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A splitting headache brought Jason back home today around lunchtime. He caught me by surprise as I was reclining on the floor in the living room with a coffee table tucked between my extended legs, and laptop… well, resting where it’s meant to be… on my belly.

Our coffee table is chunky and heavy as stone. It has also lived through and seen things that I refuse to talk about when children are present.

Jason walked in with the most tragic expression painted all over his face and announced: “I have a headache that makes my teeth hurt”. He plunged and sank into a couch like a 140-odd pound sack of potatoes. Cosmo reacted by hopping on top of the sack of potatoes, licking its complexion clean, all the while wiggling his tail like a cow in a meadow shooing flies from around its ass.

The view was so pathetic my heart cringed. I handed Jason a bottle of aspirin, content of which was emptied into his throat at once (all two pills that were left). Like a good hen, I marched to the kitchen, whipped out a Tuna Salad Sandwich, fed the kid, put him to bed, and kissed his chilly forehead and pink nipples goodnight. Cosmo curled up between Jason’s legs (it runs in the family) and minutes later exhaled a loud, man-like snore.

That was my cue. With both boys out and about horsing around in their dreamlands, I was finally able to sit down and shake out the dinner idea mentioned last time.

Let’s take the PESTO DRESSED SALAD from my previous post and introduce it to small PITA POCKETS WITH GRILLED SALMON. It’s as easy as it sounds, but first write down all the stuff you need to get from the grocery store to make the dish, assuming you have already made the salad (otherwise you’ll forget something):

–       1 bag of mini pitas

–       fresh salmon (I say 1-2 lbs package)

–       1 bag of mini pitas. Oh, wait, it’s on the list already!

Yes, you just need those 2 elements (salmon and mini pitas, in case you forgot), plus the salad you prepped earlier.

Roll up your sleeves, darling, and let’s get cooking. I myself have a habit of first washing all fish and meat that comes from a store, no matter how sterile the package. Somebody must have touched it at some point, and I don’t even want to open that door in my head. Otherwise, my imagination takes me places and shows me various nasty scenarios of where my food came from. The more time you spend in my head, the better you understand my love affair with organic foods, fresh produce, and also why Jason ties my toe to the bed frame at night. That’s a story for another time.

The clean fish then goes on a plate or a cutting board and gets patted dry with paper towels. It’s seasoned with salt and pepper and modestly sprinkled with olive oil to help establish the grilling marks everyone is after. Next, a pair of muscular tongs hoists the fillets onto a heated grilling pan, which reacts with violent sizzling, hissing and pissing. You’ve been warned. Be cool, and don’t let the drama queen change your mind. Let the fish sit on the hot surface and get some blush on its cheeks, and then some. Then flip it.

The cooking time on each side will depend on the thickness of your fillets. As the heat penetrates the flesh, you’ll notice a color change along the cut from pink to white-ish. It may take 3 minutes per side, if the guys are skinny. You may also need to step back for 5-6 minutes per turn, if you got yourself chubby chunks of salmon. Keep the heat on medium, don’t walk away, don’t leave your fish unattended (it’s rude), be alert. If you keep them on the pan too long they’ll get dry. Ideally, you want to turn off the heat a few minutes before your meat is done, and let it R.I.P. for 10 minutes or so. It will continue to cook inside becoming that perfect GRILLED SALMON from your misty dreams.

It took me a few packages of fish and a couple of bottles of wine to really nail the technique. Don’t beat yourself up. Be gentle.

Here comes the best part – building your PITA POCKETS. Yay! Onto a large plate scoop some of your salad, set your GRILLED SALMON nearby, and grab a MINI PITA. With a small knife cut it open along the rim, about half way through, creating a POCKET. Using a fork, pack the inside with a little bit of salad, then pieces of crushed salmon, maybe more salad on top if there’s room. Open your mouth wide – you may want to spread your legs for extra support as well – and BITE! Then take just ONE MORE BITE and kill it! Move on to the next one. Continue building and biting until you’re full and salad leaves burst out of your ears.

Pita Pocket 1

Salmon

It’s not only THAT good, but it’s also FUN to build your own food on a plate and enjoy it instantly. Ask Jason. He’s like a kid in a sand box with a plastic bucket and a rake when given a chance to assemble a meal straight from his plate. And I get to watch the spectacle. That’s what I call ENTERTAINMENT.

