Grandpa’s Tuna Salad gets a Makeover

Due Insalate di Tonno 

Ah, Spring! Who can forget the sights and aromas of a glorious Spring morning? Well, try as we might, none of us who called the two-flat home will ever forget a few not so glorious Spring days — and I imagine our neighbors would say the same.

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, Grandpa’s retirement years revolved around his garden, although he always had various maintenance jobs to perform around the building, too. As a young boy, and later teen, one learned to make oneself scarce early in the morning or become part of the work crew. This was especially true in early Spring.

Grandpa sowed his seeds after consulting the lunar calendar and the Old Farmers Almanac. He needed no help with this and the process remains shrouded in mystery to this very day. No, Grandpa only called upon one or more of us boys when he needed muscle. In the Fall, we helped him clear all the old tomato plants and their support stakes before we turned over the soil. The only parts of the garden to escape this tilling were the lettuce and parsley patches. Those he covered in straw and it wasn’t unusual for us to have a bit of both with our Thanksgiving dinner.

Come the following year and the Spring Thaw, Grandpa would find one of us and, again, we tilled the garden, though this time no patch was left unturned. That was the easy part. You see, Grandpa was a firm believer in the power of manure to grow gigantic tomato plants.  (To his credit, there may be some truth to this. How many gardeners do you know that use old hockey sticks to support their tomatoes?) About the time of the tilling, he would ask if you wanted to go out to the farm with him. Grandpa had a farmer friend and how we kids loved going there.  After all, this was the same farm that had adopted our dogs, though they were always out running in the fields when we came to visit. Well, by the time we were old enough to till the garden, the jig was up as far as the dog tales were concerned.  We were, also, fully aware of why we were roped into offered the chance to accompany Grandpa on this particular trip to the farm.

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The fact was that the garden needed manure and not just any manure. Grandpa’s tomato crop depended upon this farm’s sheep manure. So, once each Spring, we drove out to the farm and, after a few pleasantries, we drove off with a large metallic tub of sheep manure in the trunk, making us very popular at traffic lights if the wind shifted just the right way. Once home, we hauled the tub to the yard but it didn’t end there. Oh, if only it ended there!

As it turns out, sheep manure, in its natural state, is too strong for young tomato plants and, even if it wasn’t, there was no way we could haul enough manure in a car’s trunk to cover Grandpa’s ever-expanding garden. Grandpa had a solution, all right, and it’s lucky that he was so loved by our neighbors.  Using a very large metallic bucket and a hose, Grandpa made “soup” — his label not mine — which was then spread over the tilled earth. A couple of days later, one of us would be called upon to till the garden again. Don’t think we didn’t try to avoid that call to action but we were on our own. Our parents had their eyes on the prize: a wealth of tomatoes come August. Any inkling that we didn’t want to help Grandpa was met with a  reminder that “work never hurt anyone” and suddenly we found ourselves asking Grandpa if he needed help.

All facts considered, it was one bad afternoon, leaving 364 pretty good ones. Thankfully, it was early enough in the year that the Spring rains helped to quite literally clear the air, much to everyone’s relief. Most fortunately, since the boys’ bedrooms were closest to the garden, rain and cold temperatures prevented anyone from even considering opening a window “to let in some fresh air.”  And the tomatoes? Grandpa’s plants were huge and the crop large enough for 2 families. Sheep manure soup. Who knew?

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At noon on any given Friday, save those that fell in Winter or manure week, you could find Grandpa in his patio enjoying his lunch. It was usually a simple dish and, being Catholic, it was, also, meat-free. A favorite of Grandpa, and later my own, was this simple tuna salad. Believe me, it could not get any more simple and no further introduction is required. 

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Grandpa’s Tuna Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 can (5 oz; 142 g) tuna, packed in olive oil, drained 
  • a bit of red onion, sliced or chopped
  • 2 whole anchovy fillets, more if desired
  • olive oil 
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Place the tuna on a serving plate. it can be flaked or left in a ring shape.
  2. Top with onion and anchovies.
  3. Sprinkle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
  4. Season with salt, & pepper, to taste
  5. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of homemade white wine.

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That’s it. Quick and easy but surprisingly satisfying. I enjoyed this dish as a boy and continue to enjoy it today. Even so, nothing remains the same forever. As much as I enjoy Grandpa’s tuna salad, I wanted to try something a little different and, so, I gave Grandpa’s version a makeover. Enter tuna salad number 2.

Whereas Grandpa’s tuna rested on a plate, the foot of my salad rests on a bed of mixed salad greens. Rather plainly dressed, Grandpa’s tuna was clothed with just onion, salt, pepper, and oil & vinegar. My new tuna salad is adorned with capers, onion, salt, pepper, olive oil, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Most importantly, Grandpa’s tuna came to him by way of a can. My tuna skipped the middleman, taking a more direct route to my plate via a grill pan.

Now, to many, it isn’t really a makeover if there is no reveal. Not wanting to disappoint, here’s mine. On the right, you’ll see Grandpa’s original tuna salad and, on the left, may I present the new and “refreshed” tuna salad.

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It wouldn’t benefit anyone if I didn’t explain how this transformation took place. Here, then, is how the makeover specialists of the Bartolini Kitchens performed this miracle.

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Grandpa’s New & Improved Tuna Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tuna steak per serving
  • mixed salad greens
  • 1 tsp capers per serving, more if desired
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • lemon wedges for serving
  • whole anchovy fillets (optional)

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Directions

  1. Place salad greens in a large bowl. Add onion & capers, dress with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, season with salt & pepper, and toss to combine. Set aside.
  2. Heat the grill pan over med-high heat. Lightly coat the tuna steak with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. When the grill is hot, moisten a (paper) towel with vegetable oil and use it to lightly coat the grill surface.
  4. Add the tuna steak to the grill pan. After 90 seconds, use a fish turner to give the steak a quarter turn.
  5. Cook for 60 to 120 seconds and then flip the steak over.
  6. After cooking for 60 seconds, give the steak a quarter turn. Continue cooking the steak for 60 to 90 seconds and remove from heat.
  7. Move tuna steak to a cutting board. Cutting with the grain, carve slices no less than 1/4 inch (2/3 cm) thick.
  8. Place salad on the serving plate and arrange tuna slices atop the salad. Garnish plate with lemon wedges and optional anchovy fillets.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a white wine of your choosing.

