I was hesitant to write about recipes using canned tuna and other fish packed in a tin can until I saw so many recipes recently, using items most of us have sitting in the pantry. These days, it seems as if we are seeking comfort food and dishes we enjoyed growing up. They are making a resurgence; tuna casserole for example. Curious to learn about the history of canned tuna, I found out that sardines, not tuna, was the fish packed in a can back in the late 1800s.
According to canned-tuna.com, in 1903, due to a combination of overfishing and poor ocean conditions, the catch of sardines was exceptionally poor. One canner, who canned sardines, saw that he was going to have lots of empty sardine cans, so he experimented with packing them with locally caught albacore tuna. The demand for canned tuna soared with the onset of World War I.
Fast-forward to recent years, the size of the cans have shrunk (like many other products, with the price being the same or increased) and other means of packaging has been introduced such as the pouch, and varieties of seasonings and flavors added to tuna to increase demand.
A couple of brands probably come to mind when it comes to canned tuna, Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee and Starkist.
The Chicken of the Sea brand name came about because of its mild flavor and color. As one of the world’s largest seafood companies, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicken of the Sea donated more than a half-million cans of tuna, salmon and other protein-packed products to hunger relief organizations. By the way, Chicken of the Sea’s mascot was introduced in 1952. Remember the jingle, “Ask any mermaid you happen to see, what’s the best tuna, Chicken of the Sea.”
It was interesting to learn that Bumble Bee Seafoods was founded in 1899 to process salmon. It wasn’t until 1920 that the company capitalized on albacore tuna that was discovered in seasonal abundance off the Oregon coast. From 1930-1950, albacore surpassed salmon as the company’s main product.
In 1917, the French Sardine Co. was founded, and in 1953 became known as StarKist Foods. By the mid-1950s, it had become the largest tuna-canning firm in the world. And, who is the brand’s official “spokesfish?” Well, of course it’s Charlie the Tuna.
Are you one who frowns when you hear canned tuna, salmon, sardines or other tinned fish? Remember those beloved tuna fish sandwiches mom tucked away in your lunchbox or the comforting tuna casserole you coaxed mom to make for dinner? I have found that using a quality, sustainable canned tuna or other fish results in a tasty and easy to make dish these days.
Whether you’re a seafood lover or home cook craving something new, you’ll find sustainable fishing advocate Bart van Olphen’s “The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate Sustainably Canned, 100% Delicious (2020, The Experiment Publishing, $18.95, to be published May 26 but now available as an e-book) takes the humbled canned tuna and other fish to another culinary level. Before getting into the recipes,the author educates the reader about the varieties of canned fish, as well as the wonders of modern fishing and canning. Here are a few of the recipes from the book. For the recipe for salmon pizza, visit https://bit.ly/3dt6qln.
To make the fritters: Coarsely grate the potato and zucchini and combine in a bowl. Add the tuna, corn, and parsley and mix thoroughly before adding the flour and the egg. Season with the chili flakes as well as tabasco, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
To make the tzatziki: Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and deseed. Coarsely grate the flesh and put in a sieve. Using the rounded side of a spoon, press out as much liquid as possible and then combine the flesh in a bowl with the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a generous splash of sunflower oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, spoon two portions of the fritter mixture into the pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown, flip the fritters, and bake for another 3 to 4 minutes, until crispy and done. Lift them out and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat until the mixture has been used up.
Serve the fritters alongside the lemon wedges, with the tzatziki in a separate bowl. Serves 2 as a main course.
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the garlic and shallot for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add the anchovy fillets and let them “melt” while stirring continuously, about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and vinegar and let the mixture simmer for 3 to 4 minutes with a lid on, then crush with a potato masher.
Meanwhile, put a pan with plenty of salted water over medium-high heat and cook the penne according to the package directions.
Add the olives and cherry tomatoes to the shallot-tomato mixture and gently simmer for a few minutes over low heat. Fold in the drained tuna, heat through for 2 minutes, and season with pepper and salt if needed.
Once cooked, drain the penne in a colander and carefully stir the pasta through the tomato sauce. Divide the pasta puttanesca between two plates, drizzle with some olive oil, and serve garnished with basil. Serves 2.
To make the salmon cakes: Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until done, approximately 15 minutes. Drain and leave to cool. Roughly mash them before mixing in the scallion, arugula, chives and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Lastly, add the egg and the salmon, and mash with a fork until everything comes together in a coarse mixture.
Shape the potato-salmon mixture into balls that fit in the palm of your hand, then flatten them until they are between 1/2- and 3/4-inch thick. Leave the cakes to firm up in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To make the spread: Mash the avocado with the shallot, lemon juice and some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Set the spread aside.
To make the chimichurri: Purée all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Add extra olive oil if the sauce is too thick. Set aside.
Heat a splash of sunflower oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Dust the salmon cakes with a bit of flour and fry them for 3 minutes, until golden brown. Carefully flip them over with a spatula and fry on the other side for 3 more minutes. The cakes should be nice and hot inside. Lift them out of the pan with a slotted turner and onto paper towels. (You can also keep them warm in the oven until all portions are cooked, if you prefer.) Serve the salmon cakes with the avocado spread, chimichurri and lime. Serves 2 as an appetizer or snack.
The headnote says, “Wafu dressing is a traditional Japanese vinaigrette made with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, and oil, which will often have sesame oil and/or sesame seeds added to it. In this dish, it goes amazingly well with the noodles and tuna.”
To prepare the wakame: Put the wakame in a bowl with 2 cups of boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain the seaweed in a colander for 5 minutes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, and leave to cool.
Cook the noodles according to the package directions.
Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until golden. Set aside.
To make the dressing: Whisk the sesame oil, canola oil, rice wine vinegar, mirin and soy sauce in a bowl. Set aside.
Drain the noodles in a colander, transfer to a bowl, and stir through the wakame and three-quarters of the dressing. Divide the noodles between two bowls. Top each portion with tuna, sprinkle with the scallion and sesame seeds, and then drizzle with the rest of the dressing. Serve immediately. Serves 2.