Saturday, September 22, 2007

"California" Fruited Tuna Salad: Amazingly low fat

At our Athens international deli and catering business we have a felicitous relationship with the Athens-Clarke County Health Department. Most food establishments cringe at the thought of the unannounced visit by the health department to inspect the cleanliness of the kitchen, temperature of the fridges and freezers, and proper food storage. (In the Army, in which I spent three somewhat amused years, kitchen and sanitary inspectors were called "ham sniffers".) Certainly our kitchen gets inspected, but it is by the Department of Agriculture (who do double duty) because much of our market is geared to commercial products from the outside. Where we interact with the health department is frequently catering their healthy-eating workshops and seminars.

They want low-salt, low-fat food that nonetheless has taste and pizazz. To make the point, I guess, that "bariatric" (I love that word) and hypertensive therapy doesn't have to be a culinary calvary. A dish we served them last Friday was a fruited tuna "salad" that is a variant of one I tasted with a good friend in Los Angeles last year. Albacore tuna broken into small chunks and seasoned with red onion, horseradish, celery, dried cranberries, wine vinegar, black and hot pepper, and freshly diced apple are dressed with yogurt (in the low fat version) or with a little mayonnaise and sour cream in the more standard version. For the health department we serve the tuna salad with Ry-Vita crisp bread or in hollowed out tomatoes or on romaine leaves. The standard version makes great sandwiches, which sell well at our deli.

Here is the tuna salad in both versions, low fat first. I use the regular quantity of salt in the recipe, but if you are making low-salt tuna, simply reduce the salt.

"California" Fruited Tuna Salad Tim

(serves four for appetizer or sandwiches)

Low fat version

2 (6-ounce) cans white (albacore) tuna in water, drained
2 tablespoons red or white onion, minced
2 tablespoons celery, minced
3 tablespoons dried cranberries or golden raisins, chopped
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (not the creamed version)
1/2 of a medium-sized apple such as Granny, Fuji, or Gala, unpeeled, washed and wiped, cored, diced 1/4 inch
1 tablespoon wine or cider vinegar
3 squirts hot pepper sauce or a small pinch of cayenne
1/8 teaspoon (rounded) ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/4 cup plain whole-milk* or low-fat yogurt

Regular version

Identical to the low-fat version above, except:
In place of yogurt, use 2 tablespoons mayonnaise plus 2 tablespoons sour cream (I prefer the regular ingredients, but there are also low-fat or "lite" versions of them)

Optional accompaniments:

Grape tomatoes, if serving salad on a platter
Hollowed out tomatoes (lightly sprinkled inside with salt) for stuffing
Small leaves or half leaves of crisp romaine or bibb lettuce
Ry-Vita or other rye crisp bread or unsalted crackers
Bread or croissants for sandwiches (place several very thin slices of cucumber on each sandwich)

*Whole-milk yogurt in the quantity used adds very little fat compared to non-fat yogurt (the equivalent of 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil for this recipe, or about 10 calories per serving) but the taste of the yogurt is so good.

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