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Variations

Although my tuna steak rested atop a bed of baby salad greens, you may choose whatever greens you prefer — baby spinach, baby kale, and rocket come to mind.

I chose to dress my tuna salad with a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, reserving a little juice for the tuna, as well. You may wish to use another dressing, such as the lemon-caper sauce I shared within my grilled sturgeon recipe post.

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Notes

I used a grill pan here but you could just as easily use your barbecue, broiler, or skillet to cook your tuna steak. Just resist the urge to move the steak until it’s time to turn it.

Cooking times, as you’ve probably noted, are anything but precise. The pan, the heat, and/or the tuna steak’s thickness all play a role. Remember, too, that the steak will continue to cook once it has been removed from the fire, as well as while you fiddle with a camera, trying to take photos for a blog entry. (#%*@^#&$!)

100_3954Whether you call it tinned or canned, whether it’s packed in oil or water, and whether it’s chunk or whole, please make sure that the tuna you’re about to purchase was harvested in ways that will not harm dolphin populations. The symbol located to the right, or something similar, should be found on the can. If it’s not there, please do not purchase that tuna.

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It’s déjà vu all over again

freshly-made

Freshly made mascarpone

A little over a year ago, I was in the middle of my cheese-making series when I shared the recipe for making mascarpone. Though widely known as the star ingredient in tiramisu, mascarpone is so much more than that, Whipped and flavored, this creamy cheese makes a wonderful dessert topping, while adding it to pasta gives new meaning to the words “cream sauce.” Best of all, mascarpone is a snap to make with results far better than you can imagine. But don’t take my word for it. You can see how it’s done by clicking HERE.

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 Coming soon to a monitor near you … 

Frittata

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154 thoughts on “Grandpa’s Tuna Salad gets a Makeover

  1. Lovely story John – I guess it was like doing your taxes once a year! You know it’s a drudge and it’s coming, but oh the return makes it all worthwhile! 🙂 Your tuna salad looks great, but you know what? I think I’d almost prefer your nonno’s – the tinned tuna and anchovies has a certain appeal. Thanks for sharing both the recipes with us! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Celia. I’ll have to mention your comment about taxes to the ret of the “muscle.” I’m sure i’ll get more than a few smiles in reply. And I do agree with you. I enjoy Grandpa’s salad far more times than I do the updated. It’s just so quick and easy, perfect for a fast lunch.

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  2. I hit the like button on the post in the reader and then came to read the wonderful story of your beloved grandfather and his sheep manure soup. I know my sister will love those anchovies!
    Looking forward to the frittata and like your enticing preview photo. Your new blog post is my reward for not being able to sleep in the middle of the night. Fun to watch it come up.

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    • Thank you and I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Ruth. I hope your Sister will, too.
      I have noticed that you sometimes comment pretty late, especially considering you’re in EDT. With your work & travel schedule, I don’t know how you do it. I know this will be a late night for me, trying to get caught up, but I’ve not much planned for tomorrow. That’s a big difference. So, if you’re reading this after midnight, go to bed! 🙂

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  3. What a fantastic story… and I laughed as I could relate to the dog tales… I was in my mid twenties before the light dawned about my Dad’s version of a long line of our dogs “running away”… ignorance is bliss. But your tuna salad and your Grandpa’s is also bliss. I usually consume a couple of tins of tuna a week as a workday lunch, so I do get the beauty and simplicity of it as an ingredient. Fresh tuna takes it to a whole other level 🙂

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    • Thank you, EllaDee. Let’s face it, our parents were messing with us from Day One. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, dogs on the farm. Ignorance is bliss, indeed! You’re also correct about the salads. I very often enjoy Grandpa’s salad but, every once in a while, It’s nice to get a little more fancy. And, truthfully, either way I’ll think of Grandpa while I dine. 🙂

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  4. I could not have cared less if you had not posted a recipe: your family story rang so loudly true and was so much fun my smile should have been on camera!! Uhuh, got some own ‘roped in’ stories myself, don’t we all 🙂 ? That said, oh the recipe? Obviously ‘my kind’ of dish! Loved both versions . . . actually, John, may I pay homage to your Grandpa tho’ both are lovely? Fast and tasty and light on the pocketbook! Frittata: that will be a fun one 😀 !

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed today’s post, Eha. Grandpa was a larger than life character and I’ve just begun to tell his story, though I have shared the recipes for a few of his favorite dishes. I happen to love his tuna salad because it’s so quick to make. Pasta is my “go to supper”; Grandpa’s tuna my “go to lunch.” And a frittata? That’s what results when I clean out the refrigerator. 🙂

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  5. Always love reading about the family history, John. Thanks for sharing another wonderful story. I may be reminded of this next time I have lamb soup 😉
    I do a similar makeover of salade nicoise to include grilled fresh tuna rather than the canned variety. It basically means adding tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs to your recipe. Sometimes haricots verts and potatoes are included, too.

