It’s interesting when you take a dish that seems so ‘American’, and interpret it in a different, unexpected way. Or discover an international dish that utilizes an ingredient we’re comfortable with, and makes it new and incredible all over again.
Canned tuna is, for me, one of these ingredients. We’re used to it as tuna salad. Mayonnaise, celery, red onion, and that’s it, call it a day and make a sandwich. Once in a while we’ll pair it with pasta and call it tuna noodle casserole, and when we feel very adventurous, we’ll find it on a salad Nicoise.
I’ve recently been experimenting more with eastern Mediterranean/Lebanese ingredients, and have managed to discover probably the best tuna salad I have ever had. It’s different, ie not the ‘normal’ mayonnaise based salad we know. It incorporates some of the incredible and delicious flavors of Lebanon and Armenia, with a central ingredient that we all seem to agree is delicious.
What other ingredients do we love about that region of the world? Caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts, sesame, bitter herbs such as parsley and mint, toasted flat breads, olives and olive oils, lemons…. the list goes on. Mix these items together, and the path for success is paved. Pick a great central ingredient, and you’re on your way. Tuna, for whatever reason, pairs exceptionally well, and is yet somehow lost among the heaps of tabouleh, kabobs, and hummus spreads that we love so much.
I tried this once (cooked and ate), and remembered that it needed to go into my repertoire immediately. I would love to share this with you, and I hope you have the same pleasant surprise I did.
Lebanese Tuna Salad
Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cook time: 30 Minutes
Yield: 6 portions
2 medium sized yellow onions, thin sliced
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 cans albacore tuna, well drained
1/2 bunch parsley, rough chop
1/4 cup kalamata olives, slivered
3-4 tbsp tahini paste, well mixed
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
1/8 tsp ground cumin
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 English cucumber, seeds removed, small dice
2 ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, small dice
extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
In a heavy bottomed saute pan, caramelize the onions in a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Caramelize them slowly, making sure they are cooked all the way through, very sweet and tender. Let them cool completely.
In a mixing bowl, add the tahini, garlic, yogurt, lemon juice, and cumin. Add the tuna and mix well. Mix in the cucumber, tomato, caramelized onions, parsley and olives. Add enough olive oil to coat everything lightly and evenly. Add the pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.
Toast the flat bread in olive oil, and serve with the tuna salad. This is great with additional ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, mint leaves and lettuce.