I remember when I was a young girl visiting my Aunt Micki (my food and wine icon when I was young and the one who really first inspired me to do what I am doing now) and having a tuna salad over lunch.
It was one of the strangest things at the time. Chunks of high quality, though canned, albacore tuna on a bed of lettuce with crisp celery, tomatoes and maybe a few kalamata olives with a squeeze of lemon, a dash of rich extra virgin olive oil…and no mayonnaise. I didn’t understand it. Tuna salad without mayo? Who would ever…
And that should tell you pretty much all you need to know about how my palate was trained as a child. You see my grandmother, bless her heart, played a big part in raising me and my sister, including preparing most meals. Just about everything in her repertoire of cooking involved mayo, butter or some sort of sweet or fried element…and she owned a restaurant. Granted, it was a southern style restaurant, though on the upscale end, but these ingredients were quite common. (No wonder I was a large child.)
When I sat down that day with my aunt to eat our lavish tuna salad and watch Days of Our Lives I was quite skeptical.
One bite in I had a revelation…you could actually taste the food…briny olives, fresh veggies, sweet and flavorful tuna. Amazing!
Needless to say my diet changed a lot through the years thanks to influences like I had with Micki and so many more. Now my tuna salad takes a new turn with the introduction of white beans, fresh herbs and spices with a touch of Champagne vinegar which is still just as easy as if you were opening a jar of mayo to mix with your can of tuna, yet so much better.
Tuna and White Bean Salad
1 8 oz can of white albacore tuna (in water, or if you just have to have it in oil, don’t use as much oil in your dressing) – drained
1 14 oz can Cannellini or Garbanzo beans – drained and rinsed well
3 stalks celery – cleaned and chopped into 1/3 inch pieces
1 tablespoon diced purple onion
1 1/2 tablespoons small capers – rinsed well, (if your capers are large give them a quick chop)
2 tablespoons kalamata olives – chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley – chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme – chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil – chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons very fresh extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced very fine
Salt and pepper
5 oz blend of Arugula and Spinach , if desired (Gary often just digs in right out of the bowl)
2-3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic, vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper together. Set aside. In a mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients except the lettuce and cheese. Add the vinaigrette and stir well to make sure all elements in the salad are dressed, and any chunks of tuna have been separated. Add the arugula and spinach to a serving bowl and top with the tuna and bean salad. Garnish with the cheese and serve. Easy as pie!