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    • Thanks, Stefan. With 12 of us living under the same roof, there are plenty of stories to tell. If I’ve forgotten any, someone is sure to remind me. In fact, it was my Cousin who reminded me of the “soup.” That makes sense since, as the oldest, he was the first enlisted to help Grandpa and served the longest tour of duty. We younger kids had it easy, in comparison. Yes, I’ve been served more complex tuna salads and enjoyed them. I kept this simple to mirror the simplicity of the original. Zia would never approve of a salad that was too fancy. 🙂

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      • You can leave it to the French to make it more fancy, that’s true. Although the tuna salad we got served as antipasto at the hotel the airline put us in the other day after our flight to Pantelleria had been cancelled was just canned tuna with olive oil, full stop. I would have enjoyed a bit of tomato with that.

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  6. Bonjourno John! I don’t think I would want to be down wind of you driving behind your truck…I’m sure you were real popular at school that week. However everyone was friends again as soon as those tomatoes were in season. This story made me laugh so hard as it reminds me of some of the absurd family traditions that we all “enjoyed” so much… I like both of your salads as there is no mayo. I like the light taste of just the real flavors not sweet miracle whip contaminating the flavors of the ingredients.
    So how is that Michigan weather lately? Are you enjoying all 4 seasons in 24 hours? I heard it is still snowing in some places. You have to love Michigan… about 8 months of winter and 3 months of orange barrel and mosquito season… I am sure nothing has changed since I left. Do they have all the expressways torn up yet or is the ground still too frozen? Take Care, BAM

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    • Buona notte, BAM! You would not have wanted to be anywhere downwind of us during that ride home and, once we finished the tilling, we were hosed off before we were let into the house. Still, Grandpa’s garden produced more tomatoes than all of the neighbors’ gardens combined. Hard to argue with success.
      You do remember our Spring/Summer well. Michigan’s weather is very much the same as ours has been. Glimpses of Spring but only that. Temperatures are about 15˚ below normal and with more rain than usual. After last year’s drought, the rain is a blessing but it would be nice to have some warm weather, too. Work on the freeways will be started in ernest in a couple week. It makes my traveling home a real joy. 🙂 Have a great weekend, BAM!

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  7. Thank you for yet another delightful story. It is always such a pleasure to read good writing and a post that relies on words rather than images (although your pictures are beautiful too).

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  8. I liked your manure story, it made me smile. It also made me remember (fondly) all the times I’ve helped my own grandfather with his garden. And as with yours our tomatoes were our prized crop. I like your makeover salad. I love grilled tuna steaks and especially fresh, sushi grade tuna which you can eat very rare! Nice makeover. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Laura, I’m glad this post reminded you of your Grandfather. How they loved their tomato plants! ANd we, of course, reaped the benefits. I agree about the sushi grade tuna. In fact, I would have preferred the one pictured to be a bit more rare. For that, I would have needed a photography assistant. Still, it wasn’t cooked so much that the steak was ruined — and for that I’m very thankful!

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  9. I was just telling my husband that I am making a tuna salad for lunch today when I say the email about your post!
    I love your modified tuna salad recipe John but sadly I only have tinned tuna so I am going to use that for today.
    I can’t believe it’s been a year since you posted your cheese series! time does fly!
    Your grandfather reminds me of my grandmother, only she spent her days in the orange orchard they had. “Volunteering” to help with water meant a day spent from dawn directing water from one tree to the next. Doing it for a day or two on a vacation was fine, doing it on a weekly basis was hard work to say the least. But like your story, any crop grown with such love and devotion is unparalelled by any thing you can buy

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    • Thank you, Sawsan, and I’m happy to learn this story brought your Grandmother to mind. I remember you telling us of your trips to their orchards. There’s much more work to them than just waiting to pick the fruit. Few things can compare, though, with the satisfaction that comes when enjoying fruit or vegetables that you’ve grown yourself. And yes, it was last March when we made mascarpone. My how time flies! I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.

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    • Ah! Then you do know exactly what I was describing. You have my sympathies — even if I am grinning ear-to-ear. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the recipes. Good luck in the days ahead. Sending positive thoughts your way. 🙂

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  10. My grandpa would have loved your grandpa. He was a farmer by profession and liked nothing more than learning about tips and tricks to a bumper crop. I don’t believe anyone in my family ever used hockey sticks to stabilize their tomatoes so your grandpa’s special “soup” was clearly the key to success. I would happily tuck into either of your fresh and light tuna salads John. Now I am smiling thinking about both of our beloved grandpas.

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    • Thank you, Barb, and I’m glad you not only like the recipes but that this post brought back happy memories of your Grandpa. Yes, it sounds like our 2 Grandpas would have gotten along very well. We played hockey year-round, so, there was a never-ending supply of cracked and broken hockey sticks for Grandpa to use. Even so, there were a few times when a “good” stick ended up in the garden, by mistake of course. 🙂

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  11. Beautiful simplicity in Grandpa’s salad, elegance in yours. As with the others – loved the story of the sheep poop soup, and I imagine the tomatoes loved it!

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    • Thanks, Dave. Both are great salads but I do enjoy Grandpa’s far more frequently. It’s just so quick and easy to prepare. And judging by the size of his vines and tomatoes, I’d say those plants really did love that soup. 🙂

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  12. A wonderful story, very descriptive in the telling. It brought a smile to the start of my morning. I love both ways to prepare the tuna salad. It is a great dish for spring and summer.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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  13. Oh dear. If only he believed in just digging a hole and dumping the load into it! When Carl and I bought a house by the beach (many years ago), it was overlooked by a block of units so I bought some shrub type things and some bags of horse manure you could buy in sacks from a stall on the side of the road where they kept many, many horses. I put the sacks in the boot of the car and there was a very ripe smell that took some weeks to disappear (It was Carl’s car and he was furious). I dug holes for the dung with a tea towel tied over my mouth and nose and then planted the bushes and they grew like weeds. In no time we had all the privacy we needed. And to think those sacks of horse manure only cost $2.00 each! If only that place still existed I’d be back there like a flash xx

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    • I’ve no idea, Charlie, if people here use manure like Grandpa once did. I think compost is the new manure. And remembering the smell in Grandpa’s car, I can certainly understand why Carl was not as thrilled with your purchase as you were. 🙂

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    • Yes, Susan, it’s an “evocative” image, all right, one that’s seared into our memories. Add it to all of the other memoires, though, and we had a very rich life together. 🙂

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  14. Oh, that was a wonderful story to read! Phil used to fill the bed of our pick up truck (yes, the full bed of the pickup truck) with mulch that was given away for free in our town in Oklahoma. Ok, it did not smell as bad as sheep’s manure, but it was bad enough and in that amount it really made it for a tricky drive back home… Twice I helped him spread it all around the garden, and had to ask myself “did I marry the right person?” – (I know I did, but wow! What a price to pay for happiness! 😉

    I will take the New and Improved Version of Grandpa’s salad – perfect!

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    • Yes, Sally, mulch may not be as bad as manure but is certainly isn’t much of an improvement. I think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what I was describing. You’re not alone, either. Quite a few others in the Comments have shared similar tales. Who knew? 🙂

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    • Thanks, Marie. I can’t tell you home many times I saw Grandpa eat his salad in the yard somewhere and, for that matter, how many times I’ve eaten it here in my yard. It’s perfect for those warm Summer days when I don’t feel like warming up the kitchen to make lunch.

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  15. Well who knew sheep manure is the best for tomatoes! I love how your dogs were “roaming the fields” thats priceless! What a fond memory John! And you know, the salad is pretty good too! Tuna is one of my favorites. And I forget to use capers, although I love them!

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    • Well, maybe some other manure would work better but, thank heavens, Grandpa wasn’t doing any testing to compare results. 🙂
      Thank you, Tanya, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and recipes. Now, don’t forget the capers!

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    • Thanks, MD. I really do like them both but have the original salad much more frequently. It’s much easier to prepare and, frankly, a fraction of the cost of sushi-grade tuna. 🙂

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  16. Hockey sticks and sheep manure! So that’s the secret! I actually love both versions of the salad (one is easier!) And love the no-mayo. Don’t need to mask the taste of the tuna!

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    • Thank you, Claudia. You certainly cannot argue with Grandpa’s results. His plants and tomatoes were huge! He did, however, sometimes grab a couple good hockey sticks for use in the garden — by “mistake” of course. And you’re certainly right about mayo. It’s not needed — nor welcome — here.

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  17. Oh this is such a fabulous story! I did chuckle when I read the bit about the farm being the one where “the dogs went” and how they always seemed to be out running in the fields. I laughed even harder when I read about the manure as (yes, you guessed) my dad did the same in our little London garden, as did my godmother who lived next door. Luckily we too had tolerant neighours who put up with the stink for however long it too to die down. My little bedroom was at the top of the house but overlooking the garden and my windows stayed firmly shut for a while then 🙂 Lovely salad, reminded me of being on the beach in the summer in Italy and this was the sort of thing the aunties prepared for the children after spending too much time in the water late afternoon and emerging shivering and hungry – it kept us going until “la cena”. I am sure your nonno would have loved your new version too…but no doubt he still wuuld have told you his version was the best 😉

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that it brought back some great memories for you but, of course your Dad used manure in the garden. Any Italian family that combined the yards of 2 neighboring homes to create a huge garden is sure to have used manure! As a girl, though, I’m sure you weren’t allowed to help. No this was “Man’s Work.” Funny. When we heard an adult talk about something being “Man’s Work,” we knew something disgusting was in store for us boys. 😉
      The beauty of Grandpa’s salad is that it can be prepared in minutes virtually anywhere, without fear of anything spoiling. You’re right, too. Grandpa would have pronounced his salad better — and I’m fine with that.

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  18. Love the crocus.
    Ours are still buried under snow and I think they even froze it has been so cold here. And I love this tuna. What a pleasant comfort food. Often the simplest things spark our memories. If only working in the garden would be so simple. But what it produces sounds fabulous!

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    • Thanks, Abbe. I’m sure there are prettier flowers but nothing beats the sight of seeing the first crocus in bloom each Spring. To me, it’s almost magical.
      I must say, I’ve been surprised to see how many memories these recipes have brought to mind. They’re a wonderful benefit.

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  19. Beautiful opening Spring shot, John, and what a great story about your grandfather! I’m intrigued by his sheep manure soup and wonder if it might have the power to grow tomatoes even without much sun? Hmmm. Also wonder if Celi has tried this method since she has lots of raw material to work with! At any rate, I know it was an odious job in some ways for you as a child, but what rewards, both in the bounty and the memories. 🙂 At first I was quite sure I would like the looks of the fresh tuna salad more than the canned, but the truth is, they both look really wonderful and tasty!

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    • Thanks, Betsy. I know Grandpa’s “soup” worked miracles but I don’t know if it’s strong enough to overcome the dark. 🙂 Yes, Celi has mentioned she may give this soup a try. Somewhere Grandpa is smiling. Like you, I like both salads, though I prepare Grandpa’s far more frequently. It just so quick and easy to prepare. And for such a simple dish, it sure is packed with flavor!

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  20. Since I am fairly new to your blog, I have missed out on your family stories. Grandpa sounds like a hoot! They are such wonderful souls and you can’t but admire their ways, tips and tricks. My grandpa was a gardener too and his house in India was filled with tropical trees and plants. However, I was lucky enough to enjoy the spoils because we only came on vacation, wonder if he used sheep manure soup?
    I love your new version of the salad but your grandpa’s is the one I eat at home. I like tinned tuna, specially good imported one in olive oil.
    Thanks for a lovely story John, the recipe was a bonus!

