Provençal Tuna Melt

March  1, 2012
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Purists may cringe at the use of "Provençal" and "Melt" in the same phrase, but if the shoe, so to speak, fits . . . I've grouped some of the flavors that remind me most of Provence, put them between some good, grilled bread, and added a soft, melt-y cheese. And any day I can stand on a soapbox and proclaim the glories of tuna packed in olive oil is a good one. —boulangere

Test Kitchen Notes

This isn't your standard greasy diner version of a tuna melt. Packed with lots of flavor, this makes for an excellent and healthy lunch. The recipe calls for two tablespoons of Mayonnaise, I found that one did the trick. The red pepper flakes add a nice little spice, and the asiago is a great call. Feel free to get creative with different bread variations such as whole wheat or ciabatta. —Dana'sBakery

  • Serves 2
  • 1 6-ounce can tuna packed in olive oil*
  • 1/4 of a red bell pepper, 1/4" dice
  • Green parts of 2 scallions, 1/4" dice
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 4 slices good bread; I used my own ciabatta
  • Olive oil
  • Slices of soft cheese; use as much as you like. I used a tender, fresh Asiago Pressato
In This Recipe
  1. Tuna packed in olive oil is one of the genuinely great things in life. It has a tenderness that the water-packed varieties lack utterly. It costs a bit more, and is worth every penny. The daughter and I became hopelessly addicted to it last summer in Italy and France. We'd buy small cans in 3-packs. We used it in pastas, on salads, and carried it in a backpack for impromptu lunches, knowing we could always score good bread with which to eat it. It's become a pantry staple I wouldn't want to try to do without. To use it here, don't drain the oil off too aggressively. Leave about half of it in the can; it will contribute a lovely silkiness to the filling. Scrape the tuna and oil into a mixing bowl.
  2. May I tell you about an easy way to break down a bell pepper? Stand it on end, position your knife at the bump of the "shoulder", and slice down, following the curve of the pepper. You'll take off about a quarter of it, and leave the seeds and white pith attached to the center. Slice the pepper into strips, then lay a few at a time on their sides to chop. A knife will cut through the skin much more easily from the side than if you lay the strips skin-side down or up. Especially if your knife isn't, ahem, as sharp as it probably should be. Add the peppers to the bowl.
  3. Slice the scallions and add them to the bowl. Roughly chop the capers (you're just trying to break them up a bit) and add them to the bowl. Mince the thyme (the stems on my plant in the kitchen window are so tender that I don't even need to pull the leaves off) and add it. Eyeball the mayo, but don't use a heavy hand. You want just enough to bind the mixture. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the red pepper flakes. Gently stir everything together.
  4. Turn on the broiler. Set a rack a notch below the one right under the broiler; that will let the filling warm and cheese melt without either burning. I prefer broiling the outsides of the bread, then adding the filling and cheese, and passing everything under the broiler again. I love the additional layer of flavor that comes from allowing the cheese and edges of the bread to brown on the inside, rather than simply melt, as they would in a skillet or press. Lay bread slices outsides-up on a baking sheet NOT lined with parchment, for what I trust are obvious reasons. Brush them with olive oil and place under broiler. Don't walk away. They should brown nicely within about a minute. Remove the baking sheet and use tongs to turn over slices of bread. Divide filling between two slices, and arrange cheese on the others. Return to broiler. Heat for about 2 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and golden brown, and filling has heated.
  5. Remove from oven, Use tongs to turn the cheese-y slices over on top of those spread with filling. Slice in half, and serve immediately. Pour some glasses of a crisp white wine and raise a toast to global cuisine.

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