White Bean & Tuna Dip with Garlic Chives
The heat is killing me. No, really, I might be dying, and it’s not even June yet. I spent the better part of last weekend in the garden and my shoulders and neck are glowing with a sunburn so bad that it seems like a farce. I sweat in my sleep, my ballet flats have started to funk, and every time I walk outside into the glaring bright day I cringe and cower in an absurdly vampiric way. And it’s not even June yet. This does not bode well.
Part of being sweaty and sluggish all the time means that my enthusiasm for cooking, in the “application of heat for the purposes of food preparation” kind of way, has waned. The thought of turning on my oven gives me the nervous shakes (AND IT’S NOT EVEN JUNE YET!) and I would totally mug a hippy for a slice of watermelon right now. I’ve been trying though, and I even made a stuffed pasta dish that I was *supposed* to write up tonight, but even looking at the pictures made me feel hot and fat. So….sorry guys, no pasta today.
Instead, let’s talk about how a chubby cheapskate gets inspired by tonnato, because essentially that’s what this recipe is all about. Have you had tonnato before? The most popular tonnato dish would be Vitello Tonnato, a cold dish (generally) of sliced veal smothered in a sauce of tuna and a mayonnaise base. You can guess at what I cut first. The tonnato sauce is creamy but bold, flavored with salty anchovies and briny capers along with bright lemon and a wheeze of garlic. There are no anchovies in this dish, because I would like to retain the small affection that Mike has for me. I also had to omit the capers, due in no small part to a vague memory I have about standing in the fridge door at 2 a.m. on a Friday night with a spoon in one hand and brine running down my chin. But that’s another story.
As you can see, “inspired” by tonnato is about as good as it’s going to get. On the plus side, that still amounts to quite good. Also, “quite fast” and “quite cheap” have a role to play in this spread. It comes together in seconds, and with a robust plate of fresh vegetables and a crusty baguette, this is the kind of light meal or late afternoon snack that I’m fond of.
White Bean and Tuna Dip with Garlic Chives
- 1 can (19 oz) white beans *
- 1 can (6 oz) tuna **
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium lemon (1/2 tsp zest + juice of whole)
- handful fresh garlic chives (1/2 cup finely chopped) ***
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped capers, optional
- salt and finely ground white pepper to taste
* I’ve had that same can of white kidney beans kicking around in my pantry since the last time that I made a white chili, and that was…..some time ago, to say the least. Any mild and sweet white bean will do, but my favorites are usually Great Northern or Cannellini. Feel free to use whatever is lurking in the back of your pantry.
** You make the mistake of eating tuna directly from the can for lunch (every day for a week), and all of a sudden your co-workers razz you about your “cat food” habit. It hardly seems fair. Canned tuna really can be quite lovely, and if you splurge on good tuna (and I didn’t, as evidenced by the picture below) you’ll be astonished by the flavor. For this recipe, you can use oil or water packed. Oil packed tuna will give your dip a richer flavor as well as a bit more body and texture, but water packed tuna is healthier and sometimes milder in flavor.
*** As a semi-helpless gardener, I am currently in the process of killing my garlic chives with incompetence alone. Not only because they’re delightfully seasonal, but also because I wanted to get at least one harvest out before they give up the ghost, they really add a bright and fresh note to this spread. If you don’t have garlic chives, you can substitute with 1/3 cup regular chives and add a small (or 1/2 large) garlic clove to the beans as they puree.
Before you drain the beans, reserve two (2) tablespoons of the clear but viscous broth they are packed in. If the liquid looks quite cloudy or murky, drop that down to one (1) tablespoon and add the same amount of cold water.
Drain and rinse the beans before adding to a food processor along with the reserved bean liquid, half a teaspoon of lemon zest, the juice of a medium lemon (about 2.5 – 3 tablespoons) and a sprinkle of salt.
Puree the mixture until it is smooth. Drain the can of tuna and add the meat to your beans. If you’re adding coarsely chopped capers to the mix, now is the right time to do so.
Pulse the mixture just a few short times until the tuna is evenly dispersed, but holding together enough that it doesn’t look like you’re crafting pâté.
Finely mince the garlic chives and stir them into the rest of the mix. And yes, I do this directly in my food processor because I’m that lazy. But hey, you know who has two thumbs and hates doing dishes…..?
Check the seasoning and add a touch more salt and pepper if the spirit moves you. A little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is all that you need to finish this spread.
With a helter-skelter pile of vegetables and rustic homemade whole grain bread sticks on the side, we’re ready to let the snacking begin.
White beans are one of my favorite starting points for dips and spreads, because they’re creamy and rich but full of fiber and heart healthy nutrients. This spread might look and taste decadent, but it’s pure healthfulness all the way. When you want to quietly munch away to your heart’s content, PUT DOWN the bottle of Rancher’s Choice from the back of your fridge and try a white bean dip instead.
Oh, garlic chives. I’m already starting to mourn your loss. I might see you again tomorrow with a pair of scissors and a crazy look in my eyes.
When it’s too hot to even think about turning on your oven, break out the food processor instead. A tasty snack is only a few pulses away!