*This post is sponsored by Genova Seafood and they are generously offering a $200 Mediterranean Feast Gift Basket to one of my readers, details at the end of the post…
Quick – what do you think of when you hear the words ‘tuna salad’? Probably a soggy lunchbox sandwich, right? It’s so hard to shed old food prejudices, some of them stick with us for a lifetime. It’s a good thing we have to power to adapt – I’m certainly glad I figured out that coffee doesn’t actually taste like mud, and whiskey is sooooo much better than I thought when I took my first sip as a teenager. Today I’m teaming up with Genova Seafood to convince you that canned tuna packed in olive oil can be the star of a healthy and elegant Mediterranean diet. The diet spans a huge range of cuisines and cultures, from North Africa and the Middle East, to Greece, Turkey and Spain. The through line is an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats — it’s a sunny fresh way of eating, and definitely the way we roll here at TVFGI.
Tuna, canned tuna, is one of the stars of the diet with its heart healthy omega-3s. And I don’t know if you’ve read about the new Blue Zone’s longevity study, but a research team has made an exhaustive survey of certain pockets of longevity – ‘blue zones’ – around the planet, where populations live longer and healthier lives than the rest of us…and one of the key findings of the study is that “The cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world is the humble bean.” My Mediterranean Tuna Salad is packed with them, along with a little bit of watercress, fresh herbs, some ripe tomatoes, and paper thin shavings of radish, crowned with Genova’s premium tuna packed in olive oil. A piquant tarragon vinaigrette brings it all together into one spectacularly healthy summer meal.
I’m a newcomer to olive oil packed tuna, I’ve been buying the kind in water for years. What I find so interesting is that, while I expected that this wild caught yellowfin tuna would be a lot moister, it’s actually also less ‘fishy’ than what I’m used to. It has a mild flavor which is so much more appealing and lends itself to a wide variety of recipes. There’s no need to drain it, I just lift it right out of the tin and onto my salad.
I am a big believer in eating more fish, and I love that I can keep a few cans of this tuna in my cabinet for an easy quick dinner without having to run out to the store for fresh fish. (Which by the way, isn’t always wild caught, sustainable, and as healthy for us as canned tuna can be.)
You could definitely serve this to a crowd, but my husband and I enjoyed it as a quiet dinner. Whichever way you go, it begs for a nice glass of wine or two. For suggestions I consulted blogging friend and vintner Cathy Kaymark Pollak from Noble Pig Winery. She says “The most important thing when it comes to pairing food and wine is balance…you want to balance the acidity and fat, and that is how you’ll get that magical food/wine pairing when you take a bite.” For this dish she recommends a full bodied wine like a Pino Noir from the Sonoma Russian River Valley or a slightly sweet white wine to offset the acidity of the dish, like a Rose, Riesling or Pinot Gris/Grigio. Cathy says “when in doubt, always pair to the sauce or dressing,” and because of that, the old white wine with fish and red with steak rule is irrelevant. In this case the acidic vinaigrette dictates a mellow, slightly sweet, wine in your choice of white or red.
This is such an effortless meal to put together, and it can absolutely be done several hours ahead of time. Canned beans work perfectly, but I rinse them extra well to remove any ‘canned’ flavor. (Be gentle, canned beans are fragile.) I used garbanzo, cannellini, black, and kidney beans which gives a variety of color and texture. Really nice thin green beans and small tomatoes add a fresh touch. I blanch the green beans briefly so they still have some crunch. Scatter a few paper thin sliced radishes across it all and you’ve got a hearty meal in minutes.
The vinaigrette isn’t an afterthought, it plays a key role in the deliciousness of this platter. Fresh tarragon can be found along with the other herbs that come in little plastic containers in the produce section. It has a nice zesty licorice vibe and I use lots of it to get a really assertive flavor. No dried herbs, only fresh!
- 1 5-oz can of Genova Yellowfin Tuna, packed in olive oil
- a handful of watercress, rinsed and dried
- 1/2 cup canned black beans, well rinsed
- 1/2 cup canned cannellini beans, well rinsed
- 1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, well rinsed
- 1/2 cup canned black beans, well rinsed
- 1/2 cup red kidney beans, canned, well rinsed
- large handful of fresh green beans
- 3 or 4 radishes, sliced paper thin (I used a mandolin slicer)
- about 10 cherry tomatoes
- several basil leaves
- fresh thyme sprigs
- fresh tarragon sprigs
- lemon wedges
- 2 Tablespoons (a fistful) fresh tarragon
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar (or other mild white vinegar)
- 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- Drop the green beans in a pot of boiling water and let blanch for a minute or two, depending on the size of your beans. You want them to be bright green and just starting to get tender. Fresh beans cook up very quickly. Drain them and immediately immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Let sit until cold, then drain and pat dry,
- Choose a plate or platter large enough so that each element of the salad has a spot of its own and arrange the canned beans in sections around the outside of your plate.
- Put a small mound of watercress in the center and top the the tuna. Remove it from the can carefully, trying not to break it up too much.
- Arrange the tomato halves and green beans on the plate. Scatter the radishes and fresh herbs across everything. Tuck in the lemon wedges and maybe a sprig or two of tarragon.
- Just before serving, drizzle liberally with the vinaigrette.
- To make the vinaigrette, remove any thick stems from the tarragon and place it in a small food processor. Pulse to finely chop it, scraping down the sides of the machine as necessary.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and puree. Taste the dressing and adjust any of the elements to your liking.
Genova is generously giving away a beautiful Mediterranean gift basket (a $200 value) full of inspirational tools for creating your own Mediterranean feast, including lots of Genova premium yellowfin tuna.
To enter, just leave a comment below and let me know your favorite way to use tuna. Good luck!
You’ll get the beautifully illustrated hardbound Mediterranean Cooking by Pamela Clark, an Olivewood Serving Board from Sur La Table, lots of premium Genova Yellowfin Tuna packed in olive oil, a bottle of Pinot Noir, and lots of other goodies like artichoke hearts, pesto, cheese and crackers, etc.
The winner will be chosen at random on Friday June 19th
*You must be 21 or over and living in the continental US to enter. This post is in association with Genova Seafood. All opinions are emphatically my own.
***The winner of the Mediterranean gift basket is Terry Parks — congratulations Terry!