My kitchen is never without a jar of tuna packed in oil. It’s often the thing that saves me from feeling like I have nothing to eat.
It ties together the scraps of food—the last of the kale, that pesky half-bulb of fennel, even eggs—that I end up with a few days after a greenmarket trip, and it usually makes those scraps feel a little more substantial.
It also plays nicely with other pantry staples like canned tomatoes, beans, and preserved lemons.
Even though tuna is a hero in my kitchen, I don’t (and wouldn’t) eat it every day of the week. I don’t know about the mercury levels or fishing practices for every brand of jarred tuna, but I do know that there are brands out there that are selling more sustainable tuna with lower mercury levels. But still, tuna every night for a week might put you off of it for a while, so think of this article as inspiration rather than consecutive meals.
Ready? Let's start.
Shaved Fennel Salad with Tuna and Preserved Lemon
If fennel is at the greenmarket, it’s in my fridge. This salad couldn’t be easier—get the recipe here—and I love any excuse to use preserved lemons. Now you will, too.
Kale, Bean, and Tuna Salad
What could possibly make a nice kale and white bean salad even better? A little bit of tuna. You can use any kind of bean, canned or dried, but I like dried heirloom beans because they feel more special (and a pot of those can give you a week full of meals, too.)
Tomato Sauce with Olives and Tuna
Tuna in tomato sauce? As it turns out, the two make a rich, complex sauce—and all you need is a stocked pantry. I made a lazy version of Kitchen Butterfly’s lovely Barca Tuna Sauce and was very happy.
This one’s obvious, but you can make a variation on a Niçoise salad all year using what you have on hand. The one pictured is super simple with olives, tuna, and a medium-cooked egg. If you want to build from there, throw in French green beans, tomatoes, baby potatoes, or whatever else is in season.
I felt like I was going out on a limb here, but tuna omelettes are not unheard of, and a tuna frittata isn’t too far off from that. I used a lot of parsley, a shallot, and doused the thing in olive oil once it was on my plate. And though I didn’t try it, I think it’d be good as a sandwich on baguette with homemade aioli.
Lemony Tuna Sandwich
I like lemony tuna sandwiches with capers or olives and lots of parsley. Preserved lemons work nicely, too (did I mention I have a thing for them?). I made this one with all of the above, and stirred in a bit of homemade aioli. But in the world of tuna sandwiches, you have options: Try this pan bagnat—it's one of my favorites.
1 large bulb fennel, shaved
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon preserved lemon, minced
1/4 cup olive oil-packed tuna
2 tablespoons olive oil
A squeeze or two of lemon, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Top photo by James Ransom, all others by Kristy Mucci