tuna salad salad
#1 tuna salad salad
Welcome to A Newsletter, a title so uncreative it could only have come from someone who never planned on launching a newsletter. I am trying to not let “perfect be the enemy of the good,” here, so here is the first draft, as it were, the first imperfect step towards something….else, something different? Know that whatever this is today, it will evolve, grow and continue to take shape as I do the same.
The primary purpose here will be to get a new recipe in your inbox, but it will also serve as a way to expand and explore the format of how recipes are written/published/consumed. There will be visible links to resources (where to find ingredients, places that have inspired a recipe, people that have pioneered a technique, etc.) and new voices contributing to mix things up because if you were wondering “do you ever get tired of the sound of your own voice?” the answer is: yes!
Inspired by the eloquent, powerful, vulnerable, beautifully written emails I received over the last month, there will also be a round 2 newsletter every Friday featuring Q&As and reader emails/letters submitted. I have found these emails to be one of the most human, helpful tools in processing the events of the last few weeks. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
If you’d like to submit a question or letter, please email QCC@alisoneroman.com. I will always ask permission before publishing.
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This month’s charity will be The Okra Project, an organization that offers food and mental health resources and support to the Black Trans community worldwide.
Okay, now for this week's recipe, which: Lol, it’s...tuna salad. Well, really it’s a tuna salad salad. Perhaps I will get dragged for this (“you’ve been gone for 2 months and we get…tuna salad?”), but I am going with what’s in my heart. And my heart is in tuna salad salad. Take it or leave it, but I suggest you take it (it’s free!).
Where I usually cope with stress/anxiety/etc. with food (the shopping for, cooking and eating of), the last few weeks have been a struggle to find the joy in any of those activities (a true first in my 15 years of cooking professionally!). So no, I wasn’t cooking, I wasn’t developing recipes, I wasn’t working. Usually the recipes I write are a pretty unfussed-with reflection of what I’m genuinely excited to cook and eat, but “pickles eaten directly from the jar” and “2 Cadbury Creme Eggs” are not recipes.
A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my best friend Kate in California, loudly eating an enormous hunk of iceberg lettuce while I told her with zero enthusiasm that I was mixing up my 9th tuna salad in as many days. It was all I wanted to eat and all I had the energy to make (yes, my version has a LOT of iceberg lettuce). “That’s so funny,” she said. “When [REDACTED] and I broke up, and I was the most depressed I’d ever been, the only thing I wanted to eat was tuna from the can.”
This version is likely more acidic, potentially more oniony and definitely has more celery than some would like, but to me it’s the platonic ideal. Cobbled together from versions found in the various delis of my youth (s/o Solly’s in Sherman Oaks), it’s eaten more like a salad on large, pulled apart wedges of iceberg. There are also capers, which I know some of you will not be happy about, so feel free to leave them out.
I would like to thank my personal tuna salad icons, The Palace Diner in Biddeford, Maine (theirs is technically a melt and uses sweet pickles which aren’t for me, but it’s got ungodly amounts of iceberg making it a near perfect ten) and Eisenberg’s Deli in Manhattan (the salad version is scooped and holds its shape like perfect ice cream in a cone, which is so delightful).
I’m not saying you have to be depressed or anxious to enjoy this tuna salad salad, in fact, I don’t recommend it. But just saying if you are either of those things, speaking from experience, it does help! You can find the recipe here (you can save this for later!).
Until then, please vote if you can (here is a link to helpful intel if you’re in New York- primaries are TUESDAY JUNE 23!), stay hydrated and put down your phone once and awhile. See you next week! Love, mom.
TUNA SALAD SALAD
In the same way I do not want to explore the pizza with the “creative toppings,” (give me A Margarita), I am not interested in a “twist” on a tuna salad, as it falls under a style of food I like to ask to “Please Just Play The Hits,” (see also: grilled cheese, ice cream, caesar salad). The classic cravings are specific and the failure to deliver in the name of “putting a spin on it” is a soul crushing disappointment every time.
The tuna itself can be packed in oil or spring water, purchased in Italy or the Key Foods, come in a tin can or glass jar, I do not care. What I do care about: Does the salad itself have the proper amount of mayonnaise (“just enough”)? Is the tuna properly mashed into just the right texture (not too chunky, never mushy)? Is it bright with acidity and oniony with...onions? Have you included celery and perhaps, “too much” dill? Is iceberg lettuce involved, in any way? This tuna salad, says YES, unequivocally, to all of those questions.
½ small red onion or 1 large shallot
1 lemon, zested and halved for juicing
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1-2 celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh dill leaves, coarsely chopped, divided
2–3 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more for the toast, if you like
1 5–7 oz. can or jar tuna packed in oil or spring water, drained
1/2 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, leaves torn into large pieces
2 tablespoons capers, optional
2 slices rye bread, well toasted
Softened butter, for the toast (unless you prefer mayo)
1. Finely chop half the onion (or shallot), thinly slice the remaining and set aside (you can also finely chop the whole thing if eating onions “two ways” does not interest you the way it interests me).
2. Combine the finely chopped onion in a medium bowl with lemon zest and the juice from about ½ a lemon, season with salt and pepper. Let sit 5 minutes or so, to kind of lightly pickle and macerate (this is doing two things: mellowing out the raw onion, and flavoring the lemon juice so that it can better dress the entire mixture).
3. Add the celery, half of the dill and the mayo. Mix well, like you’re making a dressing (you’re making a dressing!). Add the tuna to that and using a fork, mix until it resembles the tuna salad you want to see in the world (the end texture can be smooth and pate-like, or chunky and dressed, and that is really personal preference).
4. Scatter the lettuce and remaining sliced onion onto a large plate, squeeze the other half of the lemon over and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the tuna salad in and on the lettuce, like you’re creating a little edible arrangement. Scatter with capers, if using, and remaining dill.
5. Cut the toast into triangles (tastes better) and spread with a bit of softened butter or mayonnaise, or both if you’re truly “going for it.”
6. Eat like lettuce cups, like a salad, or like open faced toast.
Shopping at Sahadi’s on Atlantic again (they’re open to the public and the line to get in is not bad!), donating to and volunteering for campaigns running in the primaries on June 23, reading Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo & Heartburn by Nora Ephron, subscribing to Samantha Irby’s Judge Mathis newsletter, working out with Chloe Woo (via Zoom), who is helping me sprout my first visible muscle (DM her on IG for her weekly class schedule), getting things framed (I go to Make A-Frame who are still open!), protesting, staying off Twitter and writing letters to send in the mail instead (big USPS fan over here).