Tuna Salad

tuna-salad

Credit: Pinterest

Today I went to a friend’s house to show/help her learn how to make my Bread & Butter Pickles.  I was thinking of all the ways I use these versatile preserves, and one of the things that came to mind is tuna salad:  It can be eaten straight as a main lunch dish, or on bread, or in a tortilla for a sandwich wrap (just top with a bit of torn lettuce and you’re good to go), as a side dish for other main dishes, or even as a dip with crackers as a simple apéro.  The pickles make a lovely addition to this salad; I usually take a whole jar of the pickles, dump it into a blender on high for a couple seconds, and wha-la, a jar of pickle relish!  The relish and juice make the tuna salad snap with taste.

The great thing about this mix is that it can be kept in the fridge for several days; it makes a great, healthy & quick lunch (for adults or kids), a healthy nibble when you just need a bite or two, and can be served in so many ways.

So here’s my recipe for this simple mix; the amounts are really about taste, but I’ll give you an approximation of what I do, and you can add or subtract according to your own tastes.  Word to the wise:  The tuna juice is best used by dividing it evenly into small bowls and given to your cats. 🙂

Tuna Salad

2 cans of tuna in salt water, drained & mashed apart with a fork.

~1/2-3/4  C. mayonnaise (whatever your favourite kind is)

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

~1 Tbs. lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1-3 Tbs. pickle relish with juice

Mix all together in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal – the citric acid, and vinegar from the pickles will react with that).  That’s it!  Add a sprinkle of fresh or dried chives for a contrasting colour as a garnish if you want to dress it up a bit for company.

Enjoy!

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Fruit Leather or Vegetable Leather: Baked or Microwaved

If you’re like me, you don’t have either room or inclination to have specialized kitchen appliances such as a dehydrator.  I am very pragmatic, so I use my fingers and a knife to cut rather than special slicers and dicers, but when it comes to puréeing, there’s not much choice other than a blender or similar appliance.  Fruit leather is something that you can either make in a dehydrator, or if you have none, in your oven or even in the microwave.  The following is less of a recipe as far as amounts go, but rather instructions for adapting to your own needs.  While the title says “fruit”, you can use the same technique for moist vegetables such as tomatoes or squashes; any time you have an excess, or food that needs to be processed before it goes off, this is a great way to prepare it for longer-term storage or easy travel food.

Fruit LeatherLeather

Oven Technique:

Just purée fruits or vegetables that want “leathered”, & add a BIT of spices (whatever is appropriate to your leather; just remember that it will concentrate as the juices evaporate, so go easy on any additional flavouring!). Line a baking sheet with plastic, up over the edges, but NOT touching the metal of the stove. Pour in a layer about the thickness of 2 coins’ edges, leaving about 1″ (2 cm) free around the edge of the plastic. Bake at ~200°F (93°C) (warm enough, but not hot enough to melt the plastic wrap!!), for several hours (my oven takes about 6 hours), with the door of the oven propped open a wee bit to let out the moisture. When the leather is a bit sticky but “leathery” to the touch, it’s done. Take it out, let it cool a just wee bit, then roll it up in the plastic while it’s still flexible. Freeze until needed, or eat it straight.

Microwave Technique:

Purée any ripe fruit, skin and all (except pit or seed) in a food processor. Turn a casserole dish upside down and cover with plastic wrap. Spread 1/4 cup purée into a circle, very thin with edges a little thicker, making a hole in the centre the size of a thumb print. Microwave on 50% power for 8 to 12 minutes or until slightly sticky to touch. Remove plastic wrap and leather to cool and finish drying overnight. Check the consistency (it should be a bit sticky but “leathery” to the touch), and then roll up.

Leather Tips:

  • You can combine fruits; a banana gives it bulk. Try coconut, pineapple, etc.
  • Go easy on any seasonings:  Cinnamon, lemon, honey, etc.
  • The fruit leather will keep at room temperature for one month, or in a freezer for up to one year.
  • Melted chocolate, soft cream cheese, marshmallow cream and peanut butter make fun fillings for fruit leathers.
  • Store in refrigerator or freezer.
  • Do not use waxed paper or aluminium foil instead of plastic wrap!
  • Eat as a snack, or reconstitute to use in cakes, etc.  These are great snacks for taking to work, school, or on hikes!
  • Roll thinner strips a bit crooked, to create a “rose”.
  • Properly dried fruit leather is translucent and slightly tacky to the touch, but easily peeled from the pan.
  • Apple sauce can be added to more tart fruit purée such as cranberry to soften the taste, or to stretch more expensive fruits.
  • Vegetable leather can also be eaten as a snack or reconstituted for stews to add flavour.
  • Strain to remove any larger bits, especially if using drier vegetables such as carrots.

