Upping Your Tuna Salad Game + Easy Recipes using Canned Tuna!

Change up your salad with new additions. Maybe not all of them at once!

Like many of you, I have probably for most of my life made tuna salad pretty much like my mother did. A can of tuna, a few spoons of mayo, one chopped hard cooked egg, a little onion, pickle and celery and — Fanny’s your aunt — hot weather lunch was served with little or no stove time. Over the years, though, as my cooking developed, so did my tuna salad. One year I was shocked to see that a happy little bit of lemon zest had slipped into the mixing bowl by “mistake.” Whoa! Another time a dab of perky horseradish became a sudden, but happy addition. Soon, though not always, cucumbers/fennel/carrots/bell peppers joined the party along with a good healthy spoonful of Dijon-style mustard, cornichons leftover from a wine and cheese event I catered, and —wait for it — a big splash of red wine vinegar. The biggest change was the consistent use of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, along with the occasional herbs, no matter what else I dumped in. Why didn’t I ever season my tuna salad before? (Mom, you didn’t tell me.) Of course I often ate it on toast, but sometimes I went with the old school ladies’ lunch counter lower-carb style: spooned into the middle of a quartered tomato, hopefully ripe. Other weeks, I thinned it out and ate it scooped up with potato chips or Triscuits (HELLO, TUNA DIP!!) — Triscuits being one of my most unknown addictions. (The rye were the best, but they discontinued them–sob, sob. Now I’m even more stuck on the organic thin variety. Try them and see. Nope, I’m not on Nabisco’s payroll.) After a while, my tuna salad was never the same twice in a row. Who knew what would happen next to my trusty, inexpensive summer fun food? And, by the way, how did we come to eat so much tuna fish?? 

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FRIDAY FISH: Tuna Stew on Cheddar-Dill Biscuits

Looking for St. Patrick’s Day Ideas? Just click on “St. Patrick’s Day” in the categories section at right to find my favorites including Salmon on Caraway Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread with Potato SoupSalmon on ColcannonColcannon SoupTraditional Kerry Apple Cake, and more.

I haven’t made a tuna casserole in so many years that I can’t count. I like the stuff, but my husband says he had his fill during our early married life when I often made my sister’s Helen’s version — she always baked the good kind with potato chips, of course.

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FRIDAY FISH: Skillet Lentils and Tuna for Dinner

Flexible is this meal’s middle name. Change out the vegetables, broth, protein, and/or herbs to make it your own.

I don’t remember eating lentils as a kid. Even lentil soup — on many tables this week as it’s such a pantry-friendly meal — came to me in adulthood, albeit from a much-loved friend and oddly enough during a hot week at the beach on the Outer Banks. If I ate it earlier, I have no memory of the meal and more’s the pity. The “Lentil” I knew was the Lentil of Caldecott Award- winning author Robert McCloskey (MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS) fame since I’m a lifelong avid reader and also trained and worked as a school librarian at one time in my life.

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Tuna-Cado Dinner: No-Cook White Bean Salad with Avocado and Tuna

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If you’re like me, there are some days you will not be going to the grocery store. Maybe it’s Sunday and you know how crazy the parking lot is or perhaps it’s a warm Thursday night and you’ve had it.  (What is “it?”)  Could be you’re too busy enjoying the irises blooming for the first time in eleven years – below.  Or you’re avoiding the mama robin nested outside your back door so you can work in the garden without her defecating on you. (Second photo below: Yes, she did this to me.)

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In reality, you unthawed nothing because you were, uh, working, reading a sleazy novel at the pool, running kids, on a hike, at a meeting, or watching movies. Could be you’re lazy, which is an admirable once-in-a-while quality. Do cultivate it.  You are not lighting the grill and you’re not opting out by ordering pizza or Chinese. You could eat a green salad. Again.

Tucker and Rosie in family room

                      Our dogs always hope I go with the pizza idea as they get the crust.

