Tag Archives: Tuna

Pantry tuna and bean salad

This recipe is brought to you by cabin fever. For the past few weeks, I’ve been without a car during the workday, and my beloved bicycle has developed persistent brake problems. That leaves me relying on (slow, infrequent) public transit to get around, which turns grocery shopping from a quick errand into a multi-hour production. True to form, I’ve reacted by holing up hermit-style instead, working long hours and making a lot of pantry meals.

This tasty little salad is one I keep coming back to. It’s based on a mix of fresh and shelf-stable ingredients I always have around: olive oil, canned tuna, canned beans, a lemon or some vinegar, an onion or a couple scallions, dried herbs, dijon mustard, and capers. You soak the alliums in seasoned lemon juice, whisk in the oil to make a dressing, and then toss in the tuna, beans, and capers. The combination of flaky fish, firm beans and spiky, pungent dressing is so much tastier than something this easy and quick has any right to be. And it’s pretty darn cheap, too.

I make this slightly differently every time, based on what’s around and what needs using. I like chickpeas, but Sam prefers white beans, so we usually have both on hand–the salad is great with either. We try to keep fresh lemons in the fridge, but I’ve also used white wine vinegar and even tarragon vinegar to great effect. The recipe below is just a template; I can imagine so many ways to vary this and fancy it up. Use shallot or chives instead of onion or scallions. Add finely diced celery or chard stems for crunch. Use oil-packed tuna and include its oil in the dressing. Use a fancier vinegar, like champagne or white balsamic. Use fresh herbs instead of dried, adding them in at the end to keep their flavor perky.

The only real requirement here is refrigerating the salad for a little while before serving it, so the flavors can meld and the beans and tuna can soak up the salty-sour-oniony dressing. Just an hour in the fridge makes a huge difference; a few hours is ideal; overnight is fine. As far as serving, you could plop the salad on top of greens or pile it inside lettuce leaves. You could eat it open-faced on toast or a bagel, or make a sandwich with it. Honestly, I usually just grab a fork and eat straight from the bowl.

tuna bean salad

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Tuning out

So yesterday was a pretty big deal.  And I just about missed it.

I’d been thinking for ages about how to deal with September 11, 2011.  The events of ten years ago have left a deep bruise-purple handprint on the psyche of an entire American generation–a generation of which I am part.  But everything that could be said, has been said many times over.  Anything I could say would be a whisper in an echo chamber.

So instead, I spent the day engrossed in the business of living.  I woke up late and cuddled with my boyfriend; bought a purse at the local art and wine festival; played with my friend’s new kitten; watched The Matrix; ate sushi; packed for a business trip; slept.  When I return from my trip, I’ll make myself a simple tuna and piquillo pepper sandwich, inspired by the one I ate on my last afternoon in Spain.  I’ll call my parents.  I’ll braid my hair.

Ten years ago, we questioned whether these little things might ever be so normal again.  For all the intervening upheaval, they are.  That’s no small triumph.

Bocadillo de Atún

Toast a slice of good crusty bread, and let it cool just until you can handle it without burning yourself.  Drizzle the bread with olive oil.  Cut a juicy ripe tomato in half, and rub the cut side all over one side of the bread.  Spread some canned tuna on the tomato-rubbed bread, then drape a couple pieces of roasted red pepper over top.  Lay two or three oil-packed anchovy fillets on top of the sandwich, then take a big bite and immediately make a mess of tuna and tomato all over your plate.  So.  Good.

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Valentine’s Day, 2011

Okay, let’s be honest.  Valentine’s Day is a marketer’s dream.  Red, pink, chocolate, hearts, Cupids with chubby dimpled buttocks–it’s all very sweet, and entirely manufactured.  I’ve long been a cynic about Valentine’s Day, far more so than about any of the other Hallmark Holidays.  For me, the real magic comes the day after, when chocolate goes on sale.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something inherently lovely in the day.  Showing loved ones a little extra care and devotion is never a bad thing.  And if there has to be a designated calendar day to remind us of that, then so be it.  For me, Valentine’s Day is about genuine displays of warmth and affection, whether it be for romantic partners or friends, parents or siblings or children.

And when I want to lavish someone with love, I feed them.  (This should come as no surprise to…well, anyone.)  To me, it’s the ultimate homemade gift: a special meal of favorite ingredients, prepared by hand and served with care.  As The Boyfriend said, “It’s like flowers, but I can eat it.”


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