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Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 4 months ago


Tuna Salad Sandwich, Deluxe

25 Feb 06


Thanks to some exploration of the Zingerman's catalogue, we found out about an exquisite canned tuna (I know, it sounds like an oxymoron), Ortiz Ventresca de Bonito del Norte - (more info). If you're worried about additives, here's the ingredient list: white tuna, olive oil, salt. Full stop.


There's a reason Zingerman's says, "This tin is probably the richest, most sensual bit of fish you’ll ever take out of a tin". Even food obsessed David Rosengarten, on Lynne Rossetto Kasper's \"The Splendid Table\" public radio show, raves about this stuff. After tasting this almost creamy canned fish, the two-fer-a-dollar stuff really tastes like fishy-tasting cardboard. At something like $15 to 20 US ($17-23 CAN) per can, the Ortiz is NOT something you want to have with bulk store mayo and chopped onions on plain white bread.


In my search for a vehicle for this fine tuna, I explored some salade nicoise recipes. I wanted to do something that I could eat with my hands, so I thought about a sandwich model of "salad". I've seen recipes with a baguette involved, but such a small starch canvas doesn't leave much space for a range of ingredients. That's why I opted for a round Italian loaf, about 6-8 inches in diameter, that I picked up at one of my favourite delis in town.


After Googling, and checking out some of my fave cookbooks, here's the recipes I focussed on in a bit of detail:



First off, what are the common denominators? All three recipes included tuna, olives, lettuce, and egg. Two out of the three included potatoes, capers, green beans, red onion, tomato, and anchovies. Now that I found a bit of a trend, it was time for ingredient editing to meet my needs and vision.


First ingredient I dropped was the potatoes, because my sandwich approach already had a significant starch component to it. Some of the ingredients I lopped off from the focus recipes in the interests of simplicity (can't get too much stuff into a bun, even one bigger than a baguette).


When I cull recipes in search of a common denominator baseline of ingredients to try, I don't really taste the completed dish in the same way, say, some musical composers "hear" the completed piece in their heads. My process is more like: I look at an ingredient, sorta "taste" it in my head, and think about whether it'll add to the whole, or distract. The most obvious edit of this kind was radishes found in the the epicurious variation - didn't want THAT peppery an element in this one. Same with garlic - love it to death, will eat raw, but a bit pungent for this combo.


After sifting through, I came up with what I thought I could fit into a bun:


  • A handful of string beans, tips trimmed and cut into largish pieces
  • 2-3 anchovies
  • 2 canned or jarred artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • 1 tomato, seeded and sliced


I toyed with capers, but didn't have any in the house, so I didn't go for it. If I had some, I could live with a bit of pickled acid element in the combo since the rest of the ingredients (except for the anchovies) are pretty subtle to begin with.


Next step was the dressing. Someone told me they'd heard of mayo-based dressings for this, but all the recipes I found talked about a vinaigrette, with a mix of oil, acid and, in most cases, an emulsifier. I settled for 2 parts olive oil, 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice (less harsh flavour than a wine vinegar or lemon juice, and brighter than a balsamic), and a bit of Dijon mustard to keep the ingredients blended. In a future iteration, I'm going to try using the oil in the tuna can (although the fishy taste would restrict it to use JUST in this recipe, I think).


Once you hard boil the egg and peel it, boil some water, blanch the green beans in boiling water for a minute or two, then shock them to cool them off (you're supposed to pop them into ice water, but I just ran cold water into the pan to cool them, and they turned out just fine). Seed & slice the tomatoes. Chop the lettuce. Peel and thinly slice the red onion. Drain and quarter the artichoke hearts. With all the goodies set to stack, you open your can of tuna manna, you pick out a couple of anchovies. Cut the loaf in half around the "equator", and scoop out the pulp to leave pockets in the upper and lower hemisphere.


I layered the stuff as follows:


  • Top bread hemisphere
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Green beans
  • Bit of tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Sliced Onion
  • Bit more tuna
  • Sliced egg
  • Olives
  • Lettuce
  • Bottom bread hemisphere


Drizzle some of the vinaigrette on the stacked hemispheres, bring them together, cut into quarters, and you're good to go.


Visually, it came out MUCH nicer than I would have thought, given the lack of ingredient space in the small loaf.




It was the taste, though, that I was looking for.


I liked how the brightness of the vinaigrette brought out the flavours of the ingredients, without masking the silkiness of the tuna. My sweetie summed it up best when she said that you try for the "perfect bite" (one with everything in it, like you might try when eating a shaped pasta with bits of meat, veg or fish in the sauce) on this, but each bite is a bit different. She's right -one bite, I tasted more of the mellow artichoke. The next bite, there was the crispness of the just parboiled beans. Next, some rich olive and tuna. You get the picture, and as you can see, it appears my sweetie approved.



Looks like something good to wrap up and pack on a picnic (although I'd hold off on the dressing until just before you eat it lest the bread get soggy). If you can't find the uber-expensive tuna, just use the most expensive oil packed tuna you can afford.



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