Monday, June 30, 2014

Italian Tuna Salad with Fennel

Italian Tuna Salad with Fennel
Serves: 6
Difficulty level: Easy
Italian Tuna Salad with Fennel
This colorful tuna salad makes a satisfying lunch or dinner served alongside a mound of greens. I love the contrast in textures of the fennel, celery, onion, and tuna. The salad is light because the tuna is dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice instead of the usual mayonnaise. The fresh herbs give it brightness, and the red bell peppers and purple olives make for a colorful and appetizing preparation. The important thing here is to use the tasty tuna packed in olive oil enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean region, rather than the drier, rather mealy white tuna packed in water. Good quality tuna packed in olive oil from Italy are much easier to find in your local grocer or online. Popular accessible brands include Ortiz or Cento.
Tuna...use the good stuff!
Fennel is a hardy perennial with dill-like foliage atop celery-esque stalks that sprout from a pale green bulb. Good quality fennel will have bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting. The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color. The stalks should be relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb and should not splay out to the sides too much. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color.
  • ¾ C extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ C fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tb chopped fresh tarragon (or 2 tsp dried)
  • ¼ C chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 1 small head fennel, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • ½ small red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound mixed greens or spring mix
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • ½ C pitted Kalamata or nicoise olives
  • ¼ C sundried tomatoes in oil (optional)
  • ¼ - ½ C canned cannellini beans (optional) 

Using a blender or food processor, combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, tarragon and parsley. Set dressing aside. Drain and lightly chunk tuna, then toss it with the fennel, celery, onion, optional sun-dried tomatoes, and most of the dressing. Reserve remainder. This can be done several hours ahead of serving.
Italian parsley and tarragon
Chopped celery, fennel and onions
And now blended!
I serving tuna on top of mixed greens, trim, wash and dry. Toss mixed greens or spring mix with the remaining dressing just before serving.  Arrange on serving plates. Top greens with the tuna salad, and garnish with bell peppers, olives and optional cannellini beans.

Alternatively, one could serve tuna salad on toasted bread – sourdough would be amazing – just brush bread slices with the remaining dressing and add tuna salad. I any case, this is a economical, healthy and flavorful way to use the truly spectacular canned tuna from Italy. Once you have tasted tuna in olive oil, it will be hard to go back to the mealy tuna in water….

For an additional salad that features fennel – see: Fennel, Arugula & Green Apple Salad with Almonds, Parmesan & Golden Raisins


Adapted from recipe by Aliza Green

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