Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oregon Tuna Melt

I almost hate to admit this, because by saying it, it seems more starkly true somehow, but I'm quickly becoming a fan of fast and easy dinners. Not the capital letter kind of Fast-And-Easy that involves using cans of Cream of Mushroom or buying frozen shredded potatoes, mind you, but there are times in a person's life when kneading dough and simmering stocks just can't be wedged into the schedule.

I don't want to make a habit out of all this rushing around, because being in a hurry just goes against the whole lifestyle I'm attempting to raise my children within, but being busy for a season has it's place, too. And for right now, there are a couple days a week in which we're nearly out of breath when the day is through, after we've done our lessons, run errands, raced The Big Boy either to Flag Football or home from his homeschool P.E. or fine arts classes, and found the time to (grrr) make an Egyptian Death Mask between fielding phone calls from clients.

Those kinds of days are not the best time to roll out fresh pasta or to braise a cabbage, if you know what I mean.

So we're making a few compromises around here for now. I still insist on us sitting down at the table as a family every evening to eat our dinner, even if we do have to shovel everything in and hop back up 20 minutes later, and I still want us to eat well, both healthfully and mindfully, which means, of course, no entrees out of boxes and no over-cooked vegetables (a girl has to have her limits), but the bread won't always be from scratch anymore.

Most of my recipes are not conducive to eating on the fly, so I've been digging around for more time-conscious dishes lately and while some of them have been disappointing, we hit the jackpot when I came across a Tuna Melt recipe in a recent issue of Food & Wine. We're fans of hot sandwiches anyway, especially those that are gooey and oozy with melted cheese (be still my beating heart), but this one, which uses rich, tangy balsamic vinegar in lieu of mayonnaise in the tuna salad, and which adds a little sprinkle of crushed red pepper and fresh basil to brighten up that aforementioned gooey, oozy, melted cheese has turned into our new go-to dish on those crazy busy nights.

Actually, I could eat this sandwich any night of the week. This is tuna melt nirvana. And it's a silly kind of fast and easy, taking only about 20 minutes to throw together and lending itself pleasantly to a little bit of messiness in presentation. Just like my life right now.


OREGON TUNA MELTS (adapted from Food & Wine, serves 4)

Note: I have been using hoagie rolls from the deli, though I would prefer a ciabatta roll if given the, um, added time to bake fresh bread, but a little bit of hollowed out baguette would work just as well. Also, rather than using a panini press, which I don't have, I have instead been cooking these on a cast-iron grill pan, weighing them down with a heavy, pre-heated cast-iron skillet laid on top of the sandwiches while they cook.
  • Two 6-oz cans of tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ciabatta or hoagie rolls, split (see note above)
  • Dijon mustard and mayonnaise, for spreading
  • 6 oz Swiss or cheddar cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 Kosher dill pickles, sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick strips
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basis and crushed red pepper. Season with salt & pepper.
  2. Heat a grill pan, griddle or panini press.
  3. Spread mustard on the cut sides of four of the pieces of bread, and mayonnaise on the cut sides of the remaining four pieces. Divide the cheese amongst the pieces of bread (the cheese should be on both the top and bottom of the finished sandwiches). Spread the tuna salad on 4 of the pieces of bread and top with the pickles. Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with butter.
  4. Cook the sandwiches over low to medium heat (see note above) for about 5 to 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is browned. If bread is browning too quickly, reduce heat so the cheese has time to melt.
  5. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.


Shaye said...

Good one, thanks!

I'm in such a slump right now. This is perfect.

Lee said...

I don't eat fish but enjoyed your post just the same. :-) Mostly because I too insist on us sitting down as a family to eat dinner however hurried. In my neck of the woods that seems down right rare. Everyone seems to grab (ick) the golden arches on the go and people think I am nuts because we mostly cook from scratch.

Our quick night meal is usually a tad more plebian than your tuna melt though. Usually lentils with home made salsa stirred in and basmati rice. My kids call it LSR.

Holly said...

hey sarah! i'm so glad you've been posting more again! i was really missing your recipes and your wit!

this sounds like a really great recipe. i can't wait to try it!

you should totally get a twitter account and keep us updated day-to-day on your culinary adventures. could be fun!

Sarah Beam said...

Good idea, Holly. Consider it done.