Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Noodle Casserole


When I told my daughter I was going to make her a dish that would make her like tuna, she said to me, “There are two things I hate about what you’re going to make.  Tuna and Casserole.”   Poor casserole.  Already got a bum rap and she didn’t even know what I was talking about.

To my utter delight, she actually loved the dish (as I knew she would) and ended up repeating several times.  I generally don’t make tuna noodle anything, but since I am now on survival mode/use up everything in my pantry mode, I figured this would be perfect.  And, apart from the tuna, it was chock full of other veggies sneaked into one recipe so it was a double whammy for mom!

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As I’ve mentioned before, we never ate such classics when I was a kid.  People actually thought our food choices were really weird.  Nothing screams outsider like Colombian, Italian and Arabic food in the Bahamas, let me tell you.  My mom had this really great volume of Time-Life cookbooks, and I might have spied this for the first time in one of those, and once in college I recreated it.

I actually really like it.  I remember not being sure how the whole tuna/noodle/cheese/béchamel thing was going to work out, but you know what, it does.  And now that I know my picky teen will gobble this up, I think it will be a repeat offender at my house from now on!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 celery rib, sliced

1 cup fresh shelled peas (if you can’t find fresh, frozen will do)

1 cup quartered cremini or button mushrooms

3 tbsp flour

2 tbsp butter

2 cups milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Pinch of nutmeg

1.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated

1 can tuna, drained and flaked

200 g egg noodles, cooked according to package directions, strained

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or torn up pieces of white bread, like mine above, if you don’t have breadcrumbs)

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the onions, celery and peas.  Saute until softened, about 8 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, and add the mushrooms and the salt.  Saute until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the 2 tbsp of butter, and mix until melted.  Lower the heat to medium, and add the flour and mix well.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the milk, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.  Season with the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.  Take off heat and mix in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and mix well.  Add in the tuna and the noodles and mix well.

Transfer to a baking dish.

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Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar, and then top with breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 350 F (180C) oven for about 20-25 minutes or until crumbs are golden and it is bubbling.  Remove from oven, and let cool 10 minutes, serve.


From my kitchen to yours,



Coca de Escalivada at Cal Marquet : Catalan flat bread in the Mountains

This weekend was a friend of mine’s 40th birthday.  As per tradition, he celebrates it in his brother’s Macia (farm house) in Manresa, 60km outside of Barcelona. His brother raises and breeds pheasants, but he also has a zoo licence due to all the animals he keeps there.  I love going there, because it is very close to the city, but you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.  It’s an hours drive and one treacherous 2km dirt road up the mountain to reach Cal Marquet, but truly worth it, just for the views alone.  The actual building is almost 300 years old.  The family have kept the structure intact, but modernized all the rooms.  There’s an infinity pool, a sauna and a jacuzzi too.  So, coming up here is a real treat!

The view from the front terrace, where we had our dinner.

This year he asked me to cater Friday nights dinner, and I immediately thought we should do it family style because it was 25 of us, and I didn’t feel like being in the kitchen the whole night and missing the party.  I decided to make the Coca de Escalivada, because it is a very Catalan dish, and most of the guests were Catalan.  There are many types of Coca, from savoury to sweet.  Each city or region has its own version.  I decided on this one because it is easy to make, since I was also doing Beef empanadas, cheese borek (turkish style patties), spring rolls, jerk chicken wings and blue cheese and caramelized onion sliders.

Coca is actually very easy to make, with very little proofing.  The most laborious part really, is grilling the vegetables and peeling them.  But honestly, I will definitely make this recipe again, maybe using different toppings, but it was delicious and so easy.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

300g bread flour

1 packet instant yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

50g shortening (not vegetable, lard, basically)

3 tbsp olive oil

120ml warm water

1 large red bell pepper

1 small eggplant

1 onion (I didn’t use it due to the birthday boy’s aversion to them)

1 can oil packed tuna, drained

6 large anchovy fillets

1 clove garlic

1 small sprig of thyme

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

pinch of salt

3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp pimenton (smoky paprika)

In the bowl of a stand up mixer, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  Add the shortening, olive oil and water and mix with the paddle attachment on low-speed, until the dough just comes together.  Now, switch to the dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes.  (If you don’t have a mixer, then place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 15 minutes.)  The dough should be smooth and pliable but spring back when it touched.  Place in a large, well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Put it in a warm oven (50 C) and let rest for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, grill your vegetables.  I put my eggplant directly over the burner, because it gives it an amazing smoky flavour.

Do this until the veggies are completely charred on the outside.  Then place them in a plastic bag and let them sweat for about 10 minutes.  When they are cool to the touch, peel them, and slice into 1 inch long slices.  Set aside.

In a mortar, place the garlic clove, thyme, parsley and the pinch of salt, and mash to form a paste.  Add the olive oil and paprika and mix well.  Set aside.

When the hour is up, take the dough out of the oven, and raise the heat to 220 C.  On a well floured work surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle, the same size as your baking pan.  Lightly oil the baking pan, and place the dough on top, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let rest another 30 minutes.

