Grilled Tuna and Pickled Onions on Bacon Pintos with Grilled Salad


Coming off the 4th of July weekend and a little too much potato salad, I was anxious to get back to a healthier meal.  (Small admission to regular readers here: I’ve been dieting seriously since mid-April. Even on the cruise.  I have no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but I’m down a size and more. I mostly kept to South Beach Phase II, and I didn’t give up wine. When I’m down another size, I’ll reevaluate. Ok, so much for truth in blogging.) So then: Costco had ahi tuna on sale and while I’m careful about what kind of seafood I buy, I’m occasionally caught up in the need for a piece of fish just like most people.  (Click here for an informative NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC article about fishing and buying tuna.)

I also had a taste for pinto beans–kept seeing that bag in the cupboard– and it was 60 degrees and wet outside.  Love Colorado weather. Honest.  Just when you think it’s too hot or too dry or too sunny, the weather spins and flips ahead to early fall.


Typically, though, I’m not interested in long-cooking pots of goodness come July, so this was a welcome exception.  It seemed to me the tuna, if I grilled it, would be a good contrast for the beans with bacon. Tuna isn’t totally bland, but it needs a bit of a foil–a spicy vinaigrette is one of my usual suspects.  This time pickled red onions came to mind, too, and while I quick-pickle cucumbers all year long, I rarely pickle onions. I used a big measuring cup for apple cider vinegar, some spices, and a sliced red onion. I then let it sit for less than an hour.  I wish I’d left it longer and cut them thinner. These onions were wonderful, but could have benefited from a longer bath in the vinegar. They’re great now that the leftovers have sat in the fridge overnight and they’ll keep a week or so if they last that long.


Tucker had gone to the office with Dave, so Miss Bo-Bo (aka Rosie) stayed home and kept me company as I cooked. While there are easier meals, this one ranks right up there for simplicity. It may take a while because dry beans aren’t instant, but you could do them the day ahead–especially if you want this for a company meal for four.  For two, the leftover beans will feed you lunch with a hunk of corn bread or are perfect for a next night veggie burrito.  I think the tuna’s worth the time spent cooking the beans, of course!

IMG_2600 I had planned on the hub grilling this whole shebang while I took honors for the beans and pickled onions. I was also busy getting things organized for cooking for the homeless downtown the next day; I’ve cooked for Inter-Faith Hospitality Network for years. (This week it’s a mixed meat barbecue sloppy joe from me; another cook does the sides and cookies. We all eat together with the families our church and others shelter until they find permanent housing.) Surely I could count on Dave and the weather?  No such luck. The omnipresent rain returned, the temp dropped, so I got the stove-top grill pan out as Dave walked in the back door.  So much for eating on the deck, which we’ve done a total of twice this summer between a robin nested on it and the cool weather. IMG_7691I began with grilling the slower cooking sweet peppers, added the squash when I turned the peppers, and then removed them to a bowl while I grilled the tuna– cooked just two minutes on each side for rare. Tuna is truly fast food.  Everything was seasoned simply with salt and pepper before and/or during cooking. IMG_7692 I’m sure you’ll have better weather than I did and will do most of this at the grill by the table on the patio.  To keep the house cool, your beans could be done in the crock-pot if you don’t live at altitude.  If you’re at altitude, and want them cooked in a crock-pot  or slow cooker the same day, you’ll need to start very early indeed and cook them  until about half-tender first on the stove or in the microwave before adding them to the crock-pot. You could also just use a pressure cooker. I do know you want to… Try this: IMG_7701


While the writing out of the recipe renders this meal complicated, it isn’t; it just looks long. You’ll make a pot of beans and bacon. While they simmer, you’ll throw some sliced onions into apple cider vinegar with spices.  Next, it’s time grill a few vegetables and some tuna. You’ll make a vinaigrette.  Throw it all together in individual shallow serving bowls and there’s dinner. It needn’t be hot; it’s happy warm, at room temperature, or even cool.

