Back in July of 1990, as the United States and it allies were amassing a million troops for Operation Desert Shield, I decided to subscribe to the New York Times so I could get a better perspective of the conflict. I was glad I did. While my local paper might contain a story or two about what was going on, The New York Times would dedicate multiple pages and dozens of stories to developments in the Middle East.
After Operation Desert Storm ended in February 1991, I continued to subscribe to the paper. I enjoyed the broader world view that the NYT provided...but I was particularly interested in their Wednesday edition. Every Wednesday, they publish an entire section dedicated to all things about food, wine and dining.
Many of the recipes that are posted on my blog come from the Wednesday edition of The New York Times. Today's recipe does as well. Tony Cecchini's tuna salad recipe is so unique...quite unlike any other tuna salad you've tasted. Tuna. Fresh herbs. Pepperoncini peppers. Smoked almonds. Plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar and two types of mustard.
But first, a word about the tuna. You must use a tuna packed in olive oil. Olive oil preserves the natural flavor of the fish. Tuna packed in water is a mess. Water leeches all of the flavor out of the tuna. I'm really picky about my tuna and only buy one brand, Cento from Italy.
In canned tuna taste tests, this brand always ravages the competition. It is the most extraordinary tasting tuna. In my 63 years on earth I have not found another brand that comes close. Cento is a top quality Italian supermarket brand offering a wide range of gourmet products. And their tuna is to die for. It's available at Whole Foods and Amazon. I buy mine at Amazon. A case of 24, 5-ounce cans costs $58.65....that comes out to a bargain price of just $2.44 per can.
We tried this recipe last Monday and absolutely loved it. The pH of this meal tends to be more on the acidic side, so it is best served on some type of bread. If you are serving this dish as an entree, use flatbread. If you are serving it as an appetizer, choose crostini. To make crostini, thinly slice a baguette. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and slide them into a 375º oven for ten minutes.
Note: This salad can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
10 to 12 ounces good-quality solid tuna packed in olive oil, well drained (reserve oil)
2 scallions washed, trimmed and chopped fine
6 pepperoncini peppers, stems removed and julienned
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
¼ cup smoked almonds, chopped roughly
¼ cup good-quality olive oil (start with the oil the tuna was packed in)
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or more to taste
¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Mix all the ingredients well with a fork in a medium-size, nonreactive bowl. Taste and adjust the lemon juice and pepper.
- Serve on flatbread or crostini toasts.
Wine pairing: For those who prefer reds, a Rosé or Côte du Rhône will do nicely. White wine drinkers should opt for an unoaked Chardonnay.