Unwrap the dough, and place the red pepper and eggplant slices on top, in an alternating pattern.

This actually resembles the Catalan flag.  Now, brush the top with the garlic paprika oil.  Wait a few seconds and give it a second coat, using up almost all the oil, making sure the garlic and herbs are evenly distributed.  Leave just a bit to brush after it’s out of the oven.

Place in the 220 C oven, and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and place the tuna and anchovies on top in alternating rows, and then brush with the remaining oil.  Serve hot, warm or cold.  It’s super versatile!

And now, here are some pics of the farm animals!

Catalan Donkey…..forgot his name but he’s soooo cute.

The cockatoo that says “Roberto”

Peacock strutting his stuff for his harem of hens

And he had all his ducks and geese, lined up in a row…..sort of.

Carmela de Espana, the Tibetan Goat.

Miss Piggy. Yes, that is her actual name.

Pegasus, the (non) flying horse.

View of Montserrat on the drive back home.

From my kitchen to yours,


Nicoise Salad

How can you not love this salad?  It’s not really a salad, it’s a complete meal.  Of course, there are thousands of variations of Nicoise, and I don’t pretend mine to be the authentic one.  But, it’s my take, and I loved every bite of it.

When summer rolls around, I crave something that is cold, yet hearty.  But just the connotation of the word hearty to me is warm food.  But I think this is the equivalent of that for summer.  It really is a whole meal on a plate.  My version is chock full of vine ripe “Raff” tomatoes, green beans, new potatoes, red onion, tuna, boiled egg, and chickpeas (yum!), topped with a parsley pesto vinaigrette.  This combination is so satisfying and nourishing.  I truly enjoy making and then gobbling up this “salad” with a nice piece of crusty bread.  And really, it is quite easy to make.  Yes, you have to boil ingredients separately, but if you prepare beforehand, it is simple.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 2

2 hard-boiled eggs

3 new potatoes

80 g string beans

1 can of tuna, oil packed, drained

1 small red onion, sliced

100 g chickpeas, boiled and cooled. (or from a can or jar)

1 tomato, sliced

For the parsley pesto vinaigrette:

1 large bunch Italian parsley

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

4 tbsp grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1 tsp lemon juice

1/8 cup olive oil

juice from 1 lemon

Arrange all the ingredients for the salad however you want.  I chose just for the picture to separate them, but it makes a really nice presentation if you have guests over.  You can even bring it out to the table without dressing, and then add the parsley pesto.

In a blender, pulse the parsley, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, the garlic, salt and pine nuts until a fine paste.  Then add the parmesan and lemon juice.  Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of this over the veggies, and then dress with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice.  Toss to coat.

Reserve the rest of the pesto to use on bruschetta, fish, pasta, whatever your heart desires!

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as I do, and you can feel good, because its super duper healthy!

From my kitchen to yours,


Empanada Gallega de Atun: Savory Tuna Stuffed Pastry from Galicia

When I first moved to Barcelona, I was very wary about tuna empanadas.  I come from Colombia, where we have beef, chicken, or cheese empanadas, but never tuna.  And also, the format is individual style, as opposed to this baked “pie” version.

But, as time went by, this was served at parties, as a tapa, or as a main course.  And when I tried it, I fell in love.  I love that the tuna stays moist and tender because of the sofrito.  And I thought that it was going to taste overly fishy, since the tuna is cooked.  But no, what I found was this delectable, moist and utterly delicious pastry.  The only problem, is that you can get really bad ones more than you get really, really good ones.

So I decided to make my own.  When you read the recipe, you might think, that is A LOT of oil.  But don’t worry.  Once you finish cooking the veggies, you use the oil for the dough, to give it that wonderful reddish color.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the pieced out portions, since my fabulous oven decided to act up again, and the top of the crust baked beautifully, but apparently it didn’t feel like cooking the underside.  I think I am going to have to ask my landlord for a new oven.

But, in my house nothing is thrown away.  We ate the top and the filling, and it was delicious!  But that just doesn’t make a pretty picture.

Anyhow, so here’s what you’re going to need:

For the “Sofrito”:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 cup oil from your tuna can

2 small onions, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 tsp Pimenton or Sweet Paprika

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp Italian parsley, minced

500 g good quality tin tuna

20 anchovy stuffed olives halved (if you can’t find those, pimento stuffed olives will do)

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (optional)

For the dough:

600 g flour

30 g instant yeast

300 ml warm water

12 tbsp oil, from your sofrito (this will give the dough a fantastic color)

2 pinches of salt

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220 C (415 F).  In a large frying pan, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until just softening.  Add the red pepper, cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the green pepper, tomatoes, pimenton, salt and raise the heat to medium.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t brown or burn.

