Everybody has their outliers, right? You know, whether it’s a type of person you’re attracted to, music, food, something that doesn’t fit into your type, may even contain things that normally turn you off, but for some unknown reason, you like it. Love it even.
For me, foodwise that is, it’s tuna salad. While growing up, I hated canned tuna. It skeeved (still skeeves, really) me out to the point that I mildly gagged when even just looking at a can of the stuff. I blame my mother for this– when I was little, she’d sometimes take my brother and me to work with her when she had to work downtown on a weekend. On these trips, the snack would be tuna from a can, spread on crackers and hot chocolate from the vending machine. Yeah– gross, huh? I hated tuna, I hated mayo, I hated relish, and I hated eggs, but for some unknown reason, the combination of all that, plus some chunks of celery for crunch, was delicious. It’s not like I would intentionally seek out a tuna salad sandwich, precisely because the thought of all those things that grossed me out made me shy away from it, but when handed one, I devoured it readily.
Growing up has changed my relationship with all those tuna salad components for the better… well, maybe not canned tuna. There’s only so much that can be done to make things better when faced with such traumatic childhood memories. But my brain still takes a little convincing that something with all those ingredients will be something that I will enjoy. So in this case, looking at a pile of green beans and fingerling potatoes from the CSA combined with a couple of pieces of tuna bought from our grocery delivery service, I knew that some sort of salad Nicoise had to be made. I just wasn’t particularly eager to go ahead and make the dish.
But eventually, these were the last ingredients left in the house before another flood of produce came from the CSA. So I blanched some green beans, parcooked the potatoes, and tossed those along with some slivers of yellow carrot in some melted butter and lots of dill. I seared the tuna steaks and stacked slices of the tuna with my mix of vegetables on a light layer of mayo, mixed with Dijon mustard, capers (since I didn’t have olives in the fridge like I thought) and some more dill. Wrapped in a spinach tortilla, I thought that this would be a cute twist on a Nicoise salad.
I ended up with something so much more– like a grown up tuna salad sandwich, this was so delicious and pretty to look at. The mayonnaise tastes almost buttery when combined with the starchy potatoes. The crisp green beans and the bright floral flavors of the dill softened the flavors of the tuna which was firm to the bite and lightly citrusy from the lemon juice I used in the marinade. Lastly, the carrots gave an underlying sweet but spring-like vegetal flavor that tied everything together. Served with some oven baked fries that were showered in Parmesan cheese and more herbs, this was a meal that satisfied without weighing you down. It’s an outlier meal for me that I think I’ll return to again… as long as no one makes me eat it with a cup of vending machine hot chocolate.
Note: I got a bit overly ambitious in the amount of filling I put in these wraps. Although I only made two wraps with the ingredients as listed below, really, one half was enough to make a serving. So really, this recipe serves 4, either by serving each person a half of a wrap or dividing the ingredients among 4 spinach tortillas to make 4 smaller sandwiches.
- Two 6 oz albacore or ahi tuna steaks
- 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, divided
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 medium cloves of garlic
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
- 3-4 fingerling potatoes
- 1 small yellow carrot, cut into sticks about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- spinach tortillas
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons capers, including their brining liquid
Lightly brush a cast iron skillet with a little bit of olive oil and heat over medium high heat. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove (about 1 teaspoon), and 1 teaspoon of honey. Season both sides of the tuna steaks with salt and pepper then spread the mustard mixture on both sides of the tuna before setting the steaks down in the skillet. Cook to your preferred degree of doneness, but in my case, to retain that slight bit of pink in the center, I cooked these for about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside while you prep the vegetables and dressing. When tuna is cool to touch, cut into 1/2 inch thick sticks.
In another small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, remaining 2 teaspoons of mustard, remaining clove of minced garlic (about 1 teaspoon), capers and their brining liquid. Add about 1 tablespoon of dill, and then mix until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator to give the dressing time to marry its flavors.
Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil then add the green beans. Cook for 5 minutes or until bright green yet still crisp. Remove the green beans using a slotted spoon and cool completely in ice water. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until potatoes are just fork tender but do not fall apart, about 5-7 minutes. Add these to the ice water and green beans.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Drain the green beans and potatoes. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise then cut each half lengthwise. Add the green beans, yellow carrot sticks, and potatoes to the melted butter. Toss in remaining dill and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until all the vegetables are coated then remove from heat.
To assemble sandwich wraps, take one spinach tortilla at a time and spread a tablespoon or so of the mayonnaise and caper dressing on it. Layer pieces of tuna, a few green beans, a couple of carrot sticks, and a few slices of potato then fold in the sides of the tortilla and roll from the bottom up. Cut in half on a bias then serve.