A Special Tuna Salad and Moroccan Market Food
by Victoria Challancin
Have you ever invited anyone over for tuna salad? Probably not. Neither had I until I included this unusual tuna dish as a part of a recent dinner party featuring Moroccan Salads. This version, which is a far cry from the tuna salad of my Mom (sweet pickle, celery, mayo, and hard-cooked eggs) and includes such North African spices as caraway and coriander seeds heated in oil and poured over the salad. And although I dabble with my tuna salads often (a current favorite includes olives, vinegar, mustard, and chile), this is by far the most interesting cold tuna dish I have ever made. And as a plus--everyone at the dinner loved it!
I found this recipe for a Tunisian Tuna Salad on the excellent Australian Women's Weekly site. When I visit the Middle East, I always make it a point to pick up several of the AWW's wonderful cookbooks. Paperback and portable, they are always packed with usable, original recipes. In fact, I think this is exactly how my nephew, who lives in Abu Dhabi, learned to cook--by just following AWW's lead!
To make the harissa-inspired dressing, caraway and coriander seeds are heated in a garlicky olive oil, then mixed with lemon juice and red wine vinegar and poured, while still warm, over the tuna salad. The flavors are subtle enough so that diners recognize that the flavors are exotic, but not exactly what they are. Truly, this dressing is a keeper--you can be sure I will use it again, probably over roasted vegetables or grilled seafood. AWW suggests you eat it with a fresh, crunchy bread or rolled up in pitta or lavash. They also suggest making it with fresh char-grilled tuna, which would be so yummy that I want to go on a search for some top-grade tuna steaks right now!
If you want to read more about what I have say about harissa, the spicy red-pepper paste beloved in North Africa, I wrote about it here and here.
Recipe: North African Tuna Salad with Harissa-Style Dressing
(Recipe from Australian Women's Weekly)
Cook's Notes: I omitted the anchovies in this recipe as I thought it would be fishy enough without them. The original recipe doesn't state whether to use tuna in water or oil; I opted for tuna packed in water because it is what I had on hand, but you can bet in North Africa oil-packed tuna would be the choice. Because I had other spicy dishes, I chose to omit the red chiles here, but they would be wonderful if included. Also, I used two cans of tuna and just made a bit more dressing--for this reason I used more mint, eggs, and olives than in the original recipe. Because I only have larger capers, not baby ones, I chopped them. The eggs can be quartered and put on top as I did, or chopped and included in the salad itself.
For the salad:
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or in quarters
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped finely (200g)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, chopped finely (380g)
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 large canned anchovy fillets, drained, chopped finely ( I omitted the anchovies)
10 pitted green olives, roughly chopped
2 red Thai chiles, seeded, chopped finely
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves (I doubled the amount--or more)
1 185g can tuna, drained, flaked
1 tablespoon baby capers, drained
Harissa style dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic clove, crushed or minced
1 heaping teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar
1 heaping teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly bruised in a mortar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
To make the dressing: Heat the oil in a small pan, add garlic and seeds; cook, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in juice and vinegar.
Combine ingredients in a medium bowl, including the eggs, unless placing them on top; drizzle dressing over salad, toss gently to combine.
The tuna salad after being tossed--can you see the tiny seeds?
Moroccan Market Foods
These photos are from my recent trip to Morocco. For more information about the groups I lead there each year or to be placed on my mailing list, contact me at email@example.com
Fresh goat's cheese, just like the one Anthony Bourdain overpaid for here ;-)
Dried figs on a string--for meat tagines
Don't get me started on the glory of Moroccan olives and olive oil--I wrote a five-part series on the olive harvest with tons of photos, starting here
Nopal cactus fruits (called tuna in Spanish), called "Berber Figs" in Morocco because they are cheaper than regular figs
A fruit and nut stand in Marrakech, where we stock up before heading out on the road
A Moroccan spice store--see which one is the most used!
Pickled vegetables--with harissa
Even the modern grocery stores, where we head to buy excellent Moroccan wines and other goodies, again before heading out on the road, have beautiful spice displays
Preserved lemons, chiles, olives, and more
One of many from my collection of chicken-store signs
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
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