Friday, October 28, 2011

Better than it sounds


I can't even remember why I tried this in the first place. Was I thinking of nicoise salad? Craving protein? Down to the last things in the fridge? Beats the hell outta me. Usually I'm not too excited about sandwiches in cold weather, at least, not ones that do not feature melted cheese, but this is an exception.

1 can of tuna in olive oil
1 smallish carrot
6 or 7 olives
1 teaspoon fermented black bean sauce

Drain most of the oil out of the tuna, chop the olives, shred the carrot, and mix everything together. You know, just make tuna salad with it. It's not fancy or anything.

 On the other hand, I do think it's special. The oil-packed fish is the big thing, of course. I've made this with TJ's brand fish, which is pretty darned good, and I've done it with this fancy(ish) brand I got at Fred Meyer that has a gold label and some Italian stuff written on it which costs a dollar more per can and is good enough to eat plain with a fork. TJ's is plenty good enough for this, but I sure did enjoy the 'italian tonno'. In either case, tuna in oil has got more tuna flavor without being offensively fishy. The texture is better too. Tuna in water can have a slightly fiberous mouthfeel, which needs to be amelioreated by heavy doses of mayonaise. Mayo also helps with the typical blah-ness of ordinary canned tuna.  But if you're going to do that, why not just have fish that tastes like fish? It'll have the same fat content, or less, than all that mayo, and less cholesterol, if you're worried about things like that. I loves me some mayonaise, but it is a condiment, not a primary food item.

Olives and black bean sauce is not an intuitive combination, but it should be. They are both fermented and brined. You would think that one or the other would be good enough, but no, both is actually better. I'm afraid I have no geeky theories about what is in each ingredient that makes the two together better than either alone; you'll have to take my word for it. Use good olives. I start with rather boring kalamatas and punch up the brine with a little more salt, vinegar and some herbs, usually rosemary and a bay leaf.

The carrot is not insignificant either. There is a lot of salt in the rest of the ingredients, the sweetness from the carrot really balances things out. It also adds crunch, which is very important. No matter how good your tuna is, it's still canned tuna and needs a veggie to go with, even beyond lettuce. I think that must be the main purpose of celery in traditional tuna salad recipes.

No cheap bread! Disappointing bread will be the downfall of any sandwich, be the innards never no good!

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