Tuna Cakes with Couscous
This is a self-created recipe featuring delicious tuna cakes with a cold couscous side-dish.
I’ve reluctantly dipped my toe into the murky waters of food photography recently. I say murky because the world is absolutely saturated with food photography and it turns out that crap does float. And let’s be honest, any idiot with a camera can take pictures of food. Or can they? If I’ve learned anything it’s that you can do one thing really well if you continue to do only that one thing for a long time. If I do nothing but take pictures of my ear everyday for two years, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’ll suddenly be able to do the same with my nose and have an equal measure of success. It just goes to prove, once again, that specialization can become tedious and stifling. Why not mix it up a bit?
Although I’m not quite as zealous as some of my more dedicated and adventuresome foodie friends (who’ll eat just about anything ranging from Subway sandwiches to whatever’s in that terrarium in your living room), I do have a pretty eclectic palate and I enjoy playing around with ideas every now and then. Here’s a little dish I make for myself from time to time. It’s pretty simple and relatively healthy, if that matters to you. I’m not a whiz at writing recipes and don’t like lists (too many damned lists on the Internet). So, I’ll simply describe how to prepare it.
The dish very simply consists of couscous and (take your pick) tuna/salmon/crab cakes. This particular time I decided to use tuna. But first, the couscous.
Get some dried couscous, whichever brand you prefer. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pot and sautee some chopped garlic. Next, add a cup of chicken broth (you can use water, but I like the flavor it adds). Bring it to a boil and add in a cup of couscous. Stir it around for a few seconds, cover and turn off the heat. That’s it, you can now forget about the couscous until you’re ready for it. The next step involves roasting some pine nuts. I use a small, shallow pan for this. Put your heat on medium and keep them moving. Don’t walk away because they burn very easily! You want them to get brown and nutty to the point that you can see a slight oily sheen. Your kitchen will smell fantastic.
Once you’ve done this and the couscous has cooled down a little bit (this is best enjoyed at room temperature), dump the couscous and pine nuts into a large bowl of some kind (and maybe try to be just a tad more graceful about it than I am). Here’s where you add the rest of the ingredients for the couscous. For me this involves very finely chopped red onion, extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, finely chopped parsley (I like the Italian flat-leaf kind), salt, pepper and whatever other spices you like. I like just a tiny bit of nutmeg, myself. At the very end I add some fresh grape tomatoes. Mix the whole mess up and let it sit while you prepare the tuna cakes.
The tuna cakes are also very simple and you may already have your own recipe for this. I try to use some of the same basic ingredients as the couscous, just to marry the flavors. Put your tuna into a mixing bowl (I use about two small cans) and add two eggs, parsley, some of the finely chopped red onion, chopped garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a little paprika. Mix it all together and then begin adding your bread crumbs. This gets a little tricky because you want to reach a certain consistency. Too few crumbs and the mixture is too moist, too many and it’s too dry. So, try adding just a little at first and then add more as you need it. You want it to be moist, but with enough consistency that it keeps whatever shape you give it. When you’ve done this you just form the mixture into patties and add them to oil over medium heat. Fry them on both sides until golden brown and crispy.
And that’s it. I will occasionally use some other kind of seafood ingredient for these like salmon or crab. For the salmon I’ve found that adding bit of sugar and curry powder to some mayonnaise or sour cream makes a delicious sauce. Of course, they’re great as sandwiches too. Enjoy!