Country Kitchen: Tuna for Quick Meals

Country Kitchen: Tuna for Quick Meals

By Mary Emma Allen

With cooler weather, out thoughts turn more to cooking and heartier appetites. One food with great versatility is tuna, usually used in the canned form, but fresh in areas near the sea.

Tuna constitutes one of AmericaÂ’s most popular and reasonably priced foods, rivaling the hamburger, hot dog, and peanut butter sandwich as a quick meal. ItÂ’s tasty served so many ways - sandwiches, salads, soups, casseroles, and hors dÂ’oeuvres.

Sometimes when you see a can of tuna in the store you may be baffled by the label. There seem to be so many ways to describe this fish. Generally there are three main groups used by various manufacturers.

Three Types of Tuna

*White Tuna or "albacore" is the most expensive and is found in solid and chunk styles.

*Light Tuna is less expensive and comes in solid and chunk packs.

*The least expensive is Grated or Flaked Tuna.

Packing Liquid

Another difference found in canned tuna is the packing liquid. You'll find some tuna packed in oil (usually vegetable oil with seasoning).

However, the majority of tuna nowadays is packed in water. More and more people are purchasing the water packed tuna because it is lower in calories. I also prefer the flavor of this tuna.

Chunk tuna frequently is less dry than solid tuna. Tuna packed in water also is drier than that in oil.

Your Use of Tuna

When purchasing tuna, consider how you plan to use it. Are you going to eat the tuna plain or are you mixing it with mayonnaise, onion and relish in sandwiches and salads. Or are you stirring it into noodles and sauce for a casserole?

If you are eating tuna plain, then you may notice the difference in flavor between the various types of tuna. If you are mixing it with other ingredients, it may be more practical to buy the less expensive. The less costly tuna generally will provide you with just as much nourishment, yet be easier on the budget.

Chunk light tuna, usually the medium priced tuna, is suitable for most uses. So this generally is considered your best buy. You can serve it by itself with mayonnaise in a lettuce cup. You also can use it in salads and casseroles.

Try this recipe for CREAMED TUNA you can serve over biscuits, rice, or mashed potatoes. Make a cream sauce from 1 cup evaporated milk, 2/3 cup water (or 1 2/3 cup regular milk), 1 tablespoon butter, 2-3 tablespoons flour, salt and pepper as desired. When sauce has thickened, add 1 can tuna. Stir until heated through.

Serve over hot biscuits, rice, or mashed potatoes accompanied by a tossed salad. Serves 2.

(Variation - Instead of making a white sauce, you use a can of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup. Add 1/2 can milk to soup, instead of the usual 1 can. Then stir in the tuna and heat through.)

(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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