Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Simple Summertime Eating:Italian Tuna and Parsley Salad

I have written before how much I enjoy being part of the Tecolote Farm CSA Basket community here in Austin. If I will take the time, if I will allow for the possibilities, each basket offers me deep nurture and sustenance, feeding me in several different ways.

I have been fed spiritually week to week, as I grow in my understanding and appreciation of my relationship to the physical world around me. Every basket is a complex and dazzling display of the myriad ways in which the energy of the sun is transformed into food. There is the old saying that we eat first with our eyes. As I simply sit and look at the vegetables from my basket each week, I am developing a deepening visual appreciation for all the colors, textures, shapes and sizes I encounter there.Tactilely, I am learning which plants invite my touch and which plants are armored in some way - better off handled with care. Some varieties of squash and cucumbers can come with a prickly exterior that quickly reminds a careless cook of the perils of grabbing without looking first.And yes, I am also fed literally - physically. One of the benefits, besides the supply of amazingly fresh, locally organically grown vegetables, is the newsletter and the online support group, both of which provide additional information about the produce, and past that, offer shared favorite ways to prepare meals incorporating the various ingredients we receive week to week.

Because let's face it - these vegetables are not there for us to look at - as gorgeous as they often are. They are ingredients, components, all parts of some future meal.So in the midst of what is an otherwise somewhat hectic week, I was especially tempted by the delightfully simple preparation offered online by one of our basketeers for "Italian Tuna and Parsely Salad". I decided to give in to that temptation and try the proposed dish out for lunch yesterday. I wasn't sorry.

Here is the recipe as offered:
Italian Tuna and Parsley Salad
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 can tuna
1 small red onion, finely chopped
lemon juice
olive oil
sea salt

Chop the parsley and the onion into small bits. Mix with tuna. Add several spoonfuls of fresh lemon juice, as much olive oil as you want, and sea salt. Mix it all together. Chill first or enjoy right away!
Our baskets offered us Italian flat parsley this week and I had a small red onion left from the week before. I made certain I had a can of tuna packed in olive oil on hand, bought an organic lemon, and I was all set.I also had on hand some non-Salmonella style grape tomatoes, and cucumber from this and past CSA baskets. I had dill umbrels from my garden as well so I decided to make the recipe as directed, taste it, and then add in the additional ingredients to stretch it a bit.

The recipe with it's simple combination of fresh green parsley, lemon, tuna, olive oil, onion, and sea salt is a delicious balance of richness and astringency. Just right for lighter summertime eating. After I added in a few chopped tomatoes, a liberal sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, chopped dill and a bit of chopped cucumber for additional "crunch", I was transported.I ate two thirds of this for lunch yesterday, plated on a bed of baby arugula. Delicious. I offered the last third, split into two mounds, each resting on its own small romaine leaf, as an amuse bouche prior to dinner last night. Again, just a wonderful balance of richness and astringency. With my liberal addition of black pepper, also a welcomed appetite stimulus. In Texas in June, the heat can often get the better of us, especially around dinnertime.

If you are avoiding mayonnaise as some (obviously deeply disturbed) folks are, then this is absolutely your true path to tuna salad happiness. If you love mayonnaise (as I and all completely normal people do), then this variation on tuna salad is simply one more way to enjoy a lighter meal during the summertime months, when, let's face it - most of us (read:ME) could use fewer calories while we bare more of ourselves to the world on a regular basis.

Would this taste any better on a Tuscan hillside than in an air conditioned west Austin home? Maybe. (Ok, probably!) If you are willing to help me personally test that theory I'd be happy to hear from you. Until then, try this wherever you are. And enjoy!

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