NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
July 1, 1999
Prairie Fare: Turning the Tide on Tuna Taboos
EU. Pronounce those letters with long vowel sounds and you're more than likely making the same sounds you make when you think about tuna casserole, that hotdish many people shy away from fervently, almost as if it were disease bearing.
But we landlocked residents of the Great Plains no longer have to resign ourselves to eating tuna mingled amid various concoctions of pasty egg noodles, mushy carrots, anemically green peas and cream of something soups. Fresh tuna is now available in many of the seafood sections in regional supermarkets.
Those of you adventuresome plains dwellers with Internet access can probably find boatloads of recipes featuring fresh tuna. Just one site that I visit frequently, www.epicurious.com, offers at least 25 recipes for tuna steaks. Three sound particularly appealing: Spiced Tuna Steaks with Fennel and Red Peppers, Grilled Tuna Steaks with Cantaloupe Salsa, and Grilled Tuna with Warm White Bean Salad.
Grilling tuna steak is just as easy as preparing beef steak. If you've got glowing coals or a gas grill set to 375 F or so, you can have your tuna steaks and be eating them too in less than 10 minutes. Just make sure your grill is lightly oiled.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with maintaining a loyalty to canned tuna. But why not try using it in new ways? If you're at a loss for new ways to serve canned tuna, just remember that the letters "EU" also serve as the acronym for the European Union, and those Europeans know how to enjoy canned tuna. If you try the following recipe, I think you'll agree.
European-Style Tuna Sandwiches
Yield: 6 servings
3 6-ounce cans water-packed tuna
3 tablespoons drained capers, minced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and black pepper to taste
2 1-pound loaves French or Italian bread
½ cup pitted black olives, pureed
24 spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Combine tuna, capers, garlic, oregano, cheese, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cut each bread loaf crosswise into three pieces and then halve each piece lengthwise. Pull out centers of bread pieces so that only ½-inch crusts remain (save pulled-out bread for another use). Spread olive puree lightly on the inside of each bread piece. Spread ½ cup of the tuna mixture onto each bread bottom, and then top with spinach leaves, tomato and onion slices, and bread tops.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
At 2 billion cans per year, canned tuna sales are performing swimmingly (pun intended). Not only is tuna an excellent source of protein, it's also fairly inexpensive, although you may be getting less tuna in your can than the label suggests, according to a study commissioned by the Boston Globe.
Tuna labels usually state that the net weight is 6 ounces, yet the Nutrition Facts panel states a can provides two and a half 2-ounce servings, which suggests a 5-ounce content. But if you were to drain the liquid and weigh the tuna, you would likely have only about 4 or 4.5 ounces of tuna on your plate.
It may sound fishy, but it's legal. In fact, a 6-ounce can of solid tuna must contain only 3.75 ounces of fish to comply with current rules set by the Food and Drug Administration. Under a proposal at FDA, new rules would require label serving sizes to match up with total weight. Some vegetable canners are already listing drained weight on their labels.
After examining food labels on canned tuna, many of you will feel inclined to reach for the water-packed products. A 2-ounce serving of tuna in spring water contains about 60 calories and less than a gram of fat, but a 2-ounce serving of tuna in oil contains 170 calories and 13 grams of fat. But shouldn't you be choosing the higher-fat product because of the possible health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil? In the case of tuna, which is a low-fat fish, the added oil usually is soybean oil.
Soybean oil does contain linolenic acid, which is included in the omega-3 fatty acid family due to its chemical structure, but soybean oil does not contain the types of omega-3 fatty acids that may reduce your risk of heart disease. If you're trying to increase your intake of these types of omega-3 fatty acids, go for the higher-fat types of fish such as salmon and mackerel.
At 375 calories and 12.5 grams of fat per serving, European-Style Tuna Sandwiches won't make you sink. A serving also provides about 20 percent of the daily recommendations for vitamins A (as beta carotene) and C.
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136 and Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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