thin slices of onion instead of chopped bits
- salt, pepper and mayo, and adjust the vinegar accordingly.

*No I don't know if there is really Tuna Salad Day.  In fact I bet there is one, but this has nothing to do with that.

This need not stop with tuna.  Other leftover aquatic denizens - salmon, shrimp, trout... benefit from the same treatment.  Egg salad is begging to be perked up in the same way.  And chicken salad, or even as a way to use up that last little bit of steak.  Stay tuned and learn the secret to cilantro/basil/sriracha steak salad.  It'll be here soon, now that there is enough sun to keep me awake during the day.

Break out the scissors and get clipping.

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