Good luck with your fishies…

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Not always does a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast help you get your shit together and get on with your day.

OK, ok! Easy. I’ll just speak for myself then.

In my defense, it doesn’t help that my TASK BOARD still says it’s Saturday, while at the same time, I’ve  been convinced since last night that today is Friday (the day I’m taking Jason on a date to a secret location). Meanwhile, a strange man with a nice, deep voice says to me on the radio that today is Wednesday, September 30, 2009. Hmmm.

My reality today is convoluted to such an extent that I bounce from one place to another with a heavy chip on my shoulder. I know I should be writing now, but the very thought of it makes me spin 180 degrees on my bare heels and go sweep the neighbor’s stoop. Next, I focus on my hands as they scream for attention, and suddenly I find myself performing a home manicure – a task I normally dread like the chicken pox. Once the bright red polish is splashed all over my nails, it’s the silence in the room that gets me at last.

I fan my  froggy fingers out over the keyboard of my computer, open iTunes and break out the jams. It’s not until The Last Shadow Puppets begin to play that I decide it’s time to turn the volume UP,  prepare my stage,  move the chair out of the range of my high-kick, place Cosmo on the balcony of our bed and GET MY GROOVE ON. While the music blasts from the speakers, I jump and throw my hands in the air, stretch in all directions, bounce my shoulders, bend to the sides, thrash my hips back and forth, and give the “dance” MY ESSENCE. Gasping for air, I look at Cosmo, and a bright smile wraps it’s way around my glossy face like a red bow on a Christmas gift. He just yawns at me with mere disapproval: “Mother, REALLY??!”

Cosmo w/ Headphones

After being scolded by my very own dog, I curl my tail under my own bottom, shut down the music box, and shuffle my feet to the kitchen hoping to get some LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING from an oozing, chocolate mini-cupcake. One thing leads to another, and within minutes, I’m prepping lunch. On the menu today… an Avocado Turkey Sandwich with a side of a Quinoa Salad. I’m confident after this meal I’ll have a work out that would make Michael Phelps crawl out of his pool humiliated and in tears.

Turkey Sammy

Speaking of Sammies, they play an important role in our household, especially since Jason returned to work and I took on the temporary role of “little wifey”, which nota bene suits me shockingly well. The part I play entails my rising at dawn along with my beau and tending to his feeding needs. While Jason assures me he’s perfectly capable of getting a bowl of cereal in the morning, I won’t have such nonsense and proceed to fill his bowl with a cherry picked mix of breakfast grains topped with a rainbow of sliced fruit, all soaked in an ocean of almond milk.

While the boy crunches away, I move on to the next task at hand which consists of assembling his lunch and dexterously fitting the mountain of food into the 2 compartments of his teeny-weeny lunchbox.

If there are no leftovers from the previous night’s dinner (which is the case 3 out of 4 times), I grab from the refrigerator whatever I can hold in my arms and build a Mothership of all Sandwiches. I start with two slices of HEALTHY bread, which unfortunately in many cases tend to taste like old tennis shoes. Particularly the low sodium Ezekiel Bread which is as exciting as a chess match!

porkzo1

Let me pause here for a second. If it wasn’t for a pile of SPARKLING NEW jeans that are an entire two (2) sizes smaller than the last pants I bought, I would be slathering both sides of ciabatta bread with mayonnaise and topping it with 1-inch thick chunks of chicken, beefy slices of mozzarella, tomato and a basil leaf. I have wet dreams about  Italian breads, rustic French baguettes and country rolls. In fact, I’m drooling a little bit right now with nothing more than the mere image of them!

How do I turn that ugly ducking of Ezekiel Bread into Cinderella? I have a trick (or two) that (lucky for you) I’ve decided to no longer keep to myself.

Raspberries on side

My secret is to make the sandwich relatively MOIST, but not soggy. Second, you want to keep it versatile and exciting. The sky is the limit when it comes to building a sandwich! Think outside the box. Instead of always going for the good ‘ol mayo, use a low-fat version mixed into a coherent cream with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Or forget about mayo altogether and spread a little hummus on your bread topped with slices of heirloom tomato and pickles under an umbrella of a few spinach leaves. You can buy a flavored one, or just make your own Hummus. The EDAMAME DIP you just tried this week for the first time will go swimmingly with a few thin slices of low sodium turkey, maybe a little of Monterey Jack and a slice of Tomato, all sprinkled with finely chopped chives and packed between the slices of bread.

