Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jicama Lime Tuna Salad - A New Twist On Tuna Salad

Friday was May Faire at our grandsons' school and parents, siblings and grandparents were invited to join in the festivities which included a picnic on the grounds, but you had to bring your own picnic.  Our second daughter and her sons were going to join in the fun also.  Since both daughter's have their hands full with small children, I told them I would make the picnic lunch to relieve them of the additional stress of preparing food.  Because, you know, I have lots of time now and I have been where they are.   Nothing like getting kids ready for school, getting there early, little ones to deal with AND having to prepare a picnic lunch.  That can put a stressful start on your day and Grandma likes to help them avoid that whenever possible.  It just makes life easier and the day more enjoyable for everyone.

The two older boys can be picky eaters and I knew I would have to prepare sandwiches for them that they would eat.  But, what about the adults?  I wanted something really good for us to eat.  There is a deli in our neighborhood that makes fantastic sandwiches and they are consistently voted best deli in Nashville.  One of the sandwiches they make is a jicama lime tuna salad and it is ever so good.  We all like that sandwich and I thought that I could replicate it.  

Do you like tuna salad?  I LOVE it and always have.  One of my fondest childhood memories is of riding the bus downtown with my mom and getting to eat at the Kresge's lunch counter.  It was really long and had stools that swiveled (awesome).  They were shiny chrome and had fancy decorative backs and red seats.  Everyone stood waiting for seats to open up and the lunch counter happened to be right next to the jewelry counter.  Now, if you don't know me well, you may not realize my great love and admiration for sparkly things - like cheap birthstone rings in all colors like they had at the Kresge's 5 and 10 jewelry counter.  We are not talking precious gems here, but costume jewelry that started at the cost of one thin dime back in the early to mid fifties.  There was nothing better than getting to peruse all the fabulous jewelry while you waited for a seat at the lunch counter.  I loved pressing my nose up against the glass, walking up and down taking in all the wonderful colors of the "glass" gems in that counter.  They could have been the crown jewels for all I knew.  Talk about a treat for a little girl with glitter in her veins, that was a great one!  Then, when seats opened up for all of us, we would get to sit at the counter and swivel back and forth while we waited for our toasted tuna fish salad sandwich - at least that is what I always ordered.  I can still see and taste it.

The sandwich came on square white sandwich bread (which we never had at home) and was toasted a lovely golden color and was sliced on the diagonal.   It was filled with wonderful tuna salad with a nice piece of leaf lettuce on it.  Don't ask me why tuna salad sandwiches at home were never quite as good as Kresge lunch counter tuna salad sandwiches, but I think it had something to do with the swivel seat and all that wonderful jewelry behind me.  Makes my heart swell just to think about it.

 I don't think kids today could ever understand the wonder of it all.  A trip downtown was so special, it was not like going to the mall.   We only went a few times a year, not every week.  We hardly ever ate out, so the Kresge's lunch counter was a really special treat and looking in all the windows of the stores downtown was unforgettable.   Riding the bus was the best ride ever, especially if I got to drop the money in.   How many of you have memories like that?  They are some of the best.

Anyway, I have always loved tuna salad and my goal was to replicate the jicama lime tuna salad they serve at Mitchell's.  It is not the tuna salad we grew up on, but it is so good with so many textures and flavors that are especially great for warm weather and a nice change from the "same old same old."

If you don't know what jicama is, it is a tuber that comes from Mexico and the taste and texture reminds me of a sweet water chestnut.  It has that awesome crunch that is a great alternative to celery.  You can find it in the produce section of your grocery store and it looks like a big brown turnip with white flesh inside.  I got one that was about the size of a big orange.  They can be quite big, just make sure they have a dry root and no soft spots.  You peel the jicama (pronounce the J like an H and the i like a short e - hecama), cut it into matchsticks and then dice so you have pieces of similar size.  I kept eating little pieces as I diced because it is so good.  Yum.

Here is what you need for this salad.  I  used 4 cans of albacore tuna because we had so many eating,  but you can reduce the amount to make less, just adjust the amounts of the other ingredients.

4 cans albacore tuna
1 medium/large jicama, peeled and diced
1 lime
chili powder
1 large shallot
mayonnaise  (I used mayonnaise with olive oil)
salt to taste

Dice the jicama and place in a bowl.  Squeeze the juice of one lime over the jicama.  It keeps it from turning brown and gives you some of the flavor for the tuna salad.  Sprinkle with chili powder and toss, making sure all the jicama pieces are coated with chili powder and lime.  Set aside.

Open and drain the cans of tuna.  Place in a bowl.  Dice the shallot in small pieces and add to the tuna.  Add the jicama.  Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of cumin.  I used about 3 heaping TBSPs of mayonnaise, use more if you want.  Mix all together.  Taste to see if you want to add more of any seasoning or salt.

I used whole grain pita pockets for our sandwiches because I have a thing about soggy bread - not a fan.  I put a couple of pieces of leaf lettuce in the pita pocket, filled it with tuna salad and added some chopped tomatoes and thinly sliced radishes to the top.  Just let me say, this is one fabulous sandwich!  What an awesome alternative to the tuna salad we grew up on.  There is a delicious depth of flavors that have a southwestern twist to them - chili powder, cumin, a hint of lime and crunchy, sweet jicama.  YUMMM!  Everyone agreed this salad was as good as Mitchell's!  Hooray!

Try this fabulous twist on a golden oldie, I think you will really like it.  I know we are going to eat a lot of it this summer.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

A trip to nostalgia now and then is good for the spirit.  Unknown


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