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Grilled Asian-Style Tuna with Broccoli Slaw–Playing with a Favorite Patricia Wells Sauce in Colorado

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I am a dyed-in-the-wool Patricia Wells fan. This ex-pat food writer and cooking  teacher extraordinaire is a favorite from waaaay back.  If you don’t know Patricia or her work, I borrowed the following from her website and I don’t think she’ll mind…


More About Patricia….

Patricia Wells is a journalist, author, and cooking school teacher who has lived in France since 1980. A former reporter for The New York Times, she was global restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune for more than 25 years. She  has written fourteen books, is a four-time James Beard Award winner, and has been honored by the French government for her contribution to French culture. She runs her cooking school, At Home with Patricia Wells, in both Paris and Provence, where she lives with her husband, Walter, retired executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.

I haven’t yet had the honor of studying with her in Paris or Provence (though I lust after the opportunity on a yearly basis), but it’s in the plan, on the bucket list, and alive in my prayers.  I HAVEN’T GIVEN UP!! DON’T RETIRE, PATRICIA! Continue reading

Bacon and Green Onion Tuna Steaks on Cannellini Bean Hash

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For years, my good friend Sue Hall has made a favorite dish of white beans topped with grilled tuna… It might have been enhanced by some earthy fragrant rosemary or a few onions, depending on the day.  Healthy, luscious, I remember this plate of goodness as one of the perfect al fresco summer meals.

When I bought some cryovac-packed tuna steaks at my local grocery (frozen fish=good idea in Colorado/great value), I thought of Sue and wondered how many times I’d seen her make this tuna meal albeit with fresh tuna.  While I’m not at the beach where Sue loves to cook, I’m happy to be home cooking in my own kitchen…

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after two weeks of restaurant and cruise food. Even Italian, Greek, Turkish, or Croatian restaurant and cruise food!

(Below– from our trip: Yummy Izmir, Turkey breakfast with honey and orange marmalade where I put a big piece of what I thought was cheese on my bread and found out it was a half-inch thick, 4″x2″ piece of butter-see bottom of photo!)

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Here’s my spin on this happy fish meal.  I filled it out with a root vegetable hash mixed with time-saving canned cannellini beans, placed it on a frame of asparagus for greenery, and topped the tuna with barely steamed scallions along with the bonus: a huge thick piece of crispy bacon. Thanks, Sue! (From top left, clockwise:  Sue, Lani, Kim, and I at our last beach trip.) Continue reading

Salade Niçoise for 8–Perfect Summer Meal

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The last cooking class of the season at MOUNTAIN HIGH (formerly Shouse) is the SUMMER SOUPS class on June 18 and it’s full.  You can drop me a note to put your name on the waiting list if you like.  More classes come fall!  

There might not be an easier, tastier, more adaptable, or prettier summer grilling meal than Salade Niçoise.  Once warm weather begins in Colorado, I’m ready for this perfect fish and vegetable plate as it hits all the right notes for an elegant, simple, and healthy dinner. Did I say I love this quintessential French salad or that I’ve been making it for 35 years? That it’s as happy as food can be and just screams CELEBRATE the season?  It requires little more than a decent bottle of wine for accompaniment, though a little baguette and a scoop of sorbet or gelato for dessert would be welcome.  The addition of a cold soup starter, such as my Guacamole Soup with Grilled Shrimp, along with a frozen Margarita, are happy possibilities for larger meal. (Recipe for the soup on upcoming post.)

IMG_7623We served this up last Friday evening to a small group just before running down the hill into town to see a play together. (Colorado Springs folks, go see the Fine Arts Center’s GUYS AND DOLLS! Great show–WOW!)  Since we were celebrating the summer visit of my sister (below with our favorite granddaughter–sorry for iPhone pic), I didn’t want anything elaborate or difficult; I wanted to spend the time visiting with her, while still serving one of her favorite dinners. Preparation was minimal, mostly done ahead, and the platter of vegetables was ready and waiting for the ahi tuna Dave grilled at the very last minute.  In fact, the preparation was mostly making sure I had all the ingredients on hand. After the show, we returned home for a small, late bite of chocolate gelato served with a few berries.  Note:  If you use the linked Epicurious gelato recipe, read it through a couple of times before making and note that you’ll need to chill the mixture for several hours ahead of freezing. I’ve made it a couple of times and adore it, but always have to go over the recipe as it’s a bit convoluted. Continue reading

