September 19, 2020

A la Carte: Need a Quick, No-Cook, Hearty Salad? Tuna Panzanella is the Answer!

Lee White

My eating patterns have changed over the past six months. It began with the shelter-in-place pandemic, during which I looked at my freezers and pantry (the latter is half my hall closet in the condo), and began using many of the shelf-stable groceries of which I had double and triple amounts.)

But once the summer harvest became available, I began allowing my meals to be vegetable- and fruit-centric. I often had a late breakfast, with eggs in the mix along with lots and lots of greens, sweet corn, tomatoes (of course) and sweet peppers.

I would skip lunch, but around three or four in the afternoon, my thoughts went to dinner. If I had something thawed, perhaps a pork or lamb chop, a steak, a burger, I would add a carb (or two or three) and more vegetables. Sometimes my dinner was at 5, because I was pretty darned hungry.

I am usually in bed by 9:30 and read until 11 or later. By that time I am hungry again, but not enough get out of bed and forage downstairs in the kitchen.

We all know not to grocery shop hungry, but it was never a problem for me to read my food magazines at night in bed. But, again, my eating patterns have changed.

A couple of nights ago, I read my new Fine Cooking magazine, one of my favorites. By the time I was done reading that, and turning to a new novel my friend, Mary van Dorster, gave me, I realized I’d dog-eared 17 pages of recipes, not including the entire articles on making ice cream that do not require an ice cream maker or all the fantastic cocktails.

What one would I give you first? Obviously, it should be something that I had not made once this summer and for which I had all the ingredients.

No, I didn’t go to the kitchen at 11 pm, but I made it the next day for dinner.

Tuna Panzanella

From Fine Cooking, August/September 2020

½ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Kosher or sea salt
2 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into ½ inch wedges, or cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
4 half-inch-thick slices rustic sourdough or country bread, toasted or grilled and cooled
1 large clove garlic, cut in half lengthwise, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 English or 2 to 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ¼ cups loosely packed basil, large leaves torn
2 (two) 7- to 8-ounce jars or cans good-quality tuna in olive oil, drained, oil reserved

In a small bowl, toss together onions, vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, toss together tomatoes, capers and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Meanwhile, rub the toast slices on both sides with cut sides of garlic. Tear toast into small pieces. Discard the garlic.

Stir oil into bowl with the tomatoes mixture. Add cucumbers, toast pieces and onions mixture (including all liquids.) Toss well to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. (The salad can be made up to 20 minutes ahead of this step. Keep covered at room temperature.)

Toss the basil and tuna into the salad, drizzled with a little of the reserve tuna oil (if desired) and sprinkle with more pepper.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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