The Washington Post
A surprising salad that keeps the summer vibes going
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 mayonnaisebased 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 extravirgin 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.
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