Carole’s Tuna Casserole

When days were cool, Mom baked more than usual. Baking helped warm the house, and if it got too hot inside, she could open a window or door to take advantage of the free air conditioning supplied by God.  Like all cost-conscious housewives, she baked lots of casseroles too.  My father did not like mushrooms, but he had no choice when it came to Mom’s casseroles.  Most of them had cream of mushroom soup in the list of ingredients.

Dad would have liked Carole’s Tuna Casserole.  Carole’s creation has no noodles, tater tots, mushrooms or mushroom soup.  Instead it is a flavorful combination of garden vegetables and tuna in a savory white sauce.

Jerri got this recipe before we were married when some of her friends gave her a recipe shower.  Each friend brought some of her favorite recipes handwritten on cards, and they were filed by category in a recipe box.    These recipes include many that have become staples in our home including this one which helped earn her the title of “Casserole Queen.”

For those of you who don’t like “regular” tuna casserole, try this one.  It makes a completely different impact on the plate and your taste buds.

INGREDIENTS:

2 six ounce cans of solid white tuna
2 medium large potatoes
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
2 T onion
1 package (about 10 ounces) frozen green peas
3 T butter
3T flour
1/2 cup water from vegetables
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 slices bread
1 or 2 tsp. butter

PROCEDURE:

Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.  Wash and chop the carrots, celery and onion medium fine.  Put these vegetables in a covered pan, add 1/2 cup water and a dash of salt and steam for ten minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the frozen peas.

While the vegetables are cooking, make a roux:  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper and cook over low heat for two or three minutes, stirring constantly.  Do not brown the flour.  Drain 1/2 cup of water from the vegetables into a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to total 1 3/4 cups of liquid.  Stir the liquid into the roux and cook it for 2 or three minutes until you have a smooth cream sauce.  Allow the sauce to cool slightly while you begin assembling the casserole.

Grease a 2 or 3 quart casserole with shortening or cooking spray.  Open and drain the tuna.  Spread a layer of flaked tuna on the bottom of the casserole.  Add a layer of half the vegetables, then half the cream sauce.  Repeat with the second can of tuna, vegetables and cream sauce.  Cut the bread slices into small cubes and spread them in an even layer over the sauce.  Dot with several dabs of butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

NOTES:  “Medium large potatoes” means potatoes about five inches long.  You want about three cups of diced potatoes.  You can make this casserole ahead of time.  An hour before dinner, take the casserole from the refrigerator and put it into a cold oven.  Turn the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the casserole is bubbling in the middle.

 

Fish Pepperard

Christians are now in the liturgical season of Lent, a time of reflection, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial.

As a child I learned that during Lent we should give up something that we really liked.  At one time or another I tried giving up school, shoveling the paths to the woodshed and chicken coop, and taking cod liver oil.   Instead my parents suggested that I give up reading comic books, eating candy bars or listening to the Lone Ranger on the radio.  With choices like these, Lent was a very long season.

Most of my Catholic friends did not eat meat on Fridays, so school lunches those days tended to be things like macaroni and cheese or tuna hot dish.  During Lent school lunches included a meat-free choice every day. As a Lutheran I could eat meat everyday, but sometimes I enjoyed with my Catholic friends a steaming bowl of chowder or a plate of baked fish and vegetables.

We ate a lot of fish when I was a kid, and I still like it.  So does Jerri, whose father loved catching catfish from the pond in their pasture.  When Jerri and I were first married, we lived in Virginia.  There was a fish market just a few blocks from our apartment where we could buy ocean perch for just pennies a pound.

Jerri found this recipe in a magazine at her doctor’s office during those early years when our son was getting ready to explore this world.  I was already showing the results of her excellent cooking, and she thought a low calorie main dish was in order.  And since we were on a very limited graduate student budget, the obvious economy of the recipe also appealed to her.

Though I feel that many low calorie dishes should better be reserved for medical diets, this combination of fish, green pepper, tomato and yogurt is excellent.  Serve it during Lent or any time you want a delicious and inexpensive seafood dinner.

INGREDIENTS:

12 oz. fish fillets (ocean perch or pollock work fine)
1 or 2 T lemon juice
1 or 2 T butter
1 small onion (2” diameter or so) chopped medium
1/2 to 3/4 green pepper chopped medium
1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, cut in eighths
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash or two of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 to 2/3 cup plain yogurt

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Rinse the fillets and place them in a shallow oven proof pan that has been lightly greased or sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

While the fish is baking, melt the butter in a small frying pan and sauté the onion until it translucent.  Add the green pepper and tomato and sprinkle with the oregano, salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for a minute.  Add the yogurt all at once and stir well.  Spoon the sauce over the fish.

Serve with white rice and a garden salad.  Makes two generous servings

NOTE:  You can double or triple this recipe without any trouble.