Provencal Tuna Melt

boulangere's Notes: Purists may cringe at the use of "Proven├žal" and "Melt" in the same phrase, but if the shoe, so to speak, fits . . . I've grouped some of the flavors that remind me most of Provence, put them between some good, grilled bread, and added a soft, melt-y cheese. And any day I can stand on a soapbox and proclaim the glories of tuna packed in olive oil is a good one.

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 of a red bell pepper, 1/4" dice Green parts of 2 scallions, 1/4" dice
2 teaspoons capers, drained, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons mayonaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 slices good bread; I used my own ciabatta
Olive oil
Slices of soft cheese; use as much as you like. I used a tender, fresh Asiago Pressato

YIELD: 2 Sandwiches

COURSE: Sandwiches and Lunch

CUISINE: French

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Do not drain the oil off the tuna too aggressively. Leave about half of it in the can; it will contribute a lovely silkiness to the filling. Scrape the tuna and oil into a mixing bowl.
    Slice the bell pepper into strips, then lay a few at a time on their sides to chop. Add the peppers to the bowl.
    Slice the scallions and add them to the bowl. Roughly chop the capers (you're just trying to break them up a bit) and add them to the bowl. Mince the thyme (the stems on my plant in the kitchen window are so tender that I don't even need to pull the leaves off) and add it. Eyeball the mayo, but don't use a heavy hand. You want just enough to bind the mixture. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the red pepper flakes. Gently stir everything together.
    Turn on the broiler. Set a rack a notch below the one right under the broiler; that will let the filling warm and cheese melt without either burning. I prefer broiling the outsides of the bread, then adding the filling and cheese, and passing everything under the broiler again. I love the additional layer of flavor that comes from allowing the cheese and edges of the bread to brown on the inside, rather than simply melt, as they would in a skillet or press. Lay bread slices outsides-up on a baking sheet Brush them with olive oil and place under broiler. Don't walk away. They should brown nicely within a minute or two. Remove the baking sheet and use tongs to turn over slices of bread. Divide filling between two slices, and arrange cheese on the others. Return to broiler. Heat for about 2-4 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and golden brown, and filling has heated.
    Remove from oven, Use tongs to turn the cheese-y slices over on top of those spread with filling. Slice in half, and serve immediately. Pour some glasses of a crisp white wine and raise a toast to global cuisine.