In the Junkyard Tales story, "Connections," it’s Ben Thompson’s birthday, and the clever cat has a surprising wish — he’d like to get closer to the junkyard warden. Ben is not allowed to show himself to the warden or to any of the workers, but when the sound of a jingling bell sends both him and the warden on a magical treasure hunt through the junkyard, Ben discovers a connection with the warden that he never would have dreamed possible.
Can’t you just see Ben — his paws pressed together in anticipation, his eyes wide with delight — blowing out his candle as he makes his birthday wish? And what kind of cake would a clever cat like Ben have requested? Why, a tuna cake, of course!
Tuna cakes are our family’s ordinary-day substitute for fancy crab cakes. While I’ve written out a recipe below, I’ll confess that I rarely make them the same way twice. A can of tuna and an egg or two are pretty non-negotiable, but you can customize the rest depending on what you can scavenge from your own junkyard…er, refrigerator.
Got a few pickles left in the bottom of a jar? Perfect! Out of mayo? Use mustard. Out of mustard and mayo? Try sour cream or Greek yogurt. No breadcrumbs? Try leftover cooked rice or quinoa.
In the end, the only requirement is that your cakes stick together well enough to fry them up—not too wet, not too dry—and it’s incredibly easy to tweak the amount of breadcrumbs or add a little more mayo until you get there.
Serve up these tuna cakes over a bed of lightly dressed butter lettuce with a dollop of Greek yogurt or tartar sauce on top.
And feel free to share a bite with any clever cats who might suddenly appear!
(makes about 9 cakes)
1 can of tuna in water
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
¼ cup diced onion
¼ cup relish (or diced pickles)
½ cup breadcrumbs
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
oil for frying
Combine all of the ingredients—including the water from the tuna can, no need to drain it—together in a large bowl. Using clean hands, mix everything together well. Then form the mixture into balls that are each about the size of a golf ball. Remember, you can add more breadcrumbs or more liquid if the balls are too wet or dry.
Pour a few tablespoons of oil into a large skillet and heat over medium. When the pan is hot, begin adding the tuna “balls”, carefully pressing down on each one to make it into a cake as you put it in the pan. Unless you have a very large skillet, you’ll probably have to make the cakes in a few separate batches.
Let each cake cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. Serve warm with dressed butter lettuce and a dollop of Greek yogurt or tartar sauce.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.