There is a world of canned-tuna recipes beyond mom’s tuna casserole with cream of mushroom soup and peas. Here, check out tuna dishes from Tunisia and Italy.
The brik (or barek) is a classic Tunisian fried turnover, often filled with egg or egg and tuna plus onions and herbs or spices. The traditional pastry is a thin semolina flour dough (malsouka or warka) rolled very thinly into 5- or 6-inch rounds. Here, I used multiple layers of phyllo dough or, alternatively, won ton or spring roll wrappers, since malsouka isn’t sold in the islands. A beloved accompaniment is the ketchup of Tunisia, meshwiya, a relish of roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, cumin, lemon, garlic and (if you like heat) chili sauce.
TUNISIAN TUNA BRIK
Adapted from recipes in Gourmet magazine and allrecipes.com
1 (6-ounce) can tuna in oil, drained and pressed to expel moisture
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup minced green onion
1/4 cup minced Maui onion or other sweet onion
2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
6 sheets phyllo dough
Olive oil cooking spray
» Meshwiya relish:
1 large red bell pepper, halved and cleaned
2 large tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons harissa (or liquid hot pepper sauce, sambal oelek or chili paste) (optional)
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mash together tuna, parsley, onions, capers and Parmesan. Stir in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Whisk together egg white and water and set aside. On clean, dry work surface, spread out phyllo sheets and cut each into two pieces lengthwise. Lay one strip on work surface, spray lightly with olive oil spray. Place second piece on top; spray. Place third piece on top. Press lightly or run a rolling pin gently over the phyllo so three layers adhere.
Cut squares from triple layers of phyllo: Fold bottom right up to the left to form an equilateral triangle. Cut to form square. Unfold square and set aside. Repeat, working from cut edge. You will be able to make two triangles from each strip. (Discard leftover.)
Spread each square with 2 tablespoons filling, leaving 1-inch margin all around. Brush edges of square with egg white before folding right to left again. Press to seal.
Pour vegetable oil into large, heavy bottomed frying pan or Dutch oven to a depth of 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Heat over high heat until rippling; a scrap of leftover phyllo thrown into the fat sizzles, begins to turn color and bubbles right away.
Fry briks until golden and blistered, no more than two at a time. If they brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium high. Drain on paper towels.
To make meshwiya relish: Broil red bell pepper and tomatoes. Cool, skin and chop. In bowl, combine bell pepper and tomatoes with rest of ingredients. This is also excellent with pita wedges or pita chips.
Serve briks immediately with meshwiya relish. Makes 8 briks.
» Quick and easy: Use won ton pi instead phyllo.
» More authentic: Use large (8-inch) spring roll wrappers. Form tuna mixture into a ring shape on bottom right portion of wrapper and break small whole egg into the ring. Fold top left over, seal and fry as above.
Approximate nutritional information, per brik: 190 calories, 13 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 8 g protein
TIP: To defrost phyllo dough, place the entire package in the refrigerator, unopened, 24 hours before use. Unroll and take out the sheets you will use; re-roll, wrap in plastic wrap and return to freezer. Keep the phyllo under a damp towel when you’re not working with it.
The National Fisheries Institute’s Tuna Council offers a great, easy idea for a sandwich: albacore tuna, marinated artichoke hearts and slices of tomato on a crusty roll. I love marinated artichoke hearts and had some tuna brik filling leftover and a baguette so decided to create a pupu built around their idea.
Toast baguette slices (rub them with sliced garlic, if you like). Mash marinated artichoke heart on top to press juices into the bread. Top with tuna brik filling and sliced cherry tomatoes. Drizzle on a little more marinade.
Canned tuna most often finds itself mooshed and mashed into spreads, fillings, casserole dishes and such.
Here, it’s treated more like fresh fillet, so it’s best to use a solid packed tuna. The brand I recommend based on my taste tests is Chicken of the Sea Solid White Albacore. Or choose an Italian brand, packed in olive oil.
LINGUINE WITH TUNA, GREENS AND CRUSHED PEPPER
1 pound dried linguine
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced (or more, to taste)
Generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
2 (6-ounce) cans solid white tuna, drained (oil- or water-packed)
3/4 pound baby spinach, baby arugula or mixed spring greens (mesclun)
Juice of 1 lemon (Meyer lemon is best)
Bring large pot of well-salted water to boil and cook linguine according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant and sizzling (do not burn). Add tuna and stir with fork (flake tuna; do not mash). Season with salt. Keep warm over low heat.
Scoop 1 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain pasta and return to warm pot over moderate heat. Add spinach or arugula and toss. Add tuna mixture and toss, moistening with some pasta water. When greens wilt, divide among warm bowls, splash with lemon juice and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving (based on water-packed tuna): 800 calories, 30 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 95 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 39 g protein
Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.