#1— Night before OR  3  hours before dinnertime (or the night before): Make the pinto beans.+

  • 1/2 pound dry pinto beans, picked over
  • Water
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • Small onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and Tabasco

* Cover beans with water and soak overnight. OR, 3 hours ahead of dinner,  place beans in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil 2 minutes. Turn off. Cover and let sit at least an hour. *Drain.  Add water to cover plus 3-4 inches. Stir in bacon and add 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Season with a few drops of Tabasco. *Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover.  Let simmer until beans are tender–1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Turn off heat and set aside until needed. (You won’t use all of these beans. Plan on a couple of cups leftover for quick chili or beans and cornbread.) +If you have no time to cook beans, fry up some chopped bacon with onions in a skillet and add a can of drained pintos.  Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

The cook without time in her pocket could make these in the INSTANT POT or buy canned beans and jack them up by adding sautéed onions, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

#2 — 1 hour before dinner: Make the pickled onions.


  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large red onion, sliced thinly

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients and let rest for an hour or so. (You’ll need to drain some of them to top the tuna. The remained will keep for a week or so covered in the vinegar in your fridge.)

#3— 20- 25 minutes before dinner.  Get the salad together. Grill the vegetables, add the greens to the serving bowls, and make the vinaigrette. FOR THE GRILLED SALAD:

  • 2 cups fresh greens, your choice
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 small summer squash (or zucchini) sliced
  • 2 sliced sweet yellow or orange or red peppers
  • Olive oil

*Heat grill over medium-high flame for 2-3 minutes. * In the meantime, in a medium bowl, toss squash and peppers with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. * Grill peppers first for several minutes until charred a bit on one side.  Turn peppers; grill until quite blackened in spots and tender. Add squash to the grill or grill pan.  When squash is browned, turn and grill the other side until tender. *Meanwhile, place a cup of greens in each of two shallow, individual serving bowls such as pasta bowls or use regular dinner plates. Season greens with a pinch salt and pepper. *Add peppers and squash to the plated, seasoned greens and let rest. You’ll dress the salads with the vinaigrette (below) just before serving. ORANGE VINAIGRETTE: This is fairly opposite of a typical vinaigrette in that the oil is half the amount of the acid, in this case a sweet orange juice. Try it.

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (save the rest of the orange to squeeze over the cooked tuna and for garnish)
  • Good pinch each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon local honey
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 drops Tabasco

Whisk together juice, salt, pepper, parsley and honey; let sit 2-3 minutes to dissolve salt.  Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with Tabasco. Set aside until needed. Whisk or stir again before serving.

#4— 5 minutes before dinner:  Grill the tuna and let rest briefly; slice. FOR THE GRILLED TUNA–Best rare or medium-rare.

  • 2 8-ounces ahi tuna fillets
  • canola oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat grill over high flame for 2 minutes. Brush tuna well with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat 2 minutes; turn and grill another minute or two. (Add  perhaps another minute on each side for medium-rare and another 30 -60 seconds for medium. Use your own judgement; this all depends on the amount of heat you’re using, as well as the weight of the pan if it’s stove top.) Remove to a cutting board. Let rest 2 minutes and slice–not too thin!

#5— Dinnertime:  Plate and serve the meal: *Using a slotted spoon and draining well on a towel,  add 1 cup pintos and bacon to each bowl right next to the salad. Make an oval well in each mound of beans for the tuna. *Place a sliced tuna fillet in each well of pintos and bacon. *Squeeze a piece of reserved orange over each piece of tuna. Add the other orange slices at the edges of the bowls for garnish. *Top each piece of tuna with about 1/4 cup of the drained pickled onions. *Drizzle salad with a little orange vinaigrette and place the rest of the vinaigrette on the table. *Serve warm or at room temperature.

COOK’S NOTES:  Disclaimer.… While this is technically a gluten-free recipe and I’ve labeled it such, you must use your own discretion using purchased ingredients, being certain those items are themselves gluten-free.  Also, for drinks… most wine is gluten-free, but there are exceptions.  Beer is not gluten-free unless so labeled.

♥♥♥ WINE: A conundrum.  The pickled onions will fight wine more than the orange vinaigrette, but it’ll be a continual bout of fisticuffs.  You could do it anyway, but I wouldn’t serve a pricy red or white wine here.  An inexpensive California zinfandel might compliment the smoky beans; a not-sweet riesling from Washington or Germany could be better. You could also go with beer or even sangria since it’s summer. Thoughts?

Below–photo from July 6, 2015, courtesy KOAA, our local NBC station…from fb

KOAA 5's photo.

Nice cool treat for visitors on Pikes Peak last evening. July snow at 14,110′.

Sing a new song, Alyce

3 thoughts on “Grilled Tuna and Pickled Onions on Bacon Pintos with Grilled Salad

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