Deli Tuna Salad


A long run early in the morning is the perfect time to think – I just let my mind wander, and most of the time either a song gets stuck in my head or I start thinking about recipes.  On a particularly beatuiful run along the river the other day, I found my thoughts occupied by tuna salad.  But not just any tuna salad; this one is special.

I spent one summer in college working at a deli making sandwiches. It was a family-run place near the beach, and our customers were mostly people escaping the smoldering heat of the central valley for a weekend on the coast.  It wasn’t my dream job by any means, but it definitely had it’s perks. For one, the owner’s father made fresh mozzarella every morning and I will never again be satisfied with the bland, flavorless, rubbery mess that you find in the grocery store.   For another, I discovered a whole new way to make tuna salad. This may not seem terribly earth-shattering, but for someone who only ate tuna mixed with mayo and sweet relish, it was a delicious eye-opener.

So while I was running, I realized I needed to re-create the tuna salad that changed my opinion of canned fish.

It’s been a few years since I made this at the deli, so I don’t remember the exact recipe they used. I know it included capers, red onion, and olive oil, with no mayonaise in sight.   It’s like your average tuna salad’s more sophisticated (and healthy!) cousin.

2 6-oz cans solid white albacore in water, drained
1 tbsp chopped capers
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on crackers, in lettuce cups, or on sandwiches.

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