Star Tuna Salad
I’ve been at war with tuna salad lately. After being thoroughly disgusted with a local sandwich shops refusal to toast the bread for my tuna salad sandwich, I told Jersey Mike exactly where to stick what, and came home and set to work on perfecting the simple art of Tuna Salad. It seems silly to put so much energy into something that is so simple, but I wanted the ultimate tuna salad. I wanted a tuna salad that would reduce your grandmother to tears of gastronomic joy. After the third preparation of merely palatable salad, I realized I forgot to ask the most important question. What is tuna Salad? Mayo, Celery, and Tuna right? Suddenly my mind went blank. There’s nothing to deconstruct here, nothing to pick apart and build differently. So I threw it all out, the tuna salads that I had made, my pre-conceived notions of what it should be, and the memories of what I had eaten in the past. Strictly speaking, tuna salad has only been a flavorless, drab means of conveyance for protein intake. Well, not anymore.
First of all, I would like to meet the person who decided that tuna salad and mayonnaise are permanently conjoined so I can punch them in the stomach. Every deli in town (including the one I work for) uses mayo in their tuna salad. Why? Mayo is nasty, it’s heavy and slimy and in just one cup you have seventy one percent of your RDI of Sodium and a whopping 118 percent of your RDI of fat. Now obviously you don’t eat a whole cup of mayo each time you chow down on a tuna salad, but why bother with the mayo at all? Hold the 796 Calories (692 of which are from fat) and opt for a more flavorful and healthier alternative. Much better flavor can be had by leaving out the mayo and substituting it with a simple balsamic reduction, a favorite salad dressing, or just straight up olive oil. Second, Celery is for making stock and soup, not for eating. Sure, it’s low calorie, and has Vitamins A, C, and B6, and its good fiber, but it’s also disgusting. That’s a total trump right there. Eating healthy must taste good, and there is nothing about celery that stimulates my palate.
Armed with this analysis, and a healthy dose of courage (booze) me and my best friend and culinary confidant Chasity set out to create the perfect Tuna Salad last week. I don’t keep mayonnaise in the house so you won’t find any of it in this recipe, instead there’s a tangy balsamic reduction, and star shaped pastina. We eschewed celery for fresh spinach and threw in some creamy Havarti cheese. Gone is the sensation of eating a mayonnaise sandwich. Hello tuna salad bliss.
Assemble the following:
- 6 Oz. Tuna
- 3 Tbsp Star Shaped Pastina, cooked and drained
- 1 Cup Fresh Spinach, finely chopped
- 1 Clove Garlic Finely Minced
- 1/4 Cup Havarti Cheese
- Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese
- Tbsp Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- English Muffins
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
Do this with it:
Make a simple Balsamic Reduction.
- Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over medium heat.
- Saute garlic until golden brown.
- De-glaze pan with Balsamic vinegar and reduce.
Now, put it all together.
- Combine Tuna, cooled Pastina, Spinach, and Havarti in mixing bowl with Balsamic Reduction.
- Grill English muffins and melt Pepper Jack Cheese on them.
- Top with Tuna Salad, and a few fresh spinach leaves.
Notes and Abstract:
- Pastina is one of those pastas that cook in the blink of an eye, by virtue of its size (it’s tiny). It’s also difficult to drain, so set a coffee filter in your colander so you don’t end up throwing half of it down the drain.
- I used canned tuna for this, obviously fresh would be better. If you can tell me where to get fresh tuna at 1 AM on a week day in the Sand Hills of NC, please feel free to do so.
- Don’t like tuna? Substitute chicken for the tuna. I won’t eat it but who cares?! There are lots of things I won’t eat.
- Yes, I did write 700 words about tuna salad. I’m an over thinker. That’s why it tastes so good.