Friday Fish — Grilled Tuna Salad with Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

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I never pass the fish and seafood in the store without seeing if something’s on the fire sale.  $9 OFF a pound is a fire sale for fresh tuna.  It means they have to get rid of it that day, preferably immediately. I’m willing to eat that tuna. I’m happy to run home and cook it straight away.  This is a typically summer meal, but you can squeeze it in for Friday Fish this month if your’e dreaming.

We’re in the last week of Lent; Palm/Passion Sunday was last Sunday and that means Easter’s on its way.   I’m always amazing how Lent takes us from the dredges of winter to the cusp of spring, and sometimes mixes it all up in one day. Just about how my life sometimes goes, I think, and maybe yours, too.  Here’s Holy Monday and Tuesday’s  single post from my Lenten blog, Praying in Saint Paul and here’s Holy Wednesday’s.  You can check out the rest of the week’s posts by going to the upper left-hand corner of the black bar at the top and clicking on Sidebar or if CLASSIC is up, click on that and then click on Sidebar in the menu.

Anyway, here’s what I did with that sale tuna–and what you might do, too, on Good Friday if that’s part of your faith tradition. Otherwise, save it for that first warm day.  What I did was all dependent on what I had in the fridge and on the counter after a visit to the market …

grilled tuna salad with vegetables &
spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
serves 4

The vegetables for this salad are grilled (inside or out), but could also be oven-roasted for 20-30 minutes or so at 400 degrees F.  No matter how you cook it, you’re eating quickly and happily.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds or lengthwise into1/4″ thick slices
  • 2  3/4-inch slices of a very large yellow onion
  • 2 6-8 ounce thick tuna steaks
  • 1/2 cup each cherry tomatoes and boccocini (small mozzarella balls)–about 12 each
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise or kalamata olives
  • Juice of half-lemon
  • Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Preheat indoor or outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Brush eggplant, zucchini, and onion with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Grill about 8 minutes, turning once at mid-point.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  After a few minutes, slice into one-inch pieces.
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Brush tuna with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 2 minutes on one side until there are dark grill marks; turn and grill other side about 2 minutes for medium rare – rare, depending on the thickness of the tuna. Cook another minute or two for medium-well.   Remove and let rest 1-2 minutes.  Cut into one-inch chunks.
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To a large bowl, add tomatoes and boccocini (small mozzarella balls), spinach, olives, and sliced eggplant, zucchini, and onions. Stir gently and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice; add tuna and stir again.  Drizzle with remainder of lemon juice and then generously with vinaigrette.  Divide between four pasta or shallow bowls, placing cherry tomatoes in one section, cheese in another, and so on. Garnish with olives and reserved basil julienne. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Cook’s Note 1. If you’ve a large enough grill, grill the vegetables and add the tuna during the last few minutes.  I made this on a big cast iron indoor grill that covers two burners (Lodge), but it still wasn’t big enough for everything. Add to that, I’m only an indoor griller and like things in manageable batches. I leave the big gas or charcoal grill to Dave or whomever I can lasso into firing it up.  2. If you’d like a bit heartier salad, stir in a 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans (season first pepper and with a bit of the vinaigrette) along with the grilled vegetables.
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spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shallot or red onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil julienne, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, spices,  mustard, shallot, and two tablespoons basil.  Slowly add the olive oil, whisking all the while, until vinaigrette is well mixed and emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasonings. (Rest of basil is for garnish)

Wine:  Go American and drink a great big California Chardonnay or an Oregon Pinot Noir.
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Note:  Recipe previously posted on this blog August, 2013.
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Sing a new song; make a new salad,
Alyce