Tuna Cups with Quick-Pickled Swiss Chard Stems

This is a quick little lunch that I whip up sometimes. Tuna salad is often a kitchen-sink dish for me, and this one became a way to use up some quick-pickled swiss chard stems left over from a salad last week.

I read a great tip on Food52 a while ago about keeping a bag of vegetable food scraps in the freezer. When the bag is full, pull it out and make vegetable broth. You can improve the flavor of tons of things with broth – cook rice, or lentils, or beans in the broth instead of water.

I’ve been tossing in kale stems and leek tops, but chard stems are too pretty for the freezer. Instead, I quick pickled them and waited for an opportunity to use them.

Tuna Cups with Pickled Swiss Chard Stems

Tuna Cups with Pickled Swiss Chard Stems (1)

Tuna Cups with Quick-Pickled Swiss Chard Stems

leftover swiss chard stems, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup vinegar of your choosing
1 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons curry powder

1 can tuna
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon whole-grain or dijon mustard
1/2 red onion, finely diced

parley, cilantro, or other chopped herbs

1 bunch butter lettuce

To make the quick pickles, put the chopped stems in a jar. Combine the vinegar (I used distilled white vinegar), water, salt, and curry powder in a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, poor the pickling brine into the jar. Cover with a lid and put in the fridge to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine tuna, greek yogurt, mustard, onion, and herbs. Finely dice the pickled chard stems and combine with the tuna.

Peel leaves of the lettuce head off and fill with the tuna salad.

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Giardiniera, aka Pickled Vegetables, Chicago Style

Eric and I have our ups and downs when it comes to lunch. Most days, we bring turkey and cheese sandwiches slapped between some standard whole wheat bread with mustard and spinach. Then there are the days when I’ve had turkey and cheese for far too many days in a row, and I switch it up by making tuna, bringing in leftovers, or buying my lunch. Last week, faced with another mundane turkey sandwich, I decided to go to Subway to get a few extra toppings. I won’t eat the bread or the meat from Subway – both contain way too many weird things – but their giardiniera and pickles? Yes please. So I ordered a veggie sub with all my toppings, paid $3.18, moved the toppings from the Subway sandwich to my turkey and cheese sandwich, and then realized I basically paid $3.18 for pickles and giardiniera. Not good.

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And that is the story of how I came to make pickles and giardiniera over the weekend. I’m not sure I knew what giardiniera was before I moved to Chicago, which is unfortunate because it is now one of my favorite pickly, vinegary foods. It is essentially an Italian mix of pickled vegetables, though like everything else, Chicago has personalized it to include hot peppers. I’ll share my pickle recipe at a later date – I’m still perfecting it – but the giardiniera turned out just perfect on my first try. I’ve been eating it by the spoonful in addition to putting it on my sandwiches. So far, I’m not bored.

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Giardiniera aka Pickle Vegetables, Chicago Style

1 head cauliflower, chopped
15 serrano peppers (trust me on this – the vinegar mellows the heat), sliced into thin rounds
1 head garlic, minced
3-4 red peppers, chopped into 1-inch or smaller strips
4 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 5-ounce jar manzanilla olives with pimentos
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 cup salt
fresh black peppers
2:1 ratio of vinegar to oil

Start by chopping all your veggies. I essentially sliced my cauliflower – I wanted flat pieces so they would lay easily on my sandwich. Mix them all together in a large container along with the salt, oregano, peppers, and olives (including the olive juice). I did not include actual measurements for the vinegar and oil because I didn’t actually measure it, but keep pouring them in using a ratio of 2:1 until all the veggies are covered. I used mostly white distilled vinegar, but I used a cup of apple cider vinegar as well. For oil, olive oil would work nicely, but I used a milder grapeseed oil.

Refrigerate this mixture for at least 24 hours. I let mine sit for 2 days, and after those two days were up, the giardiniera was perfect.