Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tuna Salad and a bit about Olive Oil

If you look in the posts for bean dip, I describe the addition of tuna.  Anything to disguise the tuna.  I really do not like fish in general.  I guess I am an Italian anachronism.  Now, Italians do not use a lot of Mayonnaise.  It does exist, but it is not common.  It exists, because a lot of high style (especially) southern Italian cooking, originates with French chefs that were brought in to the country long ago to cook for the often French nobles.  They often used olive oil to make the Mayo, but if you are ambitious enough to make your own, use a more neutral oil if you object to a very strong olive taste...Mayonnaise is not hard to do at all....  If you do make your own, consider not using Extra Virgin oil.  Use just Olive Oil...there are some that are very light and neutral in taste.  We are stuck in such a media rut in this country, and there are times that EXTRA VIRGIN OIL just is not appropriate, but we feel guilty if we do not use the EVOO... Thanks loads Rachel Ray....   Plainer and later pressings of oil are much cheaper too...Use the EVOO for last drizzles on food before serving or in salad dressings where the often "Grassy" taste should be pronounced.  Buy a little bottle of really great oil, and use it up before getting a new bottle.  Don't skimp..splurge!  Keep a big can of regular oil for everything else.  The good oils deteriorate within hours of exposure to the fact if you are not there in Italy, France, Spain, Greece or California for the pressing and eat it that day, every day is a little more disappointing.
So, if I were a good, fish loving Italian, I would use darker canned tuna for this, and truthfully, with everything added to this it would be just fine.  Luckily for me, John hates anything but white tuna and does not like the oil packed.
Start with a couple of cans of tuna drained thoroughly.  Your choice of tuna color and brand. 
Mince half a small onion very finely, but not so small that it disappears.
Stir into the tuna along with enough mayonnaise to make a fairly thick paste with a few chunks of tuna(I like a uniform paste, but I have to admit that the character of the tuna disappears.).
Chop some fresh parsley(or steep a tablespoon of dried parsley in warm water for a few minutes.   Also, try tarragon.) (Do not use large amounts of tarragon as it is not the healthiest of herbs for you. Like Sorrel, a taste now and then is OK.)
Chop a dozen black olives (crush olives with pits on the counter, with the side of a knife to remove the pits.  If using soft varieties of olive, add at the very end of the mixing process so they do not disintegrate into the salad.  Green olives will work too, but are not as subtle.
Mince and then smear a clove of garlic on the counter with salt, using the side of a knife to make a paste. 
Add salt and pepper to taste and add two tablespoons of tiny jarred capers, or chopped and rinsed larger salted ones.  Watch out for the salt!!!!!  If you are Aeolian, look for capers salted in Salina where Grammie was from.  Save the rinse water and allow it to evaporate on your counter to recover the salt crystals.  The salt is rather expensive sea salt from Salina.
Once it is all blended together, place into a decorative bowl or ramekin.  Cover tightly and allow to blend for half an hour or up to overnight. Refrigerate and keep on ice for display...Mayo spoils!!!!  Grate a small amount of lemon peel over the top or mix in if desired.
Use in sandwiches if you like, but go a little farther and toast oil and garlic brushed bread slices and serve with that instead.  A little char on the bread is better for me.
I also like a bit of hot or regular minced red pepper in mine, though you can just put it on the bread.
Stripes of fresh parsley(finely minced) lemon peel, and paprika or finely minced red pepper on top for decoration makes a nice display.  Or, use parsley, finely chopped egg white and red pepper in stripes to approximate the Italian flag as the Italians are so fond of doing...We don't do this in the US, probably because red, white and BLUE is a tough one to do and singularly unappetizing on food.
Use up the egg yolks by mixing into the salad.  It will virtually disappear and I hate waste!
Also good served with Crudites or rolled up in grilled eggplant or zucchini slices.  Roast hollowed out tomatoes or red or green peppers and fill with the salad.  Small amounts in small veggies are best as it can be overpowering.  Put the stuffed vegetable in a bowl or on a beautiful plate at room temperature, and surround with petals of toasted bread!!!!

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