A tomato stuffed with more than tuna

I realized today that a can of tuna is so much more than a tin filled with chunks of fish. For me, it is a can filled with memories.

One day this week, I made myself a tuna sandwich. I used my can opener and with the loosened top, drained the water away from the white albacore tuna inside. I buy only tuna that is sustainably harvested in the Indian and Pacific oceans. It has no additives. It’s packed in water.

I thought of my mom and the tuna sandwiches she would often make for just the two of us. The only tuna she would buy was Chicken of the Sea, packed in oil. After she drained the oil, she would toss the tuna into a bowl and mix it up with chopped onion, bits of apples and some walnut pieces. Then, in went the Miracle Whip to bind it all together before it was used as a filling for our sandwiches made of soft white bread. I never cared for the walnuts in the tuna salad sandwiches and I would always keep my fingers crossed in hopes the jar of walnuts in the refrigerator would be empty when my mom went to pull it out.

As those memories flooded through my mind, I mixed my white albacore tuna with chopped onions and a small amount of olive oil mayonnaise. I mashed up an avocado to use as a spread on the two slices of whole grain bread I had toasted. Once the thick layer of tuna was on one slice of toast, covering the creamy avocado, I topped it with large pieces of sweet red bell pepper and sealed the whole thing up with the remaining slice of toasted whole grain bread.

The sandwich was outstanding. As I sat at the bar in my kitchen enjoying each bite, I thought about how different this sandwich was from the tuna sandwiches my mom used to make for me. I wondered if she would have savored my style of tuna sandwich as much as the one she was used to eating.

As I ate my tuna sandwich, I began thinking of a summer many years ago. My older son was just a toddler. The two of us were spending a week with my mom at the lake. It was a week filled with tuna lunches. My mom was so excited to make tuna-stuffed tomatoes for me. She had recently ordered a stuffed tomato at a restaurant when she was out with friends. She was so impressed with the way the tomato was cut to look like a flower with big red petals that opened just enough to make a well for a filling of tuna salad. I think we had tuna-stuffed tomatoes for lunch everyday that week, each time exclaiming over the tomato flowers, cut with such precision.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve prepared fresh tomatoes to fill with tuna. I went to the farmers market today and bought some bright red, ripe tomatoes. I cut out the stem end and, with a sharp knife, cut into the tomato but not all the way through to the bottom, forming 8 wedges that did look like flower petals. I rested the prepared tomato on a bed of fresh basil leaves that I snipped from my garden.

I mixed my sustainably harvested white albacore tuna with chopped onion, bits of sweet red bell pepper and tiny chunks of avocado, mixed it all up with jalapeno mustard and olive oil mayonnaise, and mounded the salad into the pretty tomato. And, just for my mom, I sprinkled walnut pieces over the top.

And, you know what? Those walnuts were absolutely delicious in my tuna salad.

A Simple Tuna-Stuffed Tomato

  • 3 fresh ripe tomatoes, stem-ends removed
  • 1 (6-ounce) can white albacore tuna, packed in water
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno mustard (or any spicy mustard)
  • 1/2 of a ripe avocado, chopped
  • chopped toasted walnuts, to taste
  • Fresh greens or fresh herbs, for serving

Cut each tomato to resemble a flower with 8 petals. Set each on a plate over a bed of fresh greens or herbs.

Drain tuna. Use a fork to flake tuna into a mixing bowl. Add onion and red pepper. Toss together. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix. Gently mix in avocado. Spoon tuna mixture into tomatoes. Sprinkle with walnut pieces. Makes 3 stuffed tomatoes.

4 thoughts on “A tomato stuffed with more than tuna

  1. I remember my Mom making me tuna fish sandwiches ~ she could make the sandwich taste absolutely wonderful. I tried making the same sandwich with the same ingredients ~ tuna, celery, a little onion, Miracle whip ~ but she must have had a “magic ingredient” called “love” because mine that I made did not taste as good. There are days, i wished she could make me one more tuna sandwich.

    • I know exactly what you mean, Pat. Even a peanut butter sandwich tasted better when my mom made it. In fact, everything tasted better when it was made by her hands.

  2. And now I have shivers because that was such a perfect post, a wonderful memory. Believe it or not, I had open faced tuna on toast this morning for breakfast! My mom used to put sweet relish in our tuna sandwiches and I would ask her not to, but now of course, I love that tangy flavor. And now, you have given me a very pretty idea to serve my children for lunch. We will have your flower version of a stuffed tomato soon. Heaven knows, I need new ideas to use up all my tomatoes! Thanks, Sue. I loved this.

    • Rachelle, it’s always a surprise to me, but by now it shouldn’t be, how so often food is wrapped up with memories. And, I’m so happy about that. I’m going to try some sweet relish in my tuna salad the next time I mix some up. Thanks for sharing your mom’s secret tuna salad ingredient!

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