I love restaurants. I love the way they can transport you to a different place or make you feel like a different person. I love the way a dish that sounds simple on the menu can surprise. It was just this sort of dish that inspired today's recipe, for a tuna, celery and white bean salad.
Around six years ago, I was at Una Pizza Napoletana in Lower Manhattan. The menu has since changed drastically, but there used to be a small selection of starters as options to nibble on while you waited for your pizza. My memory is hazy, but I remember thinking I would be nonplussed by the dish called "tuna, celery, capers." Maybe I imagined a raw tuna preparation or a mayonnaise-based tuna salad. Maybe I was too excited for the pizza. But when a small plate with thick shards of oil-slicked tuna, crisp celery, chubby white beans and tiny capers appeared, I was pleasantly surprised.
I smelled the lemon first, and it cleared the way for the meatier flavors of the beans and tuna. The celery served as a refreshing intermediary, and parsley added a peppery, verdant backnote.
The main ingredient here is pricier than your average canned tuna. It's olive-oil-packed tuna, which often comes from Italy or Spain and can cost $5 to $10 per can or jar. But by investing in the tuna, you'll save on extra-virgin olive oil, because you'll use the oil in the can to help dress the salad.
Celery, white beans, capers, lemons and parsley are all relatively inexpensive, but together they turn the tuna into something special. There are an endless number of additions you could make, too: Consider adding halved green olives, pickled peppers, diced cucumber or quartered cherry tomatoes. Add a hint of sweetness with some chopped raisins and skip the lemon juice in favor of a splash of sherry vinegar.
I like to eat this salad in a bowl with a fork, but it's also great on crusty bread, over a pile of crisp leafy greens, or tossed with cooked farro, orzo or quinoa. Serve it with a glass of albariño or crisp kombucha and set the table with the nice napkins. It may be September, but this salad captures the feel of an endless summer.
and White Bean Salad
25 minutes / 4 servings
When it's too hot to cook but you want something substantial, consider this Mediterranean-inspired combination of oil-packed tuna, crunchy celery, white beans and herbs. It's great the day of but can also be made a day ahead, which allows the flavors to marinate.
Not a tuna eater? Swap it for hot-smoked salmon or pulled chicken, or skip it.
Out of cannellini beans? Try this with butter beans, lima beans or peas.
No capers? Olives would work, as would chopped pickled grapes or green dilly beans.
Make Ahead: Salad can be made 1 day in advance.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
4 to 6 stalks celery, preferably the heart and leaves, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can or 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons), plus more to taste
1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated
1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 1/2 ounce), chopped
1 (6- to 8-ounce) jar or can tuna in olive oil
2 tablespoons capers in brine
Freshly ground black pepper
Calabrian chile oil (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the celery, beans, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir and taste, adding more salt, if desired. Stir in the parsley, tuna and its oil, and capers. Taste, and season with more lemon juice or salt, if desired. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and a few drops of the chile oil, if using. Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate until needed.
Nutrition information per serving (1 1/4 cups) Calories: 163; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 19 mg; Sodium: 859 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 8 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 14 g.
--G. Daniela Galarza