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!

  • http://laurenrjacobs.blogspot.com Lauren

    My best friend’s mom used to make a tuna dip all the time and it was my favourite thing ever. Of course when I was younger I ate it with Ruffles potato chips. This looks like it would be a healthier version of the dip I used to love…I am so trying it. And it would be totally WW points friendly, even if I ate the whole thing by myself. In one sitting. Mmmmmm….

  • http://www.eatatburp.com lo

    I’ve had a craving for nicoise salad for the last two weeks, and I keep running into posts using tuna and white beans. I think this is probably a sign… might have to make this for a gathering this weekend. I suppose I should find out if my guests like tuna first, though… hmm.

    And wow — this would rock with potato chips, Lauren!

  • http://www.erikorganic.com/bedroom/bed-frames.shtml bed frames

    This is not the usual tuna dip that we always make. This is interesting, something different! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Lauren – I like the way you think! If you give it a shot, let us know how it compared to your memories!

    Lo- Nicoise is far and above my favorite of the salads. Well, unless you include spinach salad with a warm bacon dressing. Oh, or I supposed a good Greek village salad with creamy rich feta. Huh. Then again, I’ve always been somewhat partial to Cobb. The point is, nicoise is *totally* up there in my top 5 which is actually quite a commendation!

  • http://happyrain.org/ Emily

    My best friend’s mom used to make a tuna dip all the time and it was my favourite thing ever. Of course when I was younger I ate it with Ruffles potato chips. This looks like it would be a healthier version of the dip I used to love…I am so trying it. And it would be totally WW points friendly, even if I ate the whole thing by myself. In one sitting. Mmmmmm….

  • http://www.tasteandtellblog.com Deborah

    I love any kind of dip, and this one sounds fantastic!!

  • http://www.chichoskitchen.blogspot.com Cherine

    I usually make white bean dip, but I loved the addition of tuna here. Must be really really tasty! Will be trying it soon 🙂

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    This sounds like a delicious snack. Or, I would enjoy this for a meal! Love the flavors combined here, and the lemon zest is a perfect touch.

  • Lizzie

    I’m making this for dinner tonight …. thinking about it with bagel chips, veggies and a lil’ cup of gazpacho for starters. The lemon zest will make all the difference in the world – might include one little zest of orange peel as well. Yummy! And it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon!

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  • Nicole

    I know this was posted quite some time ago but holy crap is this ever delicious. I think I’ve made it once every week and a half since you posted this recipe. And I don’t have a blender or a food processor so I’m having to mash it by hand every time. I still have yet to try it with capers. I resist. It’s soooo good as is. I have never been able to track down garlic chives in any form whatsoever but it’s quite good with just garlic + chives. Or one day when I got a wild hair, with roasted garlic and chives. Bit richer and smokier that way but I had to add more garlic to get the full effect.

    … I don’t even dip anything in it. I just eat it right out of the bowl. In embarrassing amounts. I actually licked the bowl clean once.

    Everything you post makes me want to dash to the kitchen but if this were somehow the only thing I’d gotten out of CB it’d still be the most use I’ve ever gotten out of a food blog.

    Thank you!

    • Nicole

      I would like to add for the sake of my dignity that the day I licked the bowl clean although I did do it in the cartoony fashion of holding it in front of my face and twisting it frantically, the house was empty and the blinds were down.

      That is all.

      • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

        Nicole, you just made my day. I’m so glad that you enjoy our site (we certainly love hosting it!) and that you try some of our stranger things, like a tuna dip. Because, seriously, *tuna dip*. I know, right? It has no right to be so addictive.
        Thanks again!

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  • Liz

    1. I love your blog, your honesty, your photos and how you deal with the heat.
    2. I found garlic chives at my farmer’s market, so I made this dip tonight for my book club meeting. It was second in popularity -outdone only by the chocolate mousse truffles (yes, we actually did talk about the book…once we were full).
    3. I took home leftovers! I see some (discreet) bowl-licking in my near future -it’s really that good.
    4. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Liz – I am absolutely DELIGHTED that you enjoyed this recipe enough to serve it to your book club! Yes, given the choice between tuna dip and chocolate mousse truffles (I am salivating as I type this) I can see which would be the clear winner, but appreciate that the spread went down well too. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a kind comment, it is so very appreciated!

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