September 14, 2012
Two Bean Tuna Salad and Food in Cans
Bean salads are relics of American food history. Generally, when I think of them, I see visions of mushy, canned green beans and bland, canned wax beans thrown together with canned kidney beans - all tossed with some sort of distilled vinegar dressing. A dressing that, no matter how much is added, will never be able to compensate for the supreme watery blandness of the beans.
The thing is that there are some canned foods I support, and some I don't. And for a long time, offenders like three bean salads gave all canned foods a pretty bad rap. Pre-cut, pre-cooked string beans and wax beans in cans, along with other most other canned veggies, are firmly placed in the do-not-support category. They are always too soft and tasteless and generally lackluster. On the other hand, I can fully get behind canned beans such as cannellini, red kidney and garbanzo beans. Canned legumes of this sort are some of the few canned foods that I stock in my pantry. Yes, I prefer dried, and yes I stock those too, but let's face it - sometimes you just need beans to be ready in a pinch and you don't want to soak them and boil them and wait until tomorrow for them to be ready. And in those instances, canned beans are a lifesaver.
And as for the whole canned tuna issue - until recently, I found it difficult to buy it at all. Worried about fishing sustainability issues and bycatch and mercury, it's a tough one to navigate. But, I have to be honest, I miss a little canned tuna in my life. For the same reasons that I sometimes like to use canned beans - it's ready to go, it's fast, it's nutritious. It's relatively cheap. So when I caught onto the work that the folks over at Wild Planet are doing, I was pretty happy. Now I feel like I can eat canned tuna without the weight of the depletion of the seven seas on my shoulders. No sponsored plugs here, I just like what they're doing and if I'm going to buy canned tuna every once and while, I'm going to buy theirs.
This is not your average bean salad. Yes, I could have made it a true three bean salad, but aside from general associations of watered down beans, I also think that three bean salads are kind of one-note in terms of texture too. Like, why combine garbanzo beans with red kidney beans AND cannellini beans? Generally, once in your mouth, the texture of all three is very similar. And, let's be real, they don't taste wildly different from each other, especially once dressed. You might as well just pick one and go with it.
And that's what I did. I used fresh haricots verts, or fancy French string beans that are nice and thin and tender, and used only one canned bean - my favorite canned bean - cannellini. Combined with canned tuna and a zingy mustard dressing, this salad is the opposite of everything that it's distant cousin, the three bean salad, represents. There's crunchy texture from the blanched string beans and sharp bite from the paper-thin, raw red onion. And for those that miss the mush-factor of an average three bean salad, the cannellini beans kindly provide that service - in only the best way possible. The slighty briny tuna really rounds out this salad, making it perfect as a stand-alone lunch dish - which is how I enjoyed it. It's kind of like if a Tuscan bean salad met an American bean salad and had a love child - this would be the result.
For 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main
What you'll need:
3 handfuls haricots verts, aka French green beans
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can tuna in olive oil, drained
1/4 large red onion, sliced paper thin
1 Tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Fill a large pot with salted water and place over high heat to boil.
While waiting, in a small bowl, combine the mustard, salt, pepper and vinegar. Whisk together. In a slow stream, whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
Once the water boils, add the trimmed haricots verts to the pot for 3-4 minutes. Immediately drain the beans and immerse in a bowl of ice cubes and water - this will stop their cooking and shock them into retaining a vibrant green color. Once cooled, drain the beans again. Once dry, lay them on the bottom of a large salad bowl or platter.
Add a layer of the thinly sliced red onion on top of the green beans.
Follow this with the drained, rinsed and dry cannellini beans.
Using a fork, carefully remove large chunks of the tuna from the can and spread them around the top of the salad.
Dress the salad and serve.