Garlic Oil Recipe + Tips & Tricks: Garlic, Onions, & Co.

Garlic OilGarlic Oil

½ L. Water

1 Tbs. Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

1 ¼ dl. Vinegar

whatever you want to put into the oil (garlic, ginger, etc. – any strong Allium will taste great!)

High quality virgin olive oil

Bring the water, salt, sugar and vinegar to a boil; toss in your peeled garlic cloves, ginger slices, or whatever you want to flavour the oil with.  Boil about 5 minutes and then drain.  Dry the Allium off with paper towels, allow them to cool completely, & THEN put them in the oil.  Let the Allium blend into the oil for a week or two, and then enjoy!

It is important to boil the Allium first; if placed in the oil raw, it will ferment and produce a primary breeding ground for botulism.  The worst danger from botulism comes if raw garlic is stored in oil at room temperature – or even for too long in the refrigerator. Never store raw garlic in oil at room temperature.

 

Tips & Tricks

Chives, green onions, onions, garlic, leek and scallions are all members of the Allium genus.  Green onions are the same as scallions and spring onions – the terms are interchangeably used throughout the English-speaking world.  Your choice for a dish will depend on your preferences for colour, flavour, and texture.  Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:

  • To peel & chop a clove of garlic:  Using a large knife, slice off the root end of the garlic and then lay the head on a flat surface.  Lay the knife flat atop the clove and give it a good, solid whack (I assume you’ll know how not to cut yourself in the process); the clove will slip from the case.  Proceed to chop it as small as you want.  If you sprinkle the cloves with a bit of salt before chopping, they will chop nicely, and not stick to the knife and cutting board as much.
  • If your hands smell like garlic or onion after handling, one trick always works, and you don’t need to pay money for a stainless steel “garlic soap bar”, or any such gimmick:  Simply rub your hands along the sides of your stainless steel water faucet, and then rinse; I repeat this once or twice, and it does the trick every time!   You can also use a stainless steel spoon, rubbing it between your hands under running water, or simply rub your hands on the sink if it’s stainless steel.  The characteristic odour of garlic & co. is formed when enzymes & other compounds come into contact with each other as a result of the crushing, slicing, or chopping; in other words, the more finely garlic is chopped, the more pungent it becomes.
  • When a dish calls for garlic: Just pop the peeled, whole cloves into the dish; after it’s stewed a bit, use a spoon to mash it against the side of the pot.  The softened garlic incorporates into the dish without smelly fingers & cutting boards.
  • When you only need part of an onion, slice from the top end leaving  the root end intact. The remaining onion will stay fresh longer.
  • QUICK ROASTED GARLIC:  Roasted garlic tastes great with so many foods, but it’s hardly a last minute addition.  This method produces the same results in a short amount of time: Slice off the top of the head to reveal all the cloves. Place the head in a small, deep dish, season with salt & pepper, & drizzle with 2 Tbs. of good olive oil. Spoon 2 Tbs. of water into the bottom of the dish, cover it with plastic wrap, & microwave at medium power for 7 to 7 ½ minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before unwrapping.
  • One medium–sized garlic clove equals 1/8 tsp. garlic powder.  But who uses only one clove?
  • The onion, garlic and chive flowers are amazing, yet often overlooked sources of flavour and colour!  Just wash the flower head, pinch at the base to break into individual flowerlets, and sprinkle over your salads, cooked dishes for a decoration, or cook directly into your dish.  They add a burst of onion flavour, and a conversation piece at the table.  If you have a burst of these flowers in your chive-garden patch, wash and dry the flowers and then put in a small tupperware container in the freezer.  Frozen, they will retain their colour, shape and flavour to be tossed in whenever you want them.

Zesty Lemon & Tomato Salsa

Preserved lemon adds a tart twist to traditional fresh tomato salsa.  This goes well with the recipes recently posted for Beef Empanadas and Salted Lemon Guacamole, making a complete meal with a side of tortilla chips, and a dessert of your choice.  Scoop it up with tortilla chips or use it as a topping for your other Tex-Mex or Mexican dishes.