Cottage Cheese Sammies

Being Polish, I bring my Polish twist to the table, and when the sandwich is for here and not to go I like to keep it open. It’s an ideal surface for a tablespoon of cottage cheese, green onions and crunchy Persian cucumbers. That’s today. Tomorrow, get yourself a ripe avocado, slice the meat and spread it generously over your bread. Cover with turkey/chicken/ham, and top with thick slices of hard-boiled egg – don’t forget to sprinkle it with a dust of salt and pepper. The next day, make a Tuna Salad and use it as filling in your sammy. And if you grew up convinced radishes taste like dirt, here’s your chance to bring back the magic and believe in Santa  all over again slice one radish and hide it between the layers of your tuna sandwich. Not only will you have that extra crunch, but also vitamins and minerals you’ve deprived yourself all your life.

Tuna Sammy Tuna Closed Sammy

Have you ever tried Mascarpone cheese? It’s good not only in a Tomato Sauce for your pasta, or in cakes, but can also serve as a foundation for your – exactly! – next day sandwich. You can cover it with slices of meat, cheese, roasted peppers, onion, cucumber, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and fresh herbs (basil, dill, mint, tarragon, etc.) Same thing goes for Pesto. You can have an exciting, delicious sandwich every day at work, and it will never taste the same. Bring a smile back to your SAMMY.

One last thing to keep in mind – do NOT overcrowd the guy. Don’t pile up everything under the sun onto your slice of bread.   After all, you want to be able to wrap your mouth around that bad boy, don’t you?

Three Open Sammies

I could go on, and I’m positive there will be more opportunities to talk sandwiches. Hell, I’ll make sure of it. Today’s article will at least get you started. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box of Sandwiches. From now on the ideas will never stop coming. They will flood your mind, your lunchbox, and your kitchen. You’ll feel overwhelmed with the creative powers that will suddenly take over and you’ll start feeding your coworkers, your neighbors, and even your dog. Each Sammy will be a Gourmet Concert of Wild and Exotic Flavors clasped within the crunchy arms of two slices of toasted bread waiting to be domesticated in your mouth.

Now go and unleash your inner Sandwich Snob. Then tame the beast with your creations. Have fun with it!

I started the day rollerblading with Mel in Santa Monica on the beach. She has moved back to LA recently, after having escaped the city for over a year, and I find myself starved for her company. She’s a true inspiration in my efforts to live my life in balance and respectful of Mother Nature.

We strolled down the boardwalk across the abundance of white sands, our skin licked by first and still shy rays of sun, and we breathed in the ocean air.

After an hour of this constant motion, all chatted out, drenched and happy, I rushed home for lunch. Into the kitchen I walked, the refrigerator’s door ajar, and what did my eyes see? Nothing. There was no left over quinoa salad, there was no fish from last night’s dinner, there was no turkey for a sandwich, and the produce compartment echoed back: “Empty!”

I refused to go grocery shopping when my belly screamed to be fed. I attacked the pantry cabinet and found stuck 3 small cans of water-packed tuna adjacent to a jar of pickles. Eureka! I’ll have a beautiful tuna salad sammy.

Into a bowl went:

– all tuna, drenched of water

– 4 small pickles, finely chopped

– 2 hard boiled eggs, cooled off, and then chopped

– 1/3 of a cup fresh green onions (I grow my own), chopped

– handful of fresh herbs (I had parsley and dill), finely chopped

– 1/4 of a cup low fat mayonnaise

– 1/4 of a cup non-fat greek yogurt

– 1 tbsp of dijon mustard

– sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste…

…all mixed together into a perfect and delicious tuna salad. One scoop covered a whole wheat toast, topped with a slice of an heirloom tomato and radish for crunch. A perfect lunch.

Tuna Sandwich

A hungry belly’s ultimate goal is a Happy Belly. There’s always food in my kitchen, even when it seems the opposite. Always, just a few ingredients and a few easy steps away.

Bon apetite!

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