Tuna surprise

Although fresh tuna has become very popular on restaurant menus and in the home, there are times when canned tuna can be turned into delicious dishes.

Tuna on rye is one of my favorite sandwiches from childhood. When I was growing up, tuna packed in water didn’t exist. I prefer tuna packed in oil because it is more flavorful. There are times when oil-packed tuna from Italy or Sardinia must be used in place of the American variety because the taste and texture are crucial to the recipe. Imported tuna is richer and is packed in olive oil.

One of my favorite summer dishes is vitello tonnato, a cool dish from Lombardy and Piedmont. It is made with veal and topped with tuna sauce. I like to prepare it with boneless chicken breasts that have been pounded thin. It’s just as tasty as veal and costs a lot less.

Last week, while shopping in Jersey, Edward and I stopped by Trattoria Barone, which I reviewed several months ago. I was served a salad with radicchio, cannelini beans and tuna from Sardinia. It was simply delicious and I asked our waiter if some arugula could be added to the salad. The combination of flavors and textures made the dish, and I instantly knew it could easily be prepared at home.

Salmon mousse was all the rage at cocktail parties in the early 1980s. Hosts and hostesses traded recipes and served this creamy appetizer with assorted crudit�s, crackers and slices of party rye. One day I wanted to make salmon mousse but didn’t have any canned salmon in the pantry. I did have canned tuna and, on a whim, decided to see how it would taste. It came out terrific. I use American canned tuna rather than the imported variety in tuna mousse.

Pasta with crabmeat is a classic, but is also good with canned tuna made with a jar of top-quality spaghetti sauce.

Here are recipes using canned tuna.

Pollo Tonnato
Chicken with Tuna Sauce


2 whole boneless breasts of chicken, pounded thin, cut in half
1-1/2 cups Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 (7-ounce) can Italian tuna in oil
4 flat anchovy fillets
1-1/4 cups olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
3 tablespoons tiny capers


You can poach the chicken breasts in water until tender or saut� them in a mixture of olive oil with some sweet butter. Cool them completely and place in the refrigerator.

To make the tuna sauce, place the mayonnaise in a medium-size bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the mixture becomes creamy. Add the tuna mixture to the mayonnaise and blend well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, place the chicken breasts on a serving platter and spoon the tuna sauce evenly over the chicken. You can garnish the dish with lemon slices, chopped parsley and baby capers if you wish.

Serves four.

Note from Phyllis: This is a good party dish, as both the chicken and the sauce can be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.

Arugula, Radicchio, Cannelini Bean and Tuna Salad


1 (8-ounce) bag baby arugula leaves or two bunches, rinsed well
1 small head radicchio, shredded
1 (15-ounce) can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained well
1 (7-ounce) can imported tuna packed in oil, drained
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Place the arugula and radicchio in a large bowl and toss well. Add the cannelini beans and tuna and toss again. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Add kosher salt and pepper and toss again.

Serves four.

Note from Phyllis: This freeform salad has a number of possibilities. You can add some romaine lettuce or watercress to the arugula and radicchio. A handful of grape tomatoes or teardrop tomatoes, each sliced in half, also would be a tasty addition.

Tuna Mousse


1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion flakes
Dash of hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (7-ounce) cans American tuna, packed in water or oil, flaked with a fork
1 cup heavy cream


Place the gelatin in a large bowl and add the cold water to soften. Stir in the boiling water and whisk the mixture until the gelatin dissolves. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, hot sauce, paprika and salt. Stir to blend completely and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken slightly.

Fold in the flaked tuna.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream with a handheld electric mixer until it is fluffy and peaks form. Cover and chill for at least four hours.

Spray a 6- to 8-cup mold or bowl with nonstick vegetable spray. Pour the mixture into the mold or bowl. Cover and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, run a wet knife all around the edges of the mold or bowl. You may have to wipe the outside of the mold or bowl with a paper towel or cloth dipped in hot water. Gently unmold on a pretty platter.

Serves 10 to 12.

Tuna Sauce for Pasta


3 fat cloves garlic, sliced
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15-ounce) jar top-quality spaghetti sauce
2 (7-ounce) cans tuna, packed in oil, either American or imported, drained and flaked with a fork
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly snipped Italian parsley leaves


In a 3-quart saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Saut� the garlic until slightly golden brown in color, about a few minutes. Add the spaghetti sauce and heat thoroughly. Add the flaked tuna, kosher salt, pepper and parsley.

Yields enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta.

Note from Phyllis: Feel free to add some minced onions to the pan when you are cooking the garlic. A teaspoon or two of baby capers and some sliced pitted olives also can be added to the tuna sauce.