I’m back, both literally and figuratively. I’ve spent the last five weeks recovering from a major surgery, and food (for eating or photographing) has not been much of a priority. Happily I am well on my way to feeling better and the urge to get back in the kitchen has returned! As I haven’t been able to resume my weekly Farmer’s Market trips yet, I made this salad with what I had on hand. It’s a fresh and light take on tuna salad with a bright and colorful dressing.
Tomato vinaigrette is just the touch to keep this salad from being too predictable. Once you pour this on, it’s no longer a green salad with tuna. Now you have color, texture, and bold flavor to complement your greens and protein. This salad can be served as a starter, or a light lunch if you add a crusty baguette (all the better for mopping up that delicious dressing). Use the best quality olive-oil packed tuna you can afford; it makes all the difference here. A scattering of briny green olives and fresh mint makes for a very summery salad. And, of course, the tomato vinaigrette can be used on almost any tossed salad. Try it on a classic panzanella for pure tomato bliss. And check back here again soon. I have developed quite the salad habit these past few weeks, and I have some real beauties to share.
Tuna and Cucumber Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
- 3 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes , rinsed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 heaped teaspoon tomato paste
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt , freshly ground pepper
- A pinch of granulated sugar
- A 6-7 ounce jar or tin of olive-oil packed tuna
- 1/2 a large seedless English cucumber , sliced lengthwise very thinly on a mandoline *
- 1 small heart of romaine lettuce , sliced into thin ribbons crosswise, rinsed and spun very dry
- A handful of small mint leaves , rinsed and dried
- A handful of pea shoots , rinsed and dried
- 2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped , pitted green olives
To make the vinaigrette, place the tomatoes, vinegar, and tomato paste in the jar of a blender and blend until pureed. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season the dressing generously with salt and pepper. Add a little sugar to taste. Set aside.
On a platter or large plate, start to build the salad: pile the cucumber ribbons at one end of the platter, letting them curve and curl attractively. Next place the tuna, slightly drained of its preserving oil, on the platter. Leave the tuna in large chunks. Next to the tuna, pile two or three handfuls of the romaine, keeping it loose and fluffy. Scatter the mint leaves, pea shoots, and chopped olives over the entire platter. Sprinkle everything with salt and grind some pepper over the tuna. Present the salad, with the tomato vinaigrette alongside, and let your guests appreciate your efforts. Then pour the dressing over each component of the salad and serve. Offer some crusty bread for mopping up the dressing. Leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 5 days.
* Experiment a little with the thickness of the cucumber slices. You want them to be thin enough to "undulate" on the plate, but not so thin that they break up.