Zesty Lemon & Tomato SalsaZesty Salted Lemon Salsa

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup finely diced salted lemons

4 green onions, thinly sliced (or 1 regular onion, finely chopped)

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine everything in a bowl large enough to accommodate stirring.

Salted Lemon Guacamole

This is a side dish.  Usually one would add more lemon juice and salt, but these are both amply supplied by the salted lemon in its own juice.

This goes well with a lemon salsa (coming up next!), and the Empanadas.  En Guete!

Salted Lemon Guacamole

This goes great with the Southwest Beef Empanadas & Salted Lemon Salsa!

This goes great with the Southwest Beef Empanadas & Salted Lemon Salsa!

3 avocados, sliced in two, pitted, and sliced / scooped into a blender

a dash of lemon or lime juice per avocado

1 shallot, coarsely chopped and tossed into the blender

1 Tbs. Chopped salted lemons, tossed into the blender

 

Blend these ingredients until smooth.  Add:

 

a handful of freshly-washed coriander leaves, finely chopped

1-2 Tbs. salted lemons, finely chopped

pepper to taste

3-4 Tbs. Plain yoghurt or sour cream, to give it a smooth taste

1 meaty tomato, diced and folded in to the blender mixture

 

Fold in all of these ingredients into the blended ingredients, and pour all into a serving bowl.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Spiced Preserved Limes

Spiced Preserved Limes

Spiced Preserved Limes

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from one calling for pickling the limes in oil.  I prefer this method as it leaves the limes with a more natural taste and without added oils.

If you chose to do it with oils, add 2/1 cups of olive oil to a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then allow to completely cool before using in place of the lime juice.  You could then use that oil, as the limes are used up, in your cooking.  Just make sure that the limes remaining in the jar have enough oil to keep them covered.  Oiled limes should be kept in the refridgerator after opening.

As with the Salted Lemons recipe, please use limes that have not been treated with insecticides, as you will be eating the whole lime, peeling included.

Spiced Preserved Limes

8 limes, washed and sliced into quarters

1 Tbs. Cumin seeds

1 Tbs. Black peppercorns

1 Tbs. Coridander seeds

1 Tbs. Crushed hot pepper

1 Tbs. Dried garlic flakes

1 tsp. Ground ginger or 1/2 Tbs. dried ginger flakes

1 tsp. Whole cloves

3-4 Tbs. Coarse sea salt

lime juice to top up the jar

Stir the whole spices together in a large glass (non-reactive) bowl.  Toss the lime quarters in the spices to coat, and then spoon into your chosen jar.  Let them sit for 30 minutes.  Pour in the lime juice to cover the limes, and seal the jar. Place it in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks to develop the flavors and soften the rinds.

This amount fills a 1-litre jar to the brim, packed tightly, which requires minimal lime juice to fill the jar.

Homemade Sambal Manis

Sambal ManisWe love Sambal Manis, but recently the shop we’d found it in went out of business – so I had to make my own.  Sambal Manis is sweeter, milder, and with a sweet-sour taste, compared to Sambal Oelek / Ulek (there are a variety of spellings), which is basically straight chili paste.  I personally have an aversion to handling raw chillies ever since I nearly ended up in hospital to have my eyes flushed, while handling them in a Mexican restaurant I worked at!  So I used the Sambal Oelek as a basis.  I searched online for recipes, and there are quite a few, but none were very specific as far as proportions with prepared Oelek.  I experimented and noted what I did, and came up with a keeper!  It requires a few unusual ingredients, all of which I just happened to have as I do a lot of international cooking.  But if you want to make this yourself, just look for the ingredients in a good international shop, or an Asian supermarket.  It’s well worth it if you like to jazz up your meals with a bit of spicy flavour!

Homemade Sambal Manis

50 gr. Sambal Oelek /Ulek

4 Tbs. coconut sugar or palm sugar

2 tsp. Tamarind paste*

1/2 – 1 tsp. salt

 

Combine well in a non-reactive bowl (glass), making sure the sugar is mixed in well (it tends to be quite compact).  Store in a glass jar in the fridge, and enjoy!  Make sure you wash any utensils, as well as your hands, thoroughly before touching any sensitive body parts such as anywhere near your eyes!

* If you want more sour than sweet, you could add a bit more tamarind paste.