Tuna Casserole Pasta Salad

September 13, 2015

Tuna Casserole Pasta Salad - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

 

Margaux says…

I know, I know…why am I posting about something boring like tuna pasta salad? Where’s the cake? Cookies? Cupcakes? It’s end of summer harvest…where are the tomatoes? Zucchini? Sweet corn? Well, sometimes I have nothing in the pantry but a couple of cans of tuna, some pasta, some frozen peas and some parsley.  When I desperately need to go grocery shopping, it’s likely that I have those things. So I make this tuna pasta salad, a recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated 30-minute suppers magazine that I’ve vowed to post all of my favorite recipes from.

And this is not your normal tuna pasta salad. It’s not mayonnaise-y or sweet. It has great flavor and a little bit of a bite from the lemon, garlic and Dijon mustard. I like to serve it on a bed of arugula, and if I have them on hand, with a handful of cherry tomatoes thrown in, too. The original recipe calls for toasted breadcrumbs on top, which I don’t love the texture of, but I’ll include the steps to that for those of you who would like it!

Tuna Casserole Pasta Salad

adapted from 30-Minute Suppers from America’s Test Kitchen, Fall 2010 edition

2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces (optional)

1/2 cup olive oil (plus 1 tbsp if doing bread crumbs)

3 tbsp juice from one lemon

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 (6-oz) cans tuna packed in water, drained and flaked into large chunks (I like the “chunk light” tuna)

1 pound small shells

2 cups frozen peas

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. If doing bread crumbs, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses. Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

2. Whisk lemon juice, mustard, garlic, Worcestershire, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper together in large bowl. Slowly whisk in remaining oil. Gently toss tuna with 1/4 cup dressing in separate bowl.

3. Meanwhile, add shells and 1 tbsp salt to boiling water and cook until almost al dente. Add peas to pot and cook additional 1 minute. Drain pasta and peas and rinse with cold water. Add pasta, peas and parsley to bowl with remaining dressing and toss to coat. Gently fold in tuna and season with salt and pepper. Serve, topping each portion with bread crumbs.

Serve over a bed of arugula, or by itself with a green salad on the side.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

As with so many things I cook, I saw a recipe which made me think of something else from which I created an amalgamation.  The recipe that triggered this meal was a riff on the burrito bowl – Caribbean Jerk Salmon  Bowl which included mango salsa.  It reminded me of a recipe I’ve made from Joy of Cooking – a grilled chili-crusted flank steak with mango salsa.  Shazam – this spicy salmon served with the Joy of Cooking mango salsa!   This is both elegant and easy to make, a combination I adore.  Enjoy with green rice (made here with 100% arugula) and a dry rose wine.

This makes 3-4 servings with 1 pound of salmon 6-8 servings with 2 pounds (depending on appetites)

The Mango Salsa

1 small red onion, diced

1 large or 2 small mangoes, peeled and diced (the link will take you to a how-to video)

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 clove garlic minced

1 fresh jalapeno, minced

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro or mint, chopped

Salt and ground pepper to taste

Placed the diced onion in a bowl of water and set aside for 10 min.  Meanwhile, prepare the mango and put into a medium bowl with the lime juice.  Drain the onions and add to the diced mango with the remaining ingredients. Set aside while preparing the salmon.

The Spiced Salmon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste

1-2 lbs salmon fillet, wild-caught if possible

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Blend the spices together and rub on the salmon.  (You will likely have leftover spice mixture.)  Line a baking sheet with foil and place the spiced salmon on it, leaving the skin on.  Bake for 6-9 minutes depending on thickness.  Be careful not to bake too long and dry out the salmon!  Take out of the oven and let sit for a couple of minutes.  Remove the salmon from the skin by inserting a spatula between the skin and the flesh.  The skin will have stuck to the foil, making it easy to peel the flesh from the skin.   Cut the salmon into serving pieces and serve with the mango salsa.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Not sure why, but fish tacos have become somewhat of an obsession this summer. After making “Take 1” last weekend, I was eager to revisit this recipe that I made a few years ago. Many of the ingredients are abundant right now at the farmers markets, so these were especially delicious. The pairing suggestion was a chardonnay of the crisp and fresh variety. I was a little skeptical about serving Chardonnay with tacos, but the Hess Select 2010 from Monterey was a perfect match.  It hit all the right notes with the food and was inexpensive – what could be better?!!