    Nazneen

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    • Thank you so much, Nazneen for your kind words. My Grandpa was a true larger than life character. Yes, Ive already shared some stories of him and my family but there are plenty more to come. With 112 of us living under 1 roof, that well is far from dry. 🙂 I bet your Grandpa’s home was beautiful, filled with so many pretty tropical plants and flowers. It must have been something to see.
      Of the 2 salads, I eat the tinned tuna far more regularly — and it costs a fraction of the other. 🙂

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  21. Growing up on a farm, there was no getting out of work, which was simply part of life. My dad took care of ‘fertilizing’ the garden each year with the goat manure we were so rich in, but we were in charge of barn cleaning. I imagine barn cleaning was quite similar to the dread of sheep manure ‘soup’, though our neighbors were too far away to need to protest. Once you get a foot or so beneath the upper crust with a pitch fork, well, there’s just nothing quite like it, and you learn quickly it is not a mid-summer job–procrastinating on barn cleaning only happened once.
    Great story, as usual, and I like your makeover Tuna Salad, though I understand why you liked your grandpa’s too — food often feeds our memories as much our bodies. Sometimes I still miss the mayonnaise sandwiches I would eat with my dad. 🙂

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    • I don’t know, Judy. Not that I’ve done or even witnessed it, I have to think that barn cleaning is worse than sowing soup, so to speak. Then, too, we 5 boys were, in a sense playing a game of Russian roulette, trying to avoid being the one Grandpa saw and enlisted. We had a 1 in 5 chance of being picked. You had no such luck. You are right about the memories making the canned tuna salad more enjoyable. I start reminiscing in the grocery when I pick out the can of tuna packed in olive oil. 🙂

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  22. Oh, I don’t know John, both versions sound good 🙂 I’d probably go with the revised version though. Such mouth watering photos! And I love the first one of the flowers too, it’s gorgeous. They’re all perfect with this much-needed story too. I really love this entire post, it puts me just the mood I want to be in right now. Yep, just what I needed…

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    • Thanks, Sarah, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and if it helped brighten things a bit, all the better. Both salads are good, though one is a bit fancier than the other. I prefer Grandpa’s for lunch or a quick Summer’s dinner. The updated version is something I serve for dinner, often with guests. Either way, though, I’m happy. 🙂

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  23. Great story! I loved it. I need to find a sheep farm so my tomatoes really take off. 😉 And I like both versions of tuna salad! I’d make your grandpa’s for a quick lunch (love the anchovy garnish!). And yours when I felt like something a bit fancier. Fun post, two excellent recipes – thanks.

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    • Thanks, John. These Grandpa-related posts are always fun to write and get a great response from family members. Each one triggers another round of memories and his tomatoes were like his “other” grandchildren — the spoiled ones. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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  24. What beautiful memories you have John. And experiences that not many these days will have. My grandmother, too, had a special tuna salad – but without the anchovies. Your new version certainly looks tempting 🙂

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    • Thank you, Colline. I bet your Grandmother’s tuna salad was special, too. None of us realized it at the time but we had a very special home life, being raised together in that two-flat. As time has passed, I grow to appreciate it more and more.

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    • I’ve had some (&^*&^) WP problems and am just getting around to my own blog…
      I saw your post, Roger, and that salad looked fantastic. You and Grandpa would have gotten along just fine, though you may have needed help leaving the back yard. Most men did. 🙂

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    • There are only a few photos of them, unfortunately. Like so many things, we took them for granted. How I wish we hadn’t. School was the only excuse one could use to get out of helping Grandpa and was of no use whatsoever in Summer. 🙂

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  25. What absolutely wonderful memories of your grandfather’s time in the garden, John. I can almost see him myself! There was something so wise about the way that generation took time in the garden. Perhaps it was the sense of patience that accompanied understanding the requirements of the seasons. I noted he consulted the Farmer’s Almanac. I wonder if others do that today? I also chuckled at the idea of you boys figuring out that your dogs weren’t really at the farm. Such a story of family and the innocence of a time that I don’t think exists today. I like how you took your grandfather’s simple lunch and gave it a twist of sophistication, yet it still feels like a little piece of him. One thing you and I share very deeply, John, is a strong sense of family that goes back to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…I feel like you share the richness of those experiences in a way that truly warms me with my own memories, too.

    Now I’m popping back over to the mascarpone. I’ve decided I’m not really very brave with the idea of making cheese, but I’m going to involve me future daughter-in-law…she’s the adventurer in the kitchen! 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Debra. Grandpa was a larger than life character and we’ve all got favorite memories of him. I really enjoy telling his story and am glad that each is so well-received. Yes, we do share a respect for family and our roots but I fear we’re a dying breed. I could be wrong for I wasn’t always so interested. I hope so, anyway.
      Now, you really have to get over your fear of cheese making. Mascarpone and Ricotta are really the easiest to make. You and your Granddaughters could make one on an afternoon and have a good time doing so. Trust me. 🙂

      Like

  26. Such a nice story about your Grandpa! I grew up in a city so I never really saw anyone in my family grow anything, except curry leaves and bananas. My mom-in-law has a kitchen garden and she grows a lot of veggies- tomatoes included. And I do not blame you for wanting to get away from the ‘soup.’ I love this deconstructed tuna salad. Tuna is so great on it’s own, why douse it in mayo?

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    • Thank you for commenting. How different could our worlds be? In your climate, your family grew bananas and we grew tomatoes in ours. We boys were pretty good at avoiding Grandpa and his chores, until our parents stepped in. After that, we were his to use any way that he needed. 🙂

      Like

  27. John, that story made me smile all the way through. Couldn’t help but think that must have been a long drive home with your stash in the trunk. My grandmother often put me to work as a girl in her garden. She grew rhubarb, herbs, tomatoes, et al. Whatever, the climate and the soil would allow in Nova Scotia. Thankfully there was no “soup” involved. I have an aversion to such a like and would have needed a clothespin or possibly a gas mask to perform my job. Tuna salad is one of my go to’s during the week for dinner during the summer. My mom sends us a case of hand packed tuna from Oregon several times a year so rarely in short supply.

