Versions of this quick and nutritious salad are served all over Italy, especially in Bologna, where I first encountered it. It takes advantage of the convenience of preserved tuna, a supermarket product that’s not to be confused with canned tuna as we know it here. Preserved tuna is a delicacy that captures the essence of fresh tuna by slow-cooking it in good-quality oil; it also boasts a generous flake.
You can make this dish with any good Italian or Spanish brand of preserved tuna. I also provide a recipe for preserved tuna, if you’d like to do as they do in Sicily, Calabria, and Liguria and make your own.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans or white beans, such as cannellini
- 4 cups Vegetable Stock
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 garlic clove, smashed with the side of a chef’s knife and peeled
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 6-ounce cans preserved tuna packed in olive oil (see the headnote), drained and broken into chunks, or 12
- ounces Preserved Tuna
- 0.5 cup very thinly sliced red onion
- 0.5 cup thin diagonal slices peeled celery, plus ½ cup
- coarsely chopped celery hearts (pale yellow and green
- stalks and leaves from the center of the bunch)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)
- Put the beans in a bowl, cover with cold water, and soak overnight. (Alternatively, you can quick-soak the beans; see below.) Drain. Add the beans, vegetable stock, rosemary, and garlic to a large heavy saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 to 1½ hours. Season with salt and pepper, remove the pan from the heat, discard the rosemary and garlic, and let the beans cool. (The beans can be cooked in advance, cooled, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. Let come to room temperature before proceeding.)
- Put the beans in a large mixing bowl or, if you plan to serve the salad family-style, a salad bowl. Add the tuna, onion, and sliced celery and set aside.
- Put the oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk together. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then gently stir in the parsley and the mint, if using.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper and toss again. Scatter the celery hearts over the salad and, if desired, splash a little vinegar over the top to perk up the salad with its distinct acidity.
- Divide the salad among 4 salad plates, or serve family-style. Variations This is a salad to have in your repertoire in the summertime, when it can be served as a starter or a light meal. If you like, augment it with greens such as watercress, or with halved cherry tomatoes. Or increase the quantities to make it a main course.
- Quick-Soaking Dried Beans To quick-soak beans, put them in a heavy pot and add enough water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and immediately cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Let the beans soak for 1 hour, then drain.