Friday, March 9, 2012

Ooo Ooo Ooo tuna !

My teen years took place in the 70's , when dinner was often some form of ground beef. Biggest reasons were that it was versatile and dirt cheap ( often as little as 45 cents per pound). It was an innocent time before the full impact of the cholesterol /red meat bad/eggs and butter evil errors took over the kitchen. Tofu was unknown and yogurt was some weird food eaten by College Co-eds. In short, food often had actual taste. Most foods that is. One food struck horror into the hearts of many a child, and it was called "that yucky fish tuna". Made into sandwich fillings, casseroles and the brunt of a running joke on one sitcom
Poor Mrs Kotter ! Her simple ,economic dish became a source of infamy  ! She simply did what most people did when given a can of tuna and told to make a meal- she added anything different she had on hand to try to spice up life. Peas, pineapples, toffee bits....

It's a sad thing that Julie never learned about this dish, or fate could have been different for her. Where we Americans have been drowning tuna in cream of whatever soup and tossing in noodles like some king of floatation device, the Italians have been taking canned tuna out for a waltz in the moonlight , moving like Fred and Ginger and enjoying the resulting romantic evening. They do a couple of things that make a world of difference to the dish- something we would be wise to take note of.

First thing is to toss the water packed tuna, and reach for cans packed in oil. Olive oil  to be exact. Not simply tuna packed in oil because that oil is often cottonseed or dubious vegetable oil, and has as much flavor as the oil you change in your car ( and as many health benefits).
Look for a brand labeled specifically packed in olive oil. It has incredible flavor, and you are going to add that oil with flavor into your food. Next step, skip the cream of whatnot soup- you are not creating a table side buried treasure in a bowl kind of thing. Add fresh veggies- the Italian Trinity to be exact
a mess of garlic, de-germed and chopped according to your tastes ( we love a ton of it), a bunch of basil cut into a chiffonad and a pint of grape tomatoes cut in half. Then get a pound of pasta, some olive oil and begin to rock and roll . Pour about 1/3 cup olive oil into a dutch oven and start a pan of water for pasta. Toss the garlic into the oil and sweat it. Then add two cans of tuna in olive oil, oil and all and let cook for a few minutes. Next add the cherry tomatoes and sort of crush with a spoon to release more juice.Add some salt to taste.
It makes a yummy looking mess after a few minutes. When the pasta finishes cooking, toss into the tomato mix, add the fresh basil, a spoon of the pasta cooking water and toss. Serve and top with grated cheese if desired.

If Horseshack and Epstein show up at your door, shoo them away. However if Vinne shows up you may want to give him a taste and ask his advice on seasoning adjustments, being a good Italian boy he would have been familiar with this dish. Settle back , eat your dish with the knowledge that Julie would have killed for this recipe ! And I bet Epstein would not even have a note to be excused if you invited him for dinner.

No comments: