By Alison Diven, Contributing Writer
It’s hard to beat a no-cook meal in late summer, and if you’re looking for something simple and a little elegant too, this French-inspired tuna salad is quick to please. We love this olive oil-dressed salad for its blend of easy prep and fresh, sophisticated flavors. Even better, it showcases two of the season’s superstars, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Serve it in lettuce cups for brunch, on sourdough bread for a last hurrah summer picnic, or alongside a giant salad for dinner.
I’ll never forget the inspiration for this recipe. I sat cross legged on the lawn of Versailles, with the palace in full view across the Grand Canal, as I tasted my first forkful of herby, tomato-filled tuna salad. It was idyllic. That was four years ago on a bicycle tour from Paris, and we’d stopped in the town of Versailles to pick up picnic goods. I remember splitting a Nutella-banana crepe with my mother-in-law—oh, that Chantilly cream!—before selecting a blue cheese that turned out to be one of the best I’d ever tasted, some forgettable odds and ends, and that marvelous mayo-less (in France, of all places!) tuna salad. I came home inspired.
Because this salad is so simple, you’ll want to use the best ingredients you can. Gourmet extra virgin olive oil really makes a difference here. Did you know that, unlike wine, the fresher the olive oil, the more prized? That’s one reason many experts recommend choosing a USA product over imported Italian ones, not to mention concerns about adulteration. Kimberly has written before about her favorite olive oil source, but if you just want to dip your toe in the water, Trader Joe’s carries an award-winning California Estatesextra virgin olive oil in a 16.9 oz bottle at a fabulous price point. That’s what I’ve been using to dress cold dishes and drizzle over soups, and I just love its robust peppery flavor.
Quality tuna is important too, not only for taste and texture, but also for health reasons. There’s the mercury content to consider, of course, but also the potential radioactive effects of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. You can read more from the Nourishing Gourmet about this here, including several tuna brand suggestions like Cole’s from Radiant Life. I used oil-packed Tonnino tuna fillets myself. We’ve cut way back on our tuna consumption, especially since these brands are pricey, but every once in a while, tuna is the only thing that will do!
Finally, let’s talk tomatoes. Believe it or not, we still don’t have farm-fresh tomatoes at the growers’ market here in northern New Mexico! This short growing season is killing me. If you’ve got fresh tomatoes right now, well, eat an extra for me, and then use the rest fresh—deseeded and chopped—in this salad. If, however, you share my sorrow and are making do with grocery store tomatoes, you may enjoy “melting” cherry or grape tomatoes to concentrate and enrich their flavor. Actually, it’s hard for me to decide which way I like this salad better. You really can’t go wrong. (I follow this super easy method for melting tomatoes. Don’t skip the parchment paper!)
Looking for more summer food inspiration? Check out these other recipes from the Nourishing Gourmet:
- 13-14 ounces canned or jarred tuna, preferably packed in olive oil (I used Tonnino)
- 6 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs - any combination of basil, dill, and/or parsley
- ¼ cup minced shallot or purple onion
- ½ cup seeded and diced heirloom tomatoes OR "melted" tomatoes (see this method)
- 3-4 Tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle (I used Trader Joe's California Estate)
- ½ large lemon, juice added to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Drain the tuna and place in a medium bowl. Add the chopped herbs, minced shallot, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix gently with a fork, breaking up the tuna.
- If using fresh tomatoes, carefully fold them in. If using melted tomatoes, break them up with a fork a bit before stirring in--they make a delicious sauce as they burst.
- If the mixture is dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil. You may need even more if your tuna was water-packed.
- Add lemon juice to taste. Adjust salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.
- Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top.