I Married a Swede + What to Add to Tuna Salad

When people find out that my husband is half-Japanese, half-Swedish, lots of people ask questions about his Asian heritage.  “Does he speak Japanese?”  “Has he been to Japan?”  Etc.  One time an fellow law student, herself Asian, even asked me for advice on “How I’d gotten his family to accept that he’d married a white woman.”  I tell ya’, it wasn’t easy…

Anyway, nobody has ever once asked about his Swedish heritage, which is too bad because I find it fascinating!  Also, he mostly identifies with his Swedish roots so it’s really all I can talk about.  In addition to his family’s amazing and very Swedish Christmas celebration every year (complete with two real Smorgasbords and this incredible from-scratch braided cardamom bread), his family lives near the Swedish area of Chicago, religiously attends North Park Covenant Church (a church with Swedish roots)… no pun intended… and I believe he was like the first person ever in his huuuuuge family not to attend college at North Park University.  I think even if you include those of us who married in, there are seriously only like 4 or 5 out of the twenty-two of us in this generation who did not attend North Park. 

Swedish Poser.
Christmas morning Smorgasbord.

This makes me a happily free-loading wannabe Swede.  I have LOVED being part of all these Swedish traditions – not to mention how cool it is to be part of such a big family.  As an aside, isn’t it great to be an American??  I love that my name is Japanese, my traditions are mainly Swedish, and my mom’s cooking is still some rockin’ Italian.  To all the haters I say:  I love this country and I love my heritage.

Anyway, one of our very favorite Swedish traditions is something anybody living anywhere near Chicago can do for themselves.  For decades my in-laws have enjoyed going to Tre Kronor, a little authentically Swedish cafe/bistro located right by the above-mentioned authentically Swedish college and church.  This place is T**D**F and to all those of you who live or lived in Chicago and did NOT go there even though I told you to:  Shame, shame!

[Some-of-the] Girls Brunch Out – Christmas 2006

Deciding what to order is seriously torture!!  I mean I HAVE TO HAVE the baked onion soup, every time:

And the Vanilla-and-Orange French toast:

Um, and this too please, thanks:

But… what I most frequently order doesn’t look nearly as exciting.  And yet, it’s SO DARN GOOD that it often beats these out.  I (and a few other family members) most frequently order their “Tuna Salad with Grapes and Almonds.”  And so because I’ve had this decade-long obsession, and in the hopes of freeing myself up to order more of my other favorites, I inspected it as closely as I could last time so that I could try to recreate it.  Here’s what I’ve got:

Save yourself a lot of stress and effort and just ignore exact measurements and do this to taste.  Seriously.  This salad could take you 10 minutes to prepare or it could take up to an hour… go for the 10 mins, you can always add more of something if it’s lacking.

(1) Start with tuna.  Obviously.  Say, 2 of the 4-5 ounce cans

(2) Add mayo.  For this much tuna, maybe a heaping big spoon.

(3) Add Henri’s Tas-Tee Dressing.  Lots.  Maybe 1.5-2x as much as the mayo.  If you can’t find it, use more mayo and a little bit of vinegar (white, or seasoned rice, or even apple cider would be fine) and increase all the herbs.

(4) Add dried minced onion (spice section – don’t dry it yourself) or TINY diced shallots if you like onion more than I do.  Fairly minor amount.  Maybe 2 tsp??  Depends on your preference.  I noticed teeny tiny diced shallots during my inspection at Tre.

(5) Add lots of salt and pepper.

(6) Sprinkle some celery seed – more, if you can’t get a hold of Tas-tee’s.

(7) Add plenty of dill weed, fresh or not doesn’t matter.

(8) Add dried cranberries (a handful).  This is my own addition, not found in Tre’s.

(9) Add very small diced celery for crunch.  Best way to get it small is to make several slices the long way that don’t go all the way to the end, then chop sideways through all the skinny long pieces.  This is also my own addition.  I like crunch.

(10) Add halved grapes, red is best.  Plenty.  The sweetness and the moisture are what make this salad.

(11) Add toasted almond slivers.  To toast, just pour some (1/2 cup?) in a saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and they smell done (5-10 min).  At some point, sprinkle with sea salt (or table salt) and stir to blend.  SO EASY.

Stir this all together, let the flavors coalesce for a bit, and enjoy.  I think tuna salad is the one sandwich that actually tastes better on wheat bread than on white.