Come summer and time to cook outside, I stock our freezer with easily and quickly grilled proteins like chicken thighs and legs, bone-in pork chops, and sirloin steak for kebobs. Then all I have to do is talk my husband into firing up the grill, make a salad, and we’re soon ready eat. And while I’m happiest with all kinds of freshly made burgers if it’s a burger night, it’s also nice to have some pre-made frozen ones for those times when desperation is the mother of invention. A resealable bag of salmon burgers is usually at the top of my warm weather grocery list. I even keep whole-wheat skinny buns frozen, too, as they last a few weeks if well-wrapped and thaw in no time at all. What’s cool is you are SUPPOSED to cook these particular salmon burgers frozen–no thawing needed, no thawing allowed. Yes!
Once, in a cooking class, I mentioned I loved “fish salads.” Crickets. Blank faces. “You mean tuna fish?” Well, sure…but not exactly or not totally. Back up. Let’s talk how we’re always hoping to eat healthy. Ok? There’s little healthier than vegetables–right? And second on the list, if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, might be fish? Sure. When we put those two top-tier food groups together, what do we get? We get over-the-top wholesome, fit, hearty fare. I’ve always adored cooking fish IN vegetables because number 1: it’s so easy to overcook fish (and in a pan of vegetables, it’s harder); number 2: we’re back to the two top-tier food groups; and, number 3: fish is just so tasty cooked in, say, a light tomato-garlic-fennel-sweet pepper sauté.
Growing up in the midwest, I knew from local community fried fish and chicken dinners — which were some of the most fun occasions of the year when kids mostly stayed home if they weren’t in school. No video games, but lots of tag and Monkey in the Middle until the sun went down. Local churches and fire stations seemed to have been built from the ground up complete with huge vats perfect for filling with hot oil and satisfying the neighborhood’s penchant for golden-crispy protein. (My own childhood church, First Presbyterian of Homewood, was more likely to ask the men’s group to serve up spaghetti dinners, so we had to go elsewhere for our fried fixes. When it’s not Covid-Tide, they’re lately feeding folks every Monday night so maybe they even sneak in some fish these days; who knows? Stop by and see.) During Lent, the corner bars and local restaurants jumped on the fishy bandwagon and often offered “all you can eat” fish and fries — sometimes until the food ran out. The custom goes on today in the midwest and elsewhere, including Colorado. In fact, even non-believers look forward to spring when there is a fish sandwich if not an “all you can eat” nearly any place you stop for a beer.
I haven’t made a tuna casserole in so many years that I can’t count. I like the stuff, but my husband says he had his fill during our early married life when I often made my sister’s Helen’s version — she always baked the good kind with potato chips, of course.