I knew that I liked both tuna and beans. Separately. But epiphanies happen and in Venice last spring we had tuna and cannellini beans together in a salad for lunch. Loved it. Insalata di tonno e fagioli. My Italian Connection again. Our friend Mac made it for our lunch one day just before we headed for Murano Island.
It was a memorable time and I can picture events associated with and following that lunch – views of the Venetian skyline while riding the #5 Vapretto toward Murano, its colorful architectural landscape, its modest but beautiful cathedral, and the classic painterly light in early evening as we returned to Venice.
In the midst of all that my mind did one of those random backflips – an out-of-the blue flash of intention then back to the present moment, which in this case was the view and the light – where I imagined making this salad when I got back home. Turns out I didn’t wait that long.
We rented a place in Tuscany for a week and prepared some of our meals there. Because it’s quick and delicious and Italian we had this salad for lunch at least twice that week.
And shopping for the ingredients in Cetona, our nearest town, was an adventure. Located on the edge of the piazza there was a tiny grocery where I bought everything I needed. The white-haired nonna and I, neither speaking the other’s language, figured it out and she helped me find what I needed. I returned several times that week and each time she stepped forth with a smile. What language barrier? We’re on the planet together and simpatico regardless of differences.
This is my current favorite summer salad and it doesn’t hurt that I have these sweet memories of Venice associated with it. In the PNW we have plenty of our own memory-making potential. If you can’t imagine tuna and beans together, give this a try. Come to think of it, one of our absolute favorite meals is a Tom Douglas take on halibut and lentils with a bread crumb salad on top. Fish and beans might not be such a weird combo.
Our Venetian Tuna & Bean Salad Recipe
Tuna and bean salad takes about five minutes to make. Let it sit for a bit if you have time. This is enough for two or three smallish servings. Also, this recipe is a guide – no need to be fussy about exact amounts of anything. Just dress it with the oil and vinegar a little at a time to get it where you want.
Ingredients: canned or fresh tuna, canned or cooked-at-home cannellini beans (or any white bean), red onion, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Chopped, fresh parsley.
Directions: Open and drain a can of tuna, Tuna Guys is a great local choice, and a can of rinsed cannellini beans, 1 C of each. More of one or the other would be fine. Mix together with 2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion, more or less as you prefer, and sprinkle generously with olive oil and vinegar. A little seasoning, a handful of parsley, lettuce from the garden, which is glamorous at the moment. Dress it lavishly – add more olive oil and vinegar to taste.
Serve chilled or at room temp on a bed of lettuce with whatever other vegetables you’d like – tomatoes! – a piece of good bread and a bowl of berries. I’ll say it again . . . aaah, sweet summertime. Having said that I realize it would be just as good mid-winter, but I don’t even want to think about that right now.