Saturday, August 10, 2019

Winner, Winner, Tuna Dinner!

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the idea (from the Toad& Co. blog/newsletter) of a Grilled Cheese Competition.  About that time my church was planning a missions trip to Guatemala and I suggested it as a fundraiser.  One of my comrades latched onto the idea, and although we never did use it, she kept it in the back of her mind.  Each year our church does SummerFest and this year they decided to change the format a bit and do dinners after the special speakers.  The aforementioned comrade saw her opportunity and pounced!  It didn’t take too much for us to convince the fun & fearless kitchen leader to make it part of the schedule.  And so it was that the “GLC Meltdown” was born. 

Originally scheduled for early June, a flood and subsequent building damage pushed the date for the “Meltdown” to the middle of July, on what just happened to be one of the hottest days of the year.  As I overheard someone say that evening, “We’re having a meltdown either way you look at it!”  The rules were quite simple: a name for your entry was required, make 2 sandwiches for judging, each entry was judged based on “creativity, presentation, and taste”.  Since I appropriated the idea, one might assume I had a submission just waiting for the go-ahead.  And even with the date being pushed, I was still down to the wire on figuring out what I would make.  I googled ideas, searched my local Aldi for cheeses (they have tons of great options), and still didn’t have anything that was striking my fancy.  With not much time I turned to my travels for inspiration.

While living DownUnder, I stumbled upon the delightful world of flavored tuna.  Spicy Chili, Mexican Style, Zesty Vinaigrette, Indian Curry, Teriyaki, Tomato & Basil, etc.  They were delicious, straight out of the can – just grab some crackers and scoop! 

Upon my return to the Southern Hemisphere I revisited this tasty past-time.  Those who are long-time readers might remember how my Taranaki house sit involved leftover foods.  Some of the items they left in their fridge were cheeses and one was goat cheese.  My last known experience with goat cheese was in France when I was about 17 and it left a bad taste in my mouth, both literally and figuratively.  However, I didn't want to waste perfectly good food (if it was indeed perfectly good), so I decided to give it a try before I threw it away.  Some hearty, whole-wheat bread, a small smear of goat cheese, and a hearty topping of Tomato Basil flavored tuna - pop it in the toaster oven... Surprise!  I rather enjoyed it.

This memory is what spawned my submission.  My only problem was that there is no Tomato Basil Tuna in the U.S.  Thanks to the world wide web I was able to find the ingredient list to a can from Australia, but without amounts of each ingredient my result would be quite unpredictable.  I decided to try Pinterest to see if someone else had already beaten me to it, but alas, I was on my own.  The closest I found was a recipe for Tuna and Tomato Pasta.  I took the additional ingredients and decided I would just wing it.  As my younger brother likes to remind me, I rarely follow a recipe exactly anyway.  Saturday night dinner was my test run, but I didn't write down how much I added of everything, so it was a one-of-a-kind dish (I made sure to save enough of the tuna for the competition the next day).  I tested four variations (amounts of goat cheese, the addition of mozzarella and provolone, and home made wheat bread) on my family and based on their votes I had my finalized entry.  The name of my entry, "Tasman Tuna Toastie" was finalized before the sandwich - yes, I enjoy alliteration. The Tasman sea separates Australia and New Zealand, and in both countries a sandwich that is grilled or melted is called a "toastie", so the name fit like a glove.

For me the competition was rather uneventful, I didn't truly feel as if I was competing - I just made a sandwich because I felt like I should.  I'm not very competitive as it is, so winning wasn't really on my radar (to be honest I thought I might be disqualified for a lack of cheese in my submission).  Once my sandwich had been delivered to the judges I took my extra sandwiches and gave them to those sitting at my table to taste.  Without telling them the name no one could figure out my ingredients.  Tuna and goat cheese weren't on their radar at all.  I then took a taste over to my comrade (although, at this point, she was not viewing me as a comrade but a foe).  She made several wrong guesses as well and then finally said "seafood" to which I replied, "tuna".  She rather enjoyed it, but I still assumed I was still out of the running.  I was shocked, and a bit incredulous, when they declared my sandwich the winner of the Golden Spatula Award.  I still feel bad that someone who really wanted to win didn't win, but I guess there's always next year...

Life's been busy, but I finally found time to recreate the recipe for the tuna - ENJOY!

Tomato Basil Tuna

2 cans (5oz/142g) tuna (I used 1 in water and 1 in oil)
3.5 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Basil
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Tbsp minced onion (I used dried)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
splash of white wine
~ In a small skillet, combine all ingredients and heat through. 

To make my entry, I buttered and toasted two pieces of Mack's Flax Bread™ by Silver Hills Bakery (but any hearty bread with a bit of crunch will do).  Next I topped one piece with a nice spread of goat cheese and a thick layer of tomato basil tuna.  Sprinkle on a bit of mozzarella for some extra creaminess and then top with the second piece of bread and melt everything in a skillet or on a griddle.  **At home I normally make these open-faced (no top piece of bread), so I put it in the toaster oven to melt everything.  The leftover tuna is even better the second day as all the flavors have time to marinate.

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