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    • Thanks, Susie, I’m glad you like today’s tale. Grandpa wasn’t an ogre, especially with us kids. If we just couldn’t do something, that was fine. There was always another chore to be done. Tilling the garden was a couple hour job. Panting the arbors and such could take a weekend. And there was always cement to be mixed and carted for some project. We learned that if you could, it was always wisest to take the first job offered. Door Number 2 was never the Princess. 🙂

      Like

  28. You’re so funny, grandpa’s “soup” & salad. That bluish red tuna steak looks so succulent and then when it’s seared with the rare inside it’s just as beautiful. The simple lemon vinaigrette with capers & onions sounds like a perfect companion to rich tuna and fresh greens. I’ve been on a salad kick myself lately, it makes spring seem just that much more real, no?

    Like

    • Ah! You caught it and the only one who did! Soup & salad. 😉
      I like both salads and tuna seared like that cannot be beat. Although there are many ways to prepare fish steaks, simple works best for me. And I agree, Cam. Something about Spring makes me crave salads more. I want to see green outdoors and on my plate, too.
      BTW, I made your crispy pork dish again tonight. I really do like it and this is getting embarrassing! 🙂

      Like

  29. Once again, you bring back great memories! I grew up in a Montreal neighbourhood that was VERY Italian. Every springtime, the smell of manure was everywhere!! And my dad didn’t just stop with his garden… he would cover the entire lawn with that #&?! I don’t know if grass and the shrubs/bushes around the property were as precious to your grandfather as they were to my dad, but look out if you accidentally kicked your ball into the plants/shrubs/bushes!!! I am quite familiar with your grandfather’s tuna salad, but would much rather have your revamped tuna salad anytime! Every time!! Beautiful!

    Like

    • Thanks, Lidia, and I’m glad this post brought back memories of your Dad. Grandpa didn’t worry much about the laws. We boys took care of that, for the most part. Besides, I thinkMom & Zia would have stopped him from giving soup to the lawns. We kids played on them and I can only imagine the mess the 6 of us would have been. You are right about an errant ball in his tomatoes, though. The ball was bad enough but getting caught trying to retrieve it was worse. And he seemed to catch us every time! I enjoy both salads, Lidia, though I prepare the canned salad more frequently purely because of convenience.

      Like

  30. I’ve never been good with making tuna. And I’m always skeptical of eating other peoples tuna. But yours looks wonderful and so appetizing. And let’s not go there with your Frittata. I can’t wait until your next post.. I just can’t wait 🙂

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  31. Ah! What a great post! Not only does this tuna salad look amazing, but I loved hearing all the family history behind it. Thank you for sharing. I am glad I found your blog!

    Like

  32. I’m sure the manure does magic for his garden but I can’t stomach that smell –ick! Lovely story though. Simplicity is great at times but I prefer your version of the tuna salad. I personally prefer fresh tuna fish vs canned. Great post John!

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    • Thanks, Anne. I wish I could say that one would get used to the smell but that would be a lie — the same lie we were told to get us to till that garden. Although I like them both, these are 2 tuna salads for 2 totally different uses. The canned tuna makes a great 10 minute lunch of a hot Summer’s day. The seared tuna would work for dinner on that same day. 🙂

      Like

    • Thanks, Liz. You’re right. I’ve been surprised more than once when a recipe has conjured up long forgotten memories and in our house, so many dishes are tied to individuals. I’d never sen it that way until I started the blog. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Liz.

      Like

    • Aw, thanks, Maureen. You’re very kind. Call it what you like, I’m surprised how many people knew of this magic elixir. At the time, we kids thought we were the only ones on the planet to be punished so. 🙂

      Like

  33. Love your story John and it reminds me so much of my childhood. My parents had a huge garden and every spring we all went through the same process. I have to laugh though because I now live in a very small farming community outside of Boston. At town meeting we passed a “right to farm” bylaw because plenty of city folks thought our little town was perfect until they built their McMansions beside working farms. As you can imagine they were quite horrified come springtime and started with petitions to stop the manure. These are farms that have been in the same families for hundreds of years so needless to say the “right to farm” easily passed and now realtors are required to explain what that means to prospective newcomers…keep your windows closed in the spring or find a different town.
    That’s a lovely tuna lunch – I’d go for it either way but really do love fresh tuna.

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    • I just mentioned how surprised I am to learn how many others knew of this elixer for the garden. It never ceases to amaze me when people move to rural areas for the quiet, the clean air, country living, etc., and then go about trying to change it when it doesn’t suit them. You want to live among farms? You have to smell the manure. 🙂 And we’re in total agreement about the turna.

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  34. Beautiful post John. I love that you and your grandad were able to lurch from pleasantries to poop scooping. Straight down to business! My vote goes to the new and improved tuna salad and yes – nothing gets the juices flowing faster than having to photograph your own dinner.

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    • Thank you, Saskia. Grandpa was determined and had a job to do. He had soup to make. 🙂 As for the photos, I cannot tell you how many cold dinners I’ve served myself because I found fault in each photo that I shot. Thank goodness I eat alone. I cannot imagine a dinner mate having to wait for me to get “the shot.”

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  35. I remember that clock so well! And thinking why did Nona make brownies and leave them in the hallway going up. Only to find those where Grandpa’s plant starters

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    • You and Grandpa would have gotten along great. He would have visited your garden whenever he saw you there and invited you to come to his, offering advice the entire time. Just don’t let one of your tomatoes ripen before his. That was sacrilege!

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  36. I love how much time and care you put into each of your posts John. They are always so eloquent and detailed. I feel like I’m right there with you…in this case I’m glad that it didn’t include a sense of smell. 😉 We got some mulch one year that had manure mixed in…without realizing it. I had the windows open that day and did not enjoy the smell of the house very much. I would certainly enjoy either one of these tuna salads – but the refreshed version is making me drool!