When the veggies are very soft, strain the vegetables and reserve the oil.  You’re going to use it for the dough.  Let them cool a bit and add the parsley, tuna, black peppers and olives.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, add your flour.  Make a well in the center and add the yeast water.  With the hook attachment, mix on low until just incorporated.  Add the oil and salt and mix on medium speed to incorporate, and then mix on low for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be smooth and glossy.

Let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with a dish towel for about an hour.

Dust a clean work surface with flour, and place your dough on top.  Cut in half, one is going to be the top and the other the bottom.  From the one that you are going to make the top out of, cut off a small plum sized piece, and reserve for later.

Roll out your bottom (larger piece) into a rectangle that is 2mm thick (or circle if that is the dish you are using) to fit your baking dish.  Grease your baking dish with some oil, and place the rolled out dough into it.  The dough should hang over the sides.  Add the tuna mix, and top with the sliced egg.

Now roll out your top dough, 2mm thick.  Cut the over hanging edges, and fold over and press to seal.   Then make a hole in the center to let the steam out, and decorate with the remaining pieces of dough.  Glaze the top with egg wash.

Bake in a 200 C (400 F) oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool slightly before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,


VILA VINITECA: My little slice of paradise in Barcelona

I recently moved into an area in Barcelona called the Born.  It is one of the oldest neighborhoods, with gorgeous cobblestone streets, lively bars, a simply awe-inspiring church, and my favorite part, the most decadent delicatessen and wine shop.  Whatever I am saving on rent from my previous apartment, I am spending it in here!  And you can also have lunch, or a snack in the store, and sample all the gorgeous cheeses, “jamones” and just about anything else they have in stock……which is a lot.

Recently I went in and grabbed a bite, ok a big bite, to eat.  And I was in heaven.  The menu is basically a list of cheeses, cured meats, some seafood (all canned, but the best quality) and a few salads.  I can never decide on the cheese, so I always ask for the 5 cheese sampler.

But I also wanted something fresh, so we asked for a plate of their tomatoes and tuna belly (ventresca)

In Spain, the canned tuna is exceptional.  It is nothing, I mean nothing compared to what I used to get in the USA when I lived there, that was this dry, sand-papery kind of thing that you had to add mayonnaise to it.  And the tomatoes!!!  Look at them, my mouth waters just from thinking about it.  It was a plate of “Corazon de Buey” or Bull’s heart due to their shape, which is large and full of ridges, and Kumato tomatoes.  The bull’s heart are a fleshier, jucier more delicate type of tomato, whereas the Kumato is round, small, and has a greenish-brown tint, and has a more pronounced flavor.  I prefer the Kumato.  All drizzled with some extremely high quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkled with some salt from Ibiza, you can see it in the background in the light blue tin.

Then, of course we had some ham, “Joselito” ham to be exact.

This is not your normal Iberian ham.  It is truly a gift from the Gods, or from some very delicious piggies.  If you aren’t familiar with “Jamon de Bellota”, it is ham made from Black pigs, that are only fed acorns.  And it produces this beautiful dark red hue, with just the perfect amount of fat on it.  When you put it in your mouth, it basically melts and delivers an incredible “umami” sensation.  It is best eaten with “pa amb tomaquet” which is country bread spread with tomato, olive oil and salt.

Then on to our cheese plate…..EUREKA!!!!!  I love cheese.  If I were stuck on a desert island, I hope there are some goats or sheep or cows, cause I need to have my cheese.  As I said, we chose the 5 sampler plate.

From the bottom to top :

Tou de Tillers – A mild and creamy (delishhhhhhhh) cow’s milk cheese from the Catalan Pyrenees

Tome des Coucherins – a firm, mild cow’s milk cheese from France.  This one was just ok, but hey, they all can’t be stars!

Comte- a strong, firm cow’s milk cheese, aged from 2009, from France.  I really liked this one, but you can’t have too much, it really has a pronounced flavor.

Tome de Savoie- this was a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese.  I really enjoyed this one, it had a more pronounced flavor than the first one, and it paired really well with the jam that they gave us, which I will tell you about later.

And last but not least, or basically my favorite,

Shropshire Blue- This is the king of all cheeses.  The big kahuna.  The bees to my knees.  Ok, it’s a cheddary-blue cheese from England, reminiscent of Stilton, but softer, more melt in your mouth feel.  This is my go-to cheese.  I absolutely could eat this everyday.

And all of this accompanied by this incredible violet jelly.  I was a bit unconvinced at first.  I have tried cheese with rose petal jelly, but never violet.  It was delicious.  It wasn’t as “perfumey” as I thought it would be.  It was a very delicate taste, and it combined perfectly with the fattier cheeses, giving it a completely balanced taste, none of the flavors overpowering the others.  And it was so beautiful to look at too, it’s pinkish-lavender hue looked extremely beautiful on the white cheeses.

If you are ever in Barcelona, and you want a fabulous glass of wine to wash down all this food glory, or just do some shopping to take back home, you need to make your way to Vila Viniteca.  It’s just perfect.


Vila Viniteca


Carrer de Agullers, 7

+34 902 32 77 77