Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sunday, Jan 16th - Tuscan Tuna (or Toona) Cannellini Bean Salad - Italian Interior Tradition

Tuscan Tuna Cannellini Bean Salad
For nearly a week, last week, D would disappear into our kitchen and mysteriously fiddle around with what looked and smelled like a science experiment.  I respected this little project and didn't snoop.  I was tempted.  We have an open concept kitchen so his disappearing and my minding my own business were both quite large feats.  The one thing I did know was that he was taking his copy of Heat with him.

Heat was a book he brought on our holiday last summer.  It is not a cookbook.  It's a non fictional novel written by a journalist who is convinced or rather WAS convinced he should be a chef.  He travels through Italy and does alot of historical, gastronomic research and also manages to land a job with Mario Batali as a kitchen slave.

The book describes alot of Italian classics and D has tried to replicate despite the sparse write up with descriptions like "handful" and "some".  D went out of his way to tell me about alot of the dishes as he was reading but I didn't recall this one.

TUSCAN TUNA....hmmmmm.  I didn't see nor smell Tuna come into the house and I have had a spike in my olfactory sense of late.  I didn't question it.  Chopping, marinading and hiding went on for days.  I even impressed myself by not looking for it in the fridge.  I think I assumed he was using the Saltcod or some of our other frozen fish.    Then came the boiling.

The spike in my 'odor' sensitivity is what prevents me from making really pungent dishes and also have the ability to eat it.  It's been one or the other for the last couple of months which is why D has to do the Thai Curries or other heady dishes if we plan to eat it straight away.  I reckon things will even out soon enought.  Anyhoo, so he brings out his chemistry experiment, aka Tuscan Tuna and places it in a medium sauce pan.  He puts it to a gentle boil, rigorous simmer for 2 hours.

The main component of the boiling liquid was a dry Chardonnay.  About 20 minutes in, I begged D to take it outside on a hot plate.  When he said we didn't have one, he opened all the windows and I sat with my sweater pulled over my mouth.  I was tempted to go dig up that germ mask I brought home as a souvenir from the Narita Airport in Tokyo.  After it was done, he placed it outside to cool.  Only then did I remember we did have a burner on our gas BBQ outside.  Blast!  I was very disappointed to learn that it would still be a few days before we were to eat the end product.

Then suddenly, one day after work, he rushes into the kitchen, still in his work clothes, which he never does, and got busy with his back to me.  I just assumed he was snacking on Olives or Carrots sticks as he often does after work.  He appears next to me on the couch with a lovely looking bowl of Bean Salad.

It is a Bean Salad lit up with Marinaded Italian Red Peppers and fresh Parsley and what looks like tinned Tuna.  I ask D what it is.  He evasely tells me it's 'Tuscan Tuna'. I tell him it's good but so far having only taken a bit of the bean.  Half way through my second bite I ask him what type of Tuna.  I can't eat Albacore or other big boys right now.  I'm trying to keep my Mercury levels down.  I seemed to have caught him off guard.  He says Albacore because he can't remember that I can only have Skip Jack.  I say well, a little bit won't hurt me.  It is drier than Tuna in Oil which is normal for Chunk Lite in water, so no suspicion yet.  He's flaked it to look like Tuna as well.  The simple Olive Oil and Lemon is yummy.  I tell him it's very tasty.

He proceeds to do flying leaps around the Kitchen.  I take a more scrutinising look at the bowl.  As evil peels of laughter fill the house, he confesses that Tuscan Tuna is the name used to describe the dish used in more interior areas of Italy where fresh Seafood was once quite rare.  It is not Tuna at all.  It is a picked PORK loin!  I can't deny that it was good.  Why? Because it didn't even remotely taste like pork.  All the fat was cooked and drained off.  After the boiling, D stored it in Olive Oil in a container in the fridge in 1 inch cubes.

That's 2.  For regular followers, that is his second successful attempt at a meat dish I am willing to eat.  I opened the window for D last year.  I told him I don't eat meat, poultry ..etc based on aesthetics: Taste, Texture and Smell.  He's had five kicks at the can now and this win number 2.   He has figured out the formula.  His first attempt at a Michael Chiarello braised filet was his rationale that I should love a really good meat dish.  WRONG.  It misses the Taste, Textural and Aromatic marks on all counts.  He was relentless which is good.  He'd like to figure out a way to work meat into our routine because I will admit, it is easier.

If you think about it though, not only is my vegetarian diet healthier but so is the profile of the type of meat dishes I can handle.  Lean cuts, no tenuous fibres, fat all cooked off, no skin, served with lots of aromatic vegetables. :^D

We served this as a side with BBQ Pizza for a Dinner guest tonight with a side Green Salad too.

Tuscan Tuna Salad

100 g of 'Tuscan Tuna', shredded
1 marinaded Red Bepper (Pimento)
1 tin Cannellini Beans, drained
1/2 c fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 T good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients and set aside to souse.

Serve as a starter or side salad.

2 Leave a / Read COMMENTs:

Deanna Samaan said...

This salad looks beautiful. i have to try this!

Amy Bakes Everything said...

Sounds so yummy! I seriously love all kinds of bean salads!