“When I opened my mind to what could be done with canned tuna, salmon, lobster and all those other fish available in people’s pantries, I realize that most only equate these convenient products in sandwiches,” she says.
Her fascination with ready-to-eat fish varieties has resulted in “200 Best Canned Fish & Seafood Recipes: For Salmon, Tuna, Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, Oysters and More” (Robert Rose, $24.95, paperback).
Sampson, former food editor of the Toronto Star turned cookbook author, wrote “12,167 Kitchen and Cooking Secrets” before embarking on this book. She did extensive research and haunted Canadian supermarkets and specialty food shops to find varieties of canned fish.
She also ate a lot of fish dishes as she developed and tested all the recipes, most of which are classics along with her own creations.
“Fresh fish is wonderful, but if you don't have the time or money it is also very expensive,” Sampson says. “And after a day working you have to get dinner on the table fast, so it is just a matter of opening your kitchen cupboard and finding a can of old faithful there.”
She found that canned tuna is the second most popular seafood in North America after shrimp.
“I have recipes in the book for tuna salad, pizzas, dips and soups,” she says. “And I really got into clams, especially the meatier surf clams which look better and are substantial in chowders and on pizzas.”
Of Hungarian heritage, Sampson recalls growing up eating small fish like sardines, mackerel and herring.
“All contain a lot of health pluses and I have used them not only on toast but in pastas and teamed with potatoes.”
Another bonus with canned fish, she says, is that the types are interchangeable, so if a recipe in the book calls for salmon, for example, another species can be used instead.
Sampson has included a handy guide to choosing and using canned fish and seafood. There is also a history of canning in Canada.
“Don't treat canned seafood as a sad second-class substitute,” she writes in her introduction. “Handle it gently and remember that it has already been cooked during the canning process.”
Here from the book is a recipe for Tuna Fettuccine Alfredo. You can substitute any equal quantity of salmon, mackerel, shrimp, lobster or clams for the tuna.
Tuna Fettuccine Alfredo
375 g (12 oz) whole-wheat fettuccine
50 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
250 ml (1 cup) heavy or whipping 35 per cent cream
500 ml (2 cups) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 can (170 g/6 oz) tuna in water, drained and broken into chunks
50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh chopped parsley leaves, divided
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook fettuccine over high heat for about 12 minutes until tender to the bite (al dente). Drain.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Stir in garlic for 20 seconds, then stir in cream. When mixture returns to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in Parmesan until melted. Stir in tuna and 45 ml (3 tbsp) of the parsley. Remove from heat.
Place fettuccine in warmed individual serving bowls. Ladle sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining parsley.
Makes 4 servings.