Tuna Toasts With Spice-Dusted Tomatoes

October  4, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 7 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

If a tuna sandwich met tomato toast—both of which happen to be on the list of my top summer meals—you’d get this tuna and tomato number. It’s crunchy, it’s juicy, it requires just one pan (and that’s literally only for making toast). It’s a simple tuna salad on garlic-rubbed toast, topped with tomatoes, but not just any tomatoes: tomatoes dusted with fennel seeds, cumin, and chile flakes. This mega-simple meal is the answer for several summer situations: You’re having a lazy, sweaty evening at home; you’re at a beach or lakeside rental with minimal kitchen equipment; you’re camping but plan to eat like you’re glamping. Plus, it’ll run you just $10.

Let's talk about the stars here, tuna and tomatoes, two ingredients that can either be quite cheap or quite pricey; oftentimes quality is the biggest factor. When it comes to canned tuna, oil-packed tends to be more expensive by several dollars than water-packed. I’d typically go for the former, but when the tuna’s getting mixed with mayo and slathered on oil-toasted bread, there’s really no need for the additional fat, even if the flesh tends to be slightly more tender. Still, water-packed options are even cheaper when the tuna was less sustainably caught, so I feel it’s as important to read the label as it is the price tag—my research has led me to 365 Canned Wild Tuna, which is $1.99 per 5-ounce can (you’ll need two for this recipe) and 100 percent pole- and line-caught—there are indeed cheaper and more expensive tunas on the market; as always with this column, I recommend you buy what’s best for your budget. Break up the tuna with mayo, chopped red, celery, and dill pickles ($1).

Moving on to tomatoes. While I have personally dropped $25 in a single visit to the farmers market on the heaviest, juiciest heirloom tomatoes that practically burst at the slightest nudge (they’re only like this once a year in New York!), you don’t need the most perfect tomatoes to make this sandwich taste like summer on a plate—the spices, which you’ll likely have on hand, plus a hefty shower of salt and pepper, make even winter tomatoes seem less sad. That said, you need only a couple small or one big 'mater for this meal, which will run you less than $2 at the farmers market or the grocery store, so I say buy the good ones if you can.

Next, you’ll toast bread—I like thick slices of country-style pullman or rye ($2 for four) for this, fried into toast with a bit of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Pile on the tuna and the seasoned tomatoes, and then open a bag of potato chips. So integral are the chips ($1) to this meal that I’ve formally factored them into the final price tag. Skip them if you want, but know you’re missing out.

If you want to spend another buck or two (or happen to have some in the fridge!), make this a melt by adding 2 ounces of shredded cheddar: After toasting the first side of the bread in Step 3, flip it and carefully rub the toasted side with garlic. Pile on the tuna, then sprinkle over the cheese and cover with a lid to melt, then finish with the tomatoes. Happy toast season, one and all! —Rebecca Firkser

Test Kitchen Notes

Nickel & Dine is a budget column by Rebecca Firkser, assigning editor at Food52 and toast-for-dinner lover. Each month, Rebecca will share an easy, flavor-packed recipe that feeds four (or just you, four times)—all for $10 or less. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib (with any leaves), finely chopped (¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 ounce minced kosher dill pickle spears (about ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons), plus more spears for serving
  • 2 (5-ounce) cans water-packed, unsalted tuna, drained
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 small or 1 large (7 to 9 ounces) heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, roughly chopped or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon teaspoon mild chile flakes, such a Aleppo pepper or gochugaru; or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 thick slices country-style pullman bread or rye
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Potato chips, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, use a fork to whisk together the vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, onion, celery, and pickles. Add the tuna and gently break up the fish with the fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Spread out the tomato slices on a large plate or sheet pan. Shower over the crushed fennel seeds, cumin, and chile flakes. Season with lots of salt and pepper, then set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium low heat for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low. Place the bread into the pan in a single layer and toast for 5 minutes, until deeply golden brown. Flip the bread and toast on the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bread to serving plates, toastier side up. Peel the garlic and rub over the top of each slice of toast.
  4. Divide the tuna salad between the toasts, then top each with the spiced tomatoes. Slice the toasts if half if you want before transferring to plates. Serve with potato chips and eat immediately, preferably outside.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

1 Review

GretchinF July 30, 2021
Yossy Arefi should be embarrassed by the lack of spice they put on the tomatoes in that picture, hahaha