    Like

    • That’s very kind of you to say, Kristy, and I appreciate your comments. mI, too, used manure bags one year and, let me tell you, they’re bad but nothing like the real thing. And the less said about that, the better! 🙂
      With all of the meat posts lately, I’m glad that you liked this one. The fresh tuna salad is special, all right, but you can’t beat the canned tuna when you need a quick bite for lunch.

      Like

  37. Nothing, but nothing, can beat sheep or cow manure for gardens. My parents love cow manure for their vegetable garden and the “fragrance” really doesn’t last that long. The fact that your grandfather used HOCKEY STICKS for tomatoes says it all.

    Favourite Husband will love the revised tuna salad, although the original version looks tasty too. Thanks for posting the flowers, too! They’re so fresh and lovely.

    Like

    • I have to agree with you about the manure. You can’t argue with success, though we boys would have to occasionally check his tomatoes to see if he “mistakenly” took a good stick or three. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Either salad has its place. The canned tuna is for a quick lunch and the seared tuna is a bit more fancy. I like them both, 🙂

      Like

  38. I have to fess up and say I wasn’t expecting gardening tips from you John! But your Grandpa was on the money, poo soup! Or as we call it round here a “tea” I do the same every year on the allotment, manure whatever the animal is too rich and will burn young plants, but left to brew…. aaahhhh now there’s a fine brew.
    And as it’s Friday and I’m off into Hastings to shop, anchovies will now feature somewhere on the menu this weekend 🙂 Hope you have a super weekend John!

    Like

    • Well, an independent expert’s opinion to back up Grandpa’s field tests. The next time I write about Grandpa’s soup, may I quote you? 🙂
      I’m running far behind here and the weekend is past. I hope you hade a good one and that your week ahead is even better, Claire.

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  39. I have to agree with your grandfather – my prettiest and most prolific gardens were the years that I did all of my fertilizing with manure tea. It’s works! Great story John! I love the transformation with the tuna salad! One can’t beat a good tuna steak and I love what you’ve done with it! Have a great weekend!

    Like

    • Thanks, MJ, for giving yet another testimonial for manure tea/soup. I’d no idea so many had experience with it. At the time, we kids thought we alone in the world suffered so. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the makeover salad. I hope you had a good weekend and have a great week!

      Like

  40. Your grandfather must have been such a wonderful person. I’m sure you have great memories about the time you spent with him. You know I’m not a fish eater but tuna is really popular in my house and, in particular, tuna by Cento. What a coincidence! So far it is the best brand that I found in the United States.
    Your nonno’s recipe is the way they like it in my house 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, Francesca. Yes, Grandpa was a real character and we all have many fond memories of him and his garden — well, except for the manure soup. 😉 I, too, like Cento tuna. It seems a higher quality and is one of the few still packed in olive oil. Our families do have a lot in common. 🙂

      Like

  41. I once lived in the country, downwind of a dairy farm (where they had a manure soup pond), and down the road on the other side was a chicken farm. Chicken manure was by far the most deadly, but I’m not sure if it could win out against sheep soup!

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    • Well, in the plus side, Kathleen, this was a temporary, once a year event and not at all like living downwind of 2 farms. There are dairy farms in the area around where my Zia lives, though none so close that one would notice. Still, if you go for a drive and the wind shifts, oh my! I don’t know how you did it!

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      • The house we lived in was previously used by one of the farmhands, so it was surrounded by fields owned by the farmer (who owned both the dairy and chicken farms). He spread the “soup” from each farm on all those fields. We had a dog who liked to rub its neck in sheep droppings. (We had one cow, one sheep and lots of chickens–“armchair farmers”.)

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  42. This is by far one if my most favourite meals! And I’m not joking either. Simple, fresh and super healthy, whether with canned Tuna or fresh. I really love the simple dressing too, delicious! I’m catching up commenting in the early morning in a bought of sleeplessness and I would gladly sit at a table and enjoy a plate right now. A perfect warm weather dish, filling and satisfying but not heavy. And even through your exclamation marks, you’ve managed to cook that tuna steak perfectly. Just my style of meal.
    Now you have me perplexed John, what is a fish turner?
    Ah yes, the wonderful cheese series with marscapone leading, I dare not try this recipe because I fear I would eat the entire batch standing at the counter making sure the taste was just so.

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  43. RIGHT! I am getting out a metal tub (I just happen to have one handy) and off out I go to get some sheep manure…then I am making soup! You want me to bring some up to the city for you .. on the train!! (loud laughter!) .. off I go, not a moment to be wasted! thank you for this most excellent story, though i am not fond of tuna, I am very partial to a good bucket of smelly manure!!! Gardeners! c

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    • I wondered whether you would take this post to heart, Celi. Heck! If Grandpa were alive, he would have come out to the farmy to show you how to do it properly. And there would be no way to stop him from coming. Of course, he’d expect a full tub of it in his trunk in return for his expert advice — and a beer or two. Handing out manure advice is thirsty business. 🙂

      Like

  44. Reading the story of your Grandfather’s garden reminded me of Liz’s father and his garden. Because they lived on Long Island he used fish heads instead of manure to fertilize his tomatoes which were big, juice, and remarkable beasts. One day we’ll bring those tomatoes back to life with our garden.

    Now as for your improved tuna salad…that can be made the next time week see a good piece of tuna in the store.

    Hope you’re having a great weekend!

