Friday, December 23, 2005

Not So Classic Tuna Sandwich

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Tuna sandwiches and I were a love-hate affair when I was younger. I thought they tasted good, but then I would look in a can only to be repulsed by the resemblance to cat food. I also found it strange that I did not like regular (non-canned) fish, but could eat canned tuna. It seemed too close to Spam-- which is just repulsive. I also was unable to eat other canned fish-- like canned salmon. To this day my mother buys it and makes what she calls “salmon patties”. These truly are cat food and I am sure my current cats would engulf those patties.

I also remember being terrified of the possibility at the lunch table in junior high school to be the kid with a tuna sandwich. Kids can be cruel and there is nothing worse than the smell of tuna; too easy of a target to make fun of. The only thing I can think of that is worse is being the kid with the pickle in the lunch bag (I was also sometimes that kid). It is one thing to pull a fresh tuna sandwich (or pickle) from a nicely refrigerated space and eat it immediately, but I think parents fail to realize a child’s lunch sits in their dank locker or backpack until lunch. How many bugs crawl through there? How often is the sack smashed into place? How much food has rotted in their by previous occupants? If you have children just try not to think about this. I don’t but now shutter thinking back to my own home-brought lunches (which always far surpassed the grease-laden-grade-D-garbage they sell at almost every school across the country, even if it did sometimes smell).

Once, I think I was in high school, I attempted to make my own tuna and eat it out of the bowl one night. I dumped the drained canned tuna in, added mayonnaise, celery and pepper and proceeded to eat it. I thought it tasted too fishy and needed more mayonnaise, so I kept adding mayonnaise: 1 Tbl, 2 Tbl, 3… Now I had a bowl of mayonnaise that hinted at tuna. It went into the garbage. I had thought I wanted tuna, but turns out my taste buds were not having it.

On Sundays my mother would purchase bagels and lox from a bagel a neighboring town. This place has such good bagels there would be a line outside the door on Sundays. Since we would devour the lox in one day, she would also buy a quart of their tuna to put on the remaining bagels. That tuna was so good (and I would think still is) that it sometimes would also disappear in one day—I would often catch my little brother shoving spoonfuls of the tuna into his mouth, returning it to the fridge, then repeating 2 min later. (They pulse the tuna and ingredients into a tuna “paste” which allows it to keep the shape when on top one’s bagel.) We attempted to imitate it at home, but failed. I now believe there is an opiate in it to make it so addictive. I have never found any store-produced tuna tasting so good.

Today, when I make a tuna sandwich, I do not use any mayonnaise. In fact, there is not even a jar of mayonnaise in my refrigerator. I made it once (mayonnaise) and was totally repulsed by the amount of oil that went into it, I figured I could drink it straight for the same effect, and now try my hardest to avoid the white stuff.

This tuna is a super protein tuna (for all you carb-phobes). It is meaty, chunky, crispy, smooth, rich, spicy and indulgent. It is made with avocado (not mayonnaise) and tastes amazing on toasted bread, in a salad or plain out of the bowl. It is one of those sandwiches you cannot wait to eat. You will dream about it coming home and turn the key a little faster to get at it sooner. Your cats will paw at you over the intoxicating smell of freshly opened tuna. The best part is, it can be altered to suite your taste or with what you have available.

Makes 2 sandwiches. Prep time= 5-10 min.
1 can albacore chunky tuna, drained (give the juice to your cats if you have)
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 stalk celery, chopped (a chopped pickle, olives, chopped grapes or raisins or 1 Tbl relish are other options)
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 Tbl spicy mustard (Dijon or Deli is good)
salt/ fresh pepper to taste
2 tsp lemon juice
1 vine ripe tomato, sliced (or chop sun-dried into the bowl)
8 fresh leaves of basil
4 slices good bread, toasted (I used an Irish Soda Bread, but hearty nut-based is good)
1) Peel and deseed the avocado. Place it in a bowl and mash, it can be left slightly chunky.
2) Begin toasting bread. Add tuna, celery, onion, mustard, salt/ pepper and lemon juice. Mix until well blended.
3) Place bread on plate once toasted, add a heaping spoonful of tuna, cover with sliced tomato and basil. The result is mouthwatering, healthy and delicious.

NOTE: Hass avocadoes are rough-skinned and smaller. They have a nutty, buttery flavor. The thin-skinned large, lighter variety is not as flavorful and more watery. I have found it is best to purchase avocadoes when they are hard. This avoids ones you believe to be ripe; when in fact they are bruised. Allow them to sit on your counter (or fruit bowl) to ripen (or in a paper bag for faster results). This process will probably take about 3-4 days and the avocado skin will darken as it matures. The avocado is ripe when the skin gives under a little pressure (the innards are soft). Once they are ready, they can remain for a few more days on the counter or be placed in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. When ripe, the skin easily peels off (once started with a knife) and the seed is easy to remove. If you do not use an entire avocado, sprinkle with lime or lemon juice and wrap it air tight to prevent discoloration. Here are some fun avocado facts.

Here we see 2 cats post-tuna juice indulgence.

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