MSR BACKCOUNTRY CAFÉ: PENNE WITH TUNA, CAPERS, & GREEN OLIVES

Story And Photos By Laurel Miller

It’s a well-documented fact amongst my family and friend that I’ll eat anything, as long as it makes for a good story or I’m getting paid (aka “working”). I’ve eaten everything from dog to witchetty grubs in the name of travel and research, and frankly, I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about the Donner Party’s diet.

I draw the line, however, at freeze-dried backpacker meals. I was a seriously picky eater as a kid, and the two lingering scars are the aforementioned- what I like to refer to as “crap in a bag-” and airline food. I know people who actually think both are tasty; as someone who’s eaten man’s best friend, I’m certainly not in a position to judge.

I used to consider a jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread adequate camping fare, but these days, if I’m doing anything outdoorsy that requires cooking, I prefer to think up healthy, inexpensive meals that feel indulgent, but add little in weight or bulk to my pack.

tunastack

This beyond-easy pasta is a good example. The tuna adds protein and Omega-3 fatty acids; the key to the success of this dish is using a high-quality brand of albacore or yellowfin (often labeled “premium or premium white meat”). You want fish that’s not only mild and sustainably-caught (longlining is the most common method), but solid-packed, which will yield a better final dish, texturally. The olive oil acts as a preservative, as well as yields a richer texture.

olivebar

Tossed with capers and chopped green olives, the end result is a filling, nutritious meal that’s equally at home served in a collapsible bowl or on honest-to-god, grown-up china. Look for bulk or jarred varieties at your local specialty grocer; I love firm, almost crunchy varieties with bright, grassy or nutty flavors like Picholine or Lucques (generic green cocktail olives can taste sour, mushy, or chemicall-y).

Serves two

*half package dried penne or fusilli pasta

*1 can albacore tuna, packed in olive oil; do not drain

*Extra virgin olive oil, as needed (approximately 2 tablespoons)

*2-3 cloves garlic, minced

*Capers

*Green olives, pitted and chopped

*¼ fresh Italian parsley, chopped (optional)

*Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

*Zest and juice of one lemon

 

Salt pasta water and bring to a boil. Cook according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat frying pan over medium-high heat, and add one tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is hot, sauté garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add tuna, capers, and olives, and stir to heat through. Add juice of half of the lemon, and zest. Season to taste. Drain cooked pasta, and add back to cooking pot. Add tuna mixture and parsley, and toss well. Adjust seasoning, and add remaining lemon juice, if needed. Serve immediately.

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©The Sustainable Kitchen®, 2013.

Laurel Miller is a Colorado-based food and travel writer and cheese consultant, the co-author of Cheese for Dummies, and a contributing editor at culture: the word on cheese. One of her favorite things about outdoor recreation is carbo-loading.

For more from Laurel Miller click here.

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