Friday, March 25, 2011

Tuna Cakes with Honey Slaw

Welcome to new subscriber Nancy, a friend from Facebook!

[Note from Ben: A couple of days after posting this, I realized there was a mistake in the original posting. Not in the recipe itself, but in the original title, which referred to "baked tuna cakes": as you'll note below, the tuna cakes in the recipe are actually cooked in a pan on the stove top, and are not baked. I don't know why it is my computer makes mistakes like that.]

Two of the most valuable cooking lessons I’ve learned have been these:
  • A fast and simple way to make yourself a better cook is to make the same things you’ve always made, but with better quality ingredients.
  • “Better quality” doesn’t have to mean more expensive. As often as not, it just means fresher. (Ironically, this can end up being less expensive.)
This week, we’ll be making delicious use of both of these ideas with a recipe for Baked Tuna Cakes with Honey Slaw. The tuna cakes are similar in concept to crab cakes except, of course, they’re made with tuna. And here’s the best part: although it’s certainly possible to make these with canned tuna, the best and freshest tasting result comes from using fresh cooked tuna. If you’ve had fresh cooked tuna already, you know it’s a taste you just don’t get out of a can, from any brand, at any price. This is the tuna you thought you knew, raised to a glorious new level. And if you’ve never cooked tuna steaks yourself, you might be surprised at how easy it is to make something that tastes so good.

And it’s the same for the slaw: easy, fresh, and delicious. Can’t ask for more than that!

The recipe following makes 4 tuna cakes and 4 cups of slaw.

Since the slaw tastes best when the flavors have had a chance to blend, we’ll make that first and let it rest while we make the tuna cakes afterward.
Thinly slice half of a medium red onion, and put the slices in ice water for about 10 minutes to reduce the “bite.” While the onion is soaking:
  • Shred half a small head of cabbage (about 3 cups) and ½ cup of carrot (about 1 large), and combine in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, blend the dressing ingredients: 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise; 1/2 tablespoon of brown mustard; 1/2 tablespoon of  lemon juice (juice of about ¼ lemon); 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar; 1 tablespoon of honey; 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed; and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the dressing to the cabbage and carrot mixture, drain and add the onion, and mix well. Refrigerate the slaw mixture for 2 hours and garnish with 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley before serving.
While the slaw is resting, prepare the tuna cakes:
Coat ¾ pound of tuna steaks (about 2 steaks) with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook on a grill pan over medium-low heat until they’re browned on the outside and about medium-well inside, about 3 – 4 minutes per side. (The tuna should still be a bit pink in the middle.) Using a fork, separate the cooked tuna in to chunks, cover, and refrigerate till cool.
Combine ½ cup of minced onion, ¼ cup of minced celery, and ¼ cup of grated carrot to form a classic mirepoix. Add 1 clove of minced garlic. Saute the mixture until it is cooked but not browned. When it’s done, cover the mixture and refrigerate until cool.

While the tuna and mirepoix are cooling, make the sauce by combining ½ cup of reduced fat mayonnaise, ½ tablespoon of lemon juice (juice of about ¼ lemon), 2 teaspoons of brown mustard, and ½ teaspoon of chili powder. Refrigerate the sauce until you’re ready to serve.
Now everything is in place, and we’re ready to make the tuna cakes!
Make a mixture of 1 cup of Panko crumbs and 1/2 cup of plain bread crumbs. Add ¼ cup of the breadcrumb mixture, ½ tablespoon of lemon juice (juice of about ¼ lemon), 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire, 1 egg-substitute egg (or 1 beaten fresh egg), 1/2 tablespoon of dried parsley, 1 teaspoon of mustard powder, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of celery seed, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram, ¼ teaspoon of cumin, ¾ teaspoon of salt,1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, and low-fat mayonnaise to texture (about ¼ cup). Mix well, then fold in the tuna and mirepoix. Divide the mixture into four parts and form each into a cake.

Coat each cake with the bread crumb mixture, and let them rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. When they’re rested, spray both sides of the tuna cakes with cooking spray and cook at medium-high heat on the grille pan until browned. Turn the cakes over and repeat for the other side.
In the photo at the top, I served the tuna cakes on a bed of cooked julienned celery and carrots, topped each tuna cake with a slice of lemon, and added mashed potatoes with a slice each of uncooked julienned celery and carrot on top. (I wanted to keep the starch side dish simple, to contrast the fact that both the tuna cake and the slaw have a good bit of seasoning.)

And there it is, for your cooking and dining pleasure! (Once you’ve seen how easy it is to grille the tuna steaks, you might want to cook some more the next time you’re making a tuna salad sandwich. You’ll be amazed at the difference just that one change makes!

For a cookbook style, notebook-ready copy of this or any other Kissing the Cook recipe, just let me know and you’ll have it before you know it!

That’s it for now. See you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. That looks very good Ben and sounds quite healthy!

  2. Ben, this is a terrific recipe. I'm really anxious to try it. Hopefully tuna prices here will settle down and become affordable again. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  3. Thanks, Marie and Mary! I was hoping to keep this a healthy recipe. My original thought was baking the tuna cakes, but they weren't browning right so I went with the pan instead. As for the tuna, well, it is a bit of an occasional luxury, but even with a good canned tuna I think these would work out pretty well.

  4. Honey slaw and baked tuna cake...this is an ideal lunch for me.

  5. Glad you like it, Angie! Your comment also made me realize I had forgotten to correct the title after deciding to cook the tuna cakes on the stove top instead of in the oven. (All fixed now.) Thanks!

  6. Once I got over how "raw" tuna looks, I now love it - seared just a couple minutes on each side - yum! Your dish looks delicious!

  7. Thank you, Bizz...I'm glad you like it! However it is cooked, fresh tuna really is something special. I try to keep things reasonably healthy in the kitchen, so I was very happy these came out tasting so good. I hope to see you here again!