Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuna Stuffed Surprise

Holy Week is perhaps one of the most look-foward-to event of the year. Families go on vacation and it signals the summer holiday for the kids. My family and I are taking our adventure to Vietnam so there will be interesting recipes to bring home.

In the meantime, here's one that is so close to my heart. It's a great picnic treat because apart from being easy to do-- it's easy to pack and something big and hearty to share.

My son Miggy, (diagnosed with PDD-NOS) and I joined the Century Tuna Culinary Meet years ago and we made it to the Parent-Child Category, sandwich shortlist. When I was putting this recipe together, I was thinking I'll do the cooking, he'll do the assembling and we both do the plating. When we were briefed before the cook-off, we were told that parents were not allowed to assist-- just verbal directions. We can only put the ingredients in place beforehand and supervise. The rest is the child's job-from slicing to cooking to plating--EVERYTHING!

If you're a parent of a child with special needs, you'd understand a feeling of trepidation. But you also have that gut feel that with the right preparation, they can have the same crack as any other child at the competiton.

Miggy and I practised the day before, with timer and all.

On contest day-- Miggy was cool, calm and focused.
The result?--We won First Place!

I can still see the movie in my mind. And how joyous he was--how confidently he answered the tv crew's questions. To anyone who ever doubted children with special needs-- they really ought to give these amazing youth a second look.
  • 1 round country bread (rye usually)
  • 1-2 cans of tuna (your choice of variant. If you like it chunks or flakes in vegetable oil or if you like it spicy like spanish style)
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped mushrooms (canned, fresh white button or if you're feeling indulgent-portobello)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 c black olives,chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 block grated cheese
  • 4-6 lettuce leaves, preferably romaine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice off the top of the country bread--just a thin slice to expose the soft, chewy part. Keep this "bread cover". Then carefully remove the bread inside, and leave the crusty case intact.

Drain the oil from the tuna. Set the oil aside in small bowl. Then cut open, de-seed and grill the green bell pepper, remove the charred skin, slice into strips and marinade in the tuna oil. Set aside.

Saute chopped onions and mushrooms in butter and add tuna. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to taste. Also set aside.

To assemble sandwich, layer ingredients in this order:

Line bottom of bread case with 2-3 pcs of lettuce, then spread half of the bell pepper strips. Next, spread half of the tuna-mushroom mixture. Sprinkle half of the black olives and half of the grated cheese. Repeat the steps with the remaining ingredients. Make sure that it is evenly spread.

Should there be space left at the top, add the bread bits that were removed earlier to make the layers compact. Top with the bread cover. Wrap in foil and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Serve cold. Carefully slice to reveal the layers of the filling.Optional: you can add slices of boiled egg if you like.

This is healthy and hearty served with steamed veggies like asparagus, tossed in a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, OR slices of cool, crisp, apples to balance the palate.We like to combine red and green apples for color and tartness. It's a wonderful, wonderful contrast to the savoury sandwich.

It's easy to pack when you go on a day trip especially this coming Holy Week. Pack your bags and your picnic baskets. The days of summer are here.

Have a great time!

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