The only public mayonnaise appreciation you’ll ever see from me
Home Movies Tuesday!
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Hello, welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! Today it’s tuna salad salad, the only reason I own a giant jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. This isn’t sponsored, but Hellmann’s, if you’re reading this and okay with a brand ambassador that only likes mayonnaise in one specific application, please know I’m your woman. This salad isn’t like other salads, it’s a tuna salad salad. Iceberg required, toast optional, and mayonnaise is a word I still have a hard time spelling.
As for the tuna part, I am not picky about the brand. I like Ortiz, but it’s pricey. I like Fishwife, but it’s even pricier (and it’s smoked, which isn’t for everyone). I also enjoy Cento’s version (packed in olive oil), and a smattering of other random brands of canned tuna packed in spring water (with salt, never with out) that are significantly cheaper than the first three I mentioned. This salad is also excellent with sardines and hot smoked salmon (I like Minnow for both) and smoked trout or whitefish (I know I’m in New York, and this is a very New York thing to say, but it’s hard to beat buying a whole smoked fish from Zabar’s or Russ and Daughters and picking the meat yourself for an excellent smoked fish salad).
But I don’t mind spending money on the tinned (or jarred or canned) fish. As we all know, sometimes the best things in life are free, and the other things cost money because sometimes nice things cost money. I would classify tuna as “a nice thing!” Not asking you to spend your rent on tinned fish (not today, anyway), but maybe if we thought of tinned fish as a luxurious gift to ourselves and not an everyday necessity, we’d eat less of it but spend more when we did. These types of practices are good for the environment, good for small businesses, good for small businesses that are mindful of the environment.
See you later this week with some new recipes for your Passover Pleasure!
It’s Tuna Salad Tuesday!!! Is that already a thing? Probably not, who cares! Tuna Salad is a reliable classic, an instant dose of comfort, and the lunch I make for myself most often. The power of a meal that takes five minutes to make and doesn’t require even so much as a skillet cannot be overstated.
This recipe specifically has sustained us on many a cookbook shoot, got eaten in minutes by the Home Movies crew, and has become my go-to for a quick little meal. It’s not like the mayo-drenched, bland, and weirdly grey (?) tuna salads that earned them a bad rap (for me at least) for so long–this one is lighter, brighter, and crunchy as hell thanks to a generous amount of celery and red onion. It’s deeply lemony, has #lotsofdill, and will never lead you astray. Easily adaptable, perfect fridge cleanout meal–what more could you ask for?
The beautiful thing about tuna salad is that its entire essence is about making it your own. Do you like it heavier or lighter on the mayo? Go for it! Want to add a little dijon? I always do. You could add more capers, no capers, chopped pickles, other herbs, or really anything you have on hand and are feeling in the mood for. If you don’t have a red onion, you could use something like a vidalia, or scallions, or a large shallot. Honestly, it doesn’t even need the tuna. Used smoked trout, smoked salmon or any of your other favorite tinned fish.
I love this tuna salad as shown with iceberg for an even crunchier experience, but most of the time you can find me shamelessly eating it piled on ritz crackers and topped with lots of crystal hot sauce while slouched over my kitchen counter. It’s a delightful snack, salad, toast topping, or sandwich filling, and I’ve never met a person who didn’t love it. I know you will too.
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”). 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.
1 small red onion or 1 large shallot
1 lemon, zested and halved for juicing
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped, optional
1 5–7 oz. can or jar tuna packed in oil or spring water, drained
2–3 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more for the toast, if you like
1-2 celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh dill leaves, coarsely chopped, divided
1/2 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, leaves torn into large pieces
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, the juice from about ½ a lemon, and the capers, and 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 tuna and, using a fork, mix it until well-combined. Add half of the dill and the mayo. Mix well, like you’re making a dressing (you’re making a dressing!). Add the celery, and 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.
This is also delicious with smashed chick peas instead of fish, for a vegetarian twist!
I have a dumb question about jars of capers I've been meaning to ask you. Do you put water back in it after you use some? I can't get any capers out without dumping all the liquid out of the jar, but I don't always use all of the capers. I assume adding water and putting the jar in the fridge is okay.
Can't wait to try this lemon peppery tuna salad salad. Thanks!