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Before baking…

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…and after baking.

If I googled this dish, I’d probably find it. I prefer to think I dreamed it up in my very own kitchen. Which I did.  I don’t need to know it’s not original. Necessity is the mother of invention. I had “X” number of food items.  It looked like this outside:

IMG_3160I wasn’t going to the store.  I wasn’t going ANYWHERE. The mail lady said she could hardly make it up our hill with four-wheel-drive and chains. In other words, my car was staying in the garage where it belonged. I was making do with what I had on hand.

Like most cooks, I keep a full pantry year-round, but especially in the winter as I live within sight of the Rocky Mountains.

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Canned tomatoes and beans, pasta, rice of every sort, lentils, barley, quinoa, boxed broth, shelf-life and canned milk, tuna, applesauce, olives, capers, roasted red peppers…  I usually have a larder complete with a variety of alliums–different onions, shallots, garlic, scallions– potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, apples, pears, citrus… My freezer holds large amounts of meat I’ve bought on sale as well as many quarts of several different stocks, soups, stews, and chilis, and even some frozen vegetables like pearl onions, tiny peas, and corn. Last summer’s berries are in bags on the door, as are loaves of tea breads and containers of cookies.  You get the picture. I’m a nearly food hoarder; I’ll admit it.  But occasionally I’ve let the shelves run a tad low or have, as in this case, just cleaned them out. It was going to be tuna for lunch and while we both love tuna melts — one of our original early marriage dinners that still sneaks its way into the repertoire now and again–bread wasn’t on the menu.

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That was then…

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…this is now.

The bread I had was for dinner, you see.  I did, however, have a big bag of sweet peppers I had bought for my version of Ina’s Chicken Chili not yet made. They might do…but for what?
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Ah! I could stuff them with tuna salad instead of with the ubiquitous ground meat and rice combination and see what transpired in the oven.  A sort of riff on the old school ladies’ club cold luncheon dish of fresh tomatoes stuffed with tuna or chicken salad.  I adored the resulting light and filling plate and hope you will, too.  In the interest of economy, I’ll note the inexpensive nature of this dish. (Definitely not cheap.)  And, just because, I had my first Friday meal idea for Lent.  Try this:

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HOT TUNA STUFFED PEPPERS

6 servings–1 stuffed 1/2 pepper for each person

If you like tuna melts, you’ll like this veggies-up no-bread version of a favorite diner sandwich.  Quickly microwaved bell pepper halves are stuffed with tuna salad and then baked in the oven with a little cheese.  I like boiled eggs as a side with these peppers. If you don’t have any in the fridge, begin by boiling your eggs and letting them cool while you make the stuffed peppers.

Don’t feel like turning on the oven? This recipe is great uncooked and crispy cold in the hot summertime.

  • 3 sweet bell peppers–any color, cored, tops cut off, sliced in half, and seeded
  • 3 cups tuna salad –recipe below or use your own
  • 3 slices “deli” cheddar cheese, cut in half (or 6 tablespoons grated Cheddar or Parmesan)
  • 3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, and cut in half–optional for serving
  • Crackers–optional for serving

Place the pepper halves in a 2-quart rectangular baking dish (such as Pyrex) and add 1/2-inch water to the bottom of the casserole.*  Cover with plastic and microwave at full power for 4 minutes.  Remove from oven using mitts, take off plastic wrap very carefully to avoid steam, take the peppers from the dish onto paper towels using tongs or a fork, and drain water. Dry dish with paper towels; grease or spray baking dish with cooking spray.

Put the pepper halves back in the dish, open sides up, and add about 1/2 cup tuna salad to each. Top each with a half-slice of cheese (or 1 tablespoon grated cheese) and bake 20-30 minutes or until tuna filling is hot and cheese is melted.  Serve immediately with gluten-free (if needed) crispy crackers and boiled eggs, if desired.

*You can also cook the cored and halves peppers for 2-3 minutes in a large pot of boiling water if you prefer.

Cook’s Note:  Reheat these in the microwave for a minute or two on full power, covered.  They also make good snacks cold out of the fridge or for taking to work.

 Alyce’s Basic Tuna Salad Recipe

  • 2 5-ounce cans Italian tuna with olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup each:  minced dill or sweet pickles or capers, minced carrots, minced celery, minced cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons light or olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style or hot mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Dash or two hot sauce, optional
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and minced, optional

In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Cook’s Note: This is rather light for a typical American-style tuna salad. If you like it goopier, add more mayonnaise.  Since I use the more tasty Italian tuna and some spices, I thought that less was more here.

If you are following a gluten-free diet, be sure to carefully read the labels on all purchased ingredients.

 PRINTABLE RECIPE:  HOT TUNA STUFFED PEPPERS

Sing a new song,

Alyce