Friday, April 15, 2011

Warm Tuna Salad with Caramelized Onions


This was prettier than I expected it to be. A couple things happened which made my lunch more than just a quick nutritional fix. Firstly, I made caramelized onions last night. Everything I own is now imbued with a subtle aroma of fried onions. I spent the morning wondering if the people I talked to at work could smell it, because I certainly could. Secondly, I didn't have to go to my afternoon job today, so I went to the grocery store on my way home instead of eating in the cafeteria. I always end up with more interesting things if I shop hungry, because I will actually feel like buying food. So I got salad greens, which I rarely do at this time of year, and the little tomatoes. When I got home, I realized that I had to think up something to do with the greens that could be eaten warm, because my apartment can be right clammy in this weather.

1 can of tuna
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
juice of 1/4 lemon
3 fresh chives
a 1" sprig of fresh tarragon
a heaping teaspoon of caramelized onions

Mince the herbs and drain the tuna. Mix everything up to taste, and stick it in the microwave for about 15 or 20 seconds. You don't need to cook it, just make it warm. Serve over fresh greens, with tomatoes and a warm boiled egg.

A few things:

1. I bet this would be better if you got the kind of tuna that is packed in olive oil to begin with. I'm going to try that next time.
2. You don't have to hard boil the egg. As with a salad lyonaise, it would be pretty good if you left the yolk runny, and mixed it in as a dressing.
3. The onions are the magic ingredient. I never want to be without them again. They add amazing qualities to the tuna. And everything else. I made them because I want to try a lebanese recipe this weekend, but they may not last that long. I may eat them with a spoon.

Here's how I made mine; they are time consuming, but worth the effort:

4 or 5 yellow onions
3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
a sprinkle of salt

Slice the onions between 1/8" and 1/4" thick. It will look like a lot, but they loose about 90% of their volume as they cook. Put the oil in a heavy pan at about medium heat. It's best if the pan has a lid, but probably not essential. Put in the onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir them around to get them thoroughly covered in oil. Cover the pan for about 5 minutes to let the onions steam and get translucent, then stir again.

Now, decide whether you want the onions to turn into jam, or to remain onion shaped and a bit chewy. I went somewhere down the middle. If you leave the cover off the pan at this point, the water will cook out of the onions relatively quickly, and they will retain their shape as they brown. If you leave them covered, the trapped steam will encourage the onions to break down and achieve a gooey, jammy consistency. More stirring will also break down the onions, while gently turning them over periodically will help them keep their shape.

In either case, you don't want to use more than medium heat, or you will just burn the onions without getting any of their starches to turn into sugar.

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