Don’t hesitate to make that recipe you’ve been saving

Over the years, I’ve read many white bean and tuna salad recipes and, due to a longtime love of tuna, wanted to make one. I never did it, though, until now.’s picture of their White Bean and Tuna Salad inspired me to finally make it.

First, a recipe is just a list of ingredients and a preparation method. Making this my salad meant selecting the right ingredients.

For the best flavor, Serious Eats suggested starting with dry white beans. Here’s what they wrote: “Cooked dried beans (and their cooking liquid) have much better flavor and texture than canned beans, so we highly recommend using them in this recipe, if possible.”

Although I heartily agree, the time it took to cook and cool dried beans was way more time than I had or wanted to spend on a salad.

I went with canned, organic cannellini beans, sometimes called white kidney beans.

I’ve been concerned about the mercury in all tuna brands, so I headed to to see which brand delivered the lowest mercury. It turned out that some tuna I’d been using for a while, Genova Yellowfin in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, was the lowest.

This recipe also required olive oil, and the California extra virgin olive oil in my pantry was perfect.

Most folks do not know that many supermarket olive oils, mainly imported ones, may not be pure olive oil or extra virgin. Some exporters blend lower-grade olive oil with other oils (like soybean or canola) and do not reveal that on the label. Google it.

The Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC) can certify California olive oils. According to the OOCC website, the OOCC develops and enforces standards for the purity and quality of California olive oil. They also verify California olive oil quality through mandatory government sampling and third-party analysis.

The recipe called for red onion cut into strips, which is how I made it. However, those strips ended up being difficult to eat, so I’ll dice them next time.

Serious Eats softens red onion’s heat and flavor by soaking it in ice water for 15 minutes and squeezing it out. The diced onion then sits in a vinegar and salt solution for five minutes. I have never done that before, but it is worth the time and hassle.

Fortunately, I already had some distinctively flavored champagne vinegar. If you do not have that, unflavored rice wine vinegar with its lower acidity works very well. Cider and red wine vinegars lack subtlety.

I tweaked my salad with some finely diced celery, adding crunch and a subtle, clean flavor.

Once assembled and combined with fresh parsley, I could not wait to taste it. I served it over some beautiful red-leaf lettuce, and it was everything I wanted a bean and tuna salad to be. Using good-quality ingredients, I frosted this metaphoric cake.

Next time, I will make the salad with wild-caught canned salmon and marinated white onion and see how that works.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at

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Don’s White Bean and Tuna Salad

½ medium red onion, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans Cannellini beans, drained (setting aside 1 tablespoon of the bean liquid)

2 5-ounce cans, preferably olive-oil-packed yellowfin tuna

½ cup finely diced celery

1 medium garlic clove, finely grated

1 tablespoon canned bean liquid

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

To a small bowl add diced red onion with enough ice water to cover. Using clean hands, gently scrunch and squeeze the onions. Set onions and ice water aside for 15 minutes. Drain the ice and water from the bowl. Add the vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt and toss and gently massage onions to evenly coat with vinegar and salt. Set aside and marinate for 5 minutes.

While the onions marinate, in a large bowl combine the drained beans, tuna and its oil, and celery. Squeeze the onions, leaving the liquid in the bowl, and add the onions to the bean and tuna mixture; set aside.

Add garlic, 1 tablespoon canned bean liquid, Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper and salt and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Stir in parsley.

Pour the dressing over the bean-tuna mixture and, using a rubber spatula, toss and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serves 4

Nutrition values per serving: 432 calories (18% from fat), 3.1 g fat (3.1 g saturated fat), 40.4 g carbohydrates (33 net carbs), 0.8 g sugars, 7.5 g fiber, 21.3 g protein, 22 mg cholesterol, 689 mg sodium.

— Don Mauer

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