This makes 4 servings of 2 tacos each

The Cabbage Slaw

1 small head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (Can be Napa, Savoy or regular – I used a combo of Savoy and purple cabbage.)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir to thoroughly blend and set aside.

The Lime Guacamole

2 ripe Haas avocados

1/3 cup diced red onion

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1-2 small jalapenos minced

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the avocados in a medium bowl.  Add the onion, cilantro and jalapenos and stir to blend.  Add the lime juice and salt and pepper and stir until incorporated.  You can make this as creamy or as chunky as you want.  Set aside.

The Fish

1 pound Red Snapper or Rock Fish, aka Pacific Snapper (You could also use Tilapia, but I really liked the texture and flavor of the Snapper for this recipe.)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

We grilled this over charcoal, but you could use a gas grill or broil in the oven.  If using a grill, bring charcoal or gas to medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, cut the fish into 3-inch segments, with an eye to consistent thickness. Coat both sides of each piece with oil and the salt and pepper.  (Randy and I thought we would try a little cayenne next time as well.)  Place the fish on a grill pan directly over the heat.  (The original recipe did not specify this, but we were worried that the fish would fall through the regular grill top.)  Grill for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until the fish is translucent. Let the fish rest for 5-10 minutes before assembling the tacos.

Assembling the Tacos

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced in thin wedges

8 or more corn tortillas

Lime wedges and hot sauce to pass

Place the tortillas in foil and heat in a 350° oven for 5-7 minutes.  Remove from oven.  For each taco:

Spread the tortilla with the guacamole.  Place a few chunks of fish on top.  Add a few slices of tomato.  Top with cabbage slaw.  Add a squeeze of lime and as much hot sauce as you want!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I’ve been hankering for fish tacos lately and suggested a recipe I made years ago to Randy that uses grilled red snapper and the classic cabbage slaw as a topping.  He countered my suggestion with this recipe which is from a recent Co-op flyer.  Since it was hot as blue blazes out, we opted for this recipe in which the fish is cooked stovetop – no lighting and hovering over a grill!   This was fast to make and fun to eat.  While we made it on a Saturday night, this would be a great option for a weeknight meal.  We both agreed that we’d like to experiment with other fish taco recipes, so let us know about your favorites!  Look for more fish taco postings soon.

This makes 4 servings of two tacos each

The Salsa

1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans)

1 cup diced seeded fresh tomatoes

1 cup diced peeled and seeded cucumber

1 small red onion, diced

1 small jalapeno, minced

1/4 cup lime juice

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2-3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 avocado, 1/2-inch dice

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the first 5 ingredients into a medium bowl and stir to combine.  Whisk the lime juice and oil together and add to the vegetable mixture along with the cilantro.  Add the avocado right before serving or if you will not be using the entire recipe in one meal, serve the avocado on the side to add to each taco.  (The avocado did not hold up well in the leftover salsa.)

The Fish

1 pound Tilapia or white fish fillets

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2-3 tablespoons canola oil

Warm a platter in a 200 degree oven. Whisk the spices together, along with salt and pepper to taste, in a small bowl.  Rub all sides of the fish fillets with the spice mixture.  Add 2 tablespoons oil to a large non-stick or cast iron skillet and set on a medium-high burner.  When the oil shimmers, add the fillets, two or three at a time depending on size.  Cook until lightly browned and the flesh is opaque, about 2 minutes per side depending on thickness.  Transfer the fillets to the warmed platter while cooking the remaining fish.

Assembling the Tacos

8 or more corn tortillas

Place the tortillas in foil and warm in the oven along with the fish platter. Cut the cooked fish into large chunks (about 1 x 2 inches).  Add 2-3 pieces of fish to each warmed tortilla, top with the salsa and avocado if serving separately.  We used the house made tortillas from Cinco de Mayo Mercado in Minneapolis, which are on the thin side.  We found we needed to double up on the tortillas for each taco or else they broke through.  Even with this problem, we think these are the best locally made corn tortillas around the Twin Cities!