There are few sandwiches that will stir up happy childhood memories as quickly as tuna. Sure, you’ve got your peanut butter and jelly (or banana, in my house). And you’ve got your grilled cheese, which I also love. But Mom’s tuna salad was awesome! There were days when she made a double batch just so the rest of the family could have some!
This is not my mom’s tuna salad. It’s mine, adapted from the basic “Mediterranean” recipes you’ll find around. If you want mom’s recipe, go here. This is a Manly tuna salad with extra boldness and flavor. Don’t worry, though, ladies like it, too. At least all of the women I’ve served have raved (including mom). Chances are your guests will, too.
The difference is that Mom’s tuna had mayo, onion and pickle relish. It went on plain white bread and was usually accompanied by potato chips. (Frito’s® for grilled cheese and PBJ; Lay’s® for tuna – that’s the law!) On cold winter days we’d have tomato soup as well – if we weren’t having grilled cheese sammiches with the soup. No toasting for Mom; just whip up a batch (or two) of tuna, spread some mayo on the bread, then the tuna, and maybe a piece of lettuce that I could have easily done without. Sometimes she’d let me stack them four high on my plate. I think she was just tired of fighting with me over it. And she knew I’d eat six if I could.
I still love Mom’s tuna salad, and I have been known to make a batch and keep it all for myself. But it doesn’t really fit the bill when you want to serve friends and, I don’t know… impress them? But this tuna… this tuna will get the job done. This is a recipe that will make your friends wonder what special Kitchen Magic you have that you can turn a lowly can of tuna into such a treat.
OK, now that you’re ready, let’s go have some fun!
2 cans (6 oz. each) albacore tuna
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 stalk celery finely diced
2 green onions, sliced thin (optional)
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped, pitted Greek olives (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 good, hearty rolls or 8 slices of good bread
Dijon mustard and/or mayonnaise
8 slices of Swiss cheese (about 1/4″ thick or less)
Dill pickle slices (the long ones)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (if grilling the sandwiches)
Finely chop your onions and basil leaves. If you use dried basil, use 1 teaspoon.
Mix the tuna, onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper together in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. (If you’ve got a panini, you now have an excuse to use it.) Lay out your bread. Spread the cut sides of the rolls (or one side of each slice of bread) with mustard and/or mayonnaise. Top each roll half (or bread slice) with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna salad on the bottoms and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls/bread with the butter.
Grill sandwiches until both sides are nicely browned and the cheese is melted. This usually takes 4 minutes per side, perhaps a bit more. In a panini, expect it to take about 6-7 minutes.
Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.
I prefer doing this sandwich on good, bakery bread. I buy an unsliced loaf, then use my bread knife as a measure to slice off the thickest slices that will into my toaster.
When I break up the tuna, I leave it a bit chunky, as it just works better for this recipe.
You can certainly add some tomato slices to this if you like. I’ve done it, and it works very well. If I do, though, I’ll cut the amount of pickles in half. Likewise, cucumber is awesome on tuna!
I specified Swiss cheese, but feel free to use any cheese you like. The classic American tuna melt normally uses cheddar, and I’ve seen Mozzarella, Provolone, Monterey Jack, and Havarti used to great effect.
If you’re into basil as one of my friends is (she’d eat the leaves right off the plant!), you can add in a layer of fresh basil leaves. I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty darn good, especially with tomatoes.
So there you go. You can bring up happy childhood memories and be Manly, all at the same time. You’re welcome, and don’t forget:
Play with your food!
Did you like this recipe? What recipes would you like to learn? Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts! (And don’t forget to LIKE this post!) Share it using the tiles below.