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    • There’s something about certain Italian men who reach a certain age. My Grandpa had it. as did Liz’s Dad, while my Dad didn’t. At some as yet unknown point, their lives become tomato-centric. It’s an untreated malady for the stricken’s family would miss all of those wonderful tomatoes if a cure were to be found. Sounds like you’ve got the bug. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes manifest. 🙂

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  45. So there’s something special about sheep poo is there? Who knew?! (Apparently Grandpa, and a two-family crop of tomatoes.) Loved your story John (always do!) One feeling I’m left with is a longing for a couple strapping teenage boys to turn my garden beds! { sigh }
    Really like both recipes here! Hadn’t thought to include anchovies in the tuna salad, but it makes such sense! Naturally our favorite way is the fresh tuna steak too, but Grandpa’s version (with everything on hand, and the tuna in oil!) comes in a close second. (That Cento brand is my favorite for San Marzano tomatoes, but I haven’t seen their tuna. Will keep an eye out now.)

    Like

    • I’m glad you enjoy these posts, Spree. There are sure to be more to come. Grandpa was a real character, known throughout the neighborhood — his “soup” surely had something to do with it. 🙂 I’ve no idea how he stumbled upon sheep manure but he did and it worked. By August, there was a steady stream of people Grandpa invited into the back yard to see his tomatoes. He could not have3 been more proud.
      Both of these salads are good in their own way. The canned tuna salad is so easy to prepare and is good for a quick lunch. The seared tuna is a bit more fancy and is great for a light supper. I like them both but always have a can or two of tuna around. I cannot say the same about sushi-grade tuna. 🙂

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  46. Hi John, both salads look simple, pure and completely delicious. I do not envy you for the obvious aroma that the sheep’s manure created, but I do envy the bevy of tomatoes that were produced. And being raised to pitch in and help out, no matter how hard or smelly, is the right way to raise kids on my humble opinion. Kids who always get to reap the rewards but never put in the toil, end up being spoiled if you ask me which you didn’t. But there it is.

    Now, about that flower at the top of the post, that is the most beautiful flower I think I have ever and never seen. This flower is totally new to me and now I am desperate to grow some now, not that I have a green thumb, but there’s always a first for everything.

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    • Thank you so much, Geni. I like both salads and each has its own place. For a quick bite, you cannot do better than Grandpa’s tuna salad. For something a bit more fancy and substantial, the seared tuna is the way to go. As kids, we all definitely had our chores to perform and you learned early on to never admit to being bored. You only made that mistake once, for Grandpa always had work for us to do when Mom & Dad were finished with us.
      The opening shot was of crocus in my front yard. They bloomed during such a dismal period. I just happened to go out to take a look at the garden when the sun broke through the clouds. I ran for my camera and took a few shots before the sun disappeared again. I guess I got lucky. 🙂

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  47. Loved your sheep manure story, John. Growing up on an egg farm, dried chicken manure was the fertiizer of choice for our gardens. At least we didn’t have to transport it in the car! Although, once I was an adult with a home of my own, my parents would deliver bags of the stuff for our gardens. I never told them, but I prefer the sheep version for my gardening. Let’s keep that our little secret.

    Your tuna recipes look delightful, but I’d probably do a variation of both your Grandpa’s and yours, by using canned tuna with salad greens. To each their own!

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  48. Your secret is safe with me, Mar. I was a little bit surprised to read that so many of us share manure experiences, in one form or another. At the time, w kids thought we were the only family in the world that used manure at home. That ride in the car does set us apart from most, though. What a ride!
    These 2 salads really do serve different purposes. Grandpa’s salad is the original light lunch. The new version is for a more fancy dinner. I have cans of tuna waiting to be used to make Grandpa’s salad. I don’t have any sushi grade tuna waiting around. 🙂

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  49. Hi John,
    Tomorrow it’s Nonno’s tuna day, since I needed a can today to make a ring to cook English muffins in a pan on the stove. (Do skip this recipe, so not worth the time 🙂 ) Next week, though, it’s gonna be the real tuna deal. And as for that mascarpone ~ it’s dynamite on a fig/arugula pizza mixed with Monterey Jack and drizzled with balsamic.
    Toni

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    • Hello, Toni!
      I’ll be visiting Zia the end of this week and she’s going to love hearing that you and a few others are enjoying Nonno’s Tuna Salad. She really does get a kick knowing that some of these old recipes are being prepared and enjoyed by so many people. Honestly, we both find it a bit hard to believe. We never though anyone outside of the family would be interested. Who knew?
      Your suggestion for a pizza sounds fantastic! I’ve already sent it to a vegetarian friend and she agrees. I cannot wait to give it a try. Thanks, Toni, for the suggestion and for leaving such a great comment.

      Like

  50. Pingback: Easy, quick lunch– Tomato and Tuna Salad | Attempting zero waste lifestyle in a military household

  51. Love your tuna salad! I had a friend growing up who made theirs with tuna, peanut butter, and relish. I could never bring myself to try it. It’s not that I’m not adventuresome with my food tasting… it’s just that I’d rather try something like your recipe! The capers especially sounds like a great addition to a more traditional tuna salad!

    Like

    • Oh, Amber. Tuna and peanut butter? I feel I’m adventurous about food but that is just a bit too out there for me. I can’t imagine! Aren’t capers great? I keep finding more and more ways to use them.
      Thanks for taking the time to browse and comment upon some of these older posts, Amber. I really appreciate it.

      Like

  52. Pingback: Linguine with Seafood in Parchment | from the Bartolini kitchens

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  54. I love both recipes John. This past Sunday (Easter) I had some wonderful fresh tuna at an excellent restaurant (and old inn) in Amherst, MA now called The Lord Jeffery – after Lord Jeffery Amherst – how about that?!

    Like

    • That’s the thing about the East Coast that is so like Europe and so unlike the rest of the US. It has a much longer history. There just aren’t many pre-Revolutionary War ties in areas west of the Alleghenies.

      Like

  55. Pingback: Tonne Sott Olie Con Cipolle – Tuna Salad – Tunfisksalat | RecipeReminiscing

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