First, let me admit something. When I decided to call this a “Date Night” salad, I was being sarcastic. Kind of. You see, I have this rule about eating garlic and onions, especially raw garlic and onions. That rule is: only eat it with someone, never alone. If you both have a pungent waft of sulfuric acid and vampire repellent on the tongue – it’s almost as if it isn’t there at all. So, unless you want to scare people away, I recommend you make and eat this salad as a team.
(1) 15.5oz. can of cannellini beans
(1) 5 oz. can of Italian olive-oil packed tuna
1 cup of sweet grape tomatoes
1 large clove of raw garlic
1 tablespoon of nonpareil capers
½ teaspoon of dried crushed chile flakes (optional)
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
5 fresh basil leaves + 1 for garnish
Next, open and drain your Italian-style oil packed tuna. This tuna is usually pre-salted so if you don’t like the added sodium, you can use a regular, non-salted/water packed tuna. I prefer the taste of the darker meat oil-packed tuna myself.
Now, measure out one cup of sweet grape tomatoes. Rinse them well, pat them dry and cut them in half length wise.
Find the fattest clove of garlic you have and using the side of your knife, smash it flat on your cutting board. This makes peeling a snap. If you’d rather use your fancy garlic-press, go for it. But don’t (I repeat: don’t!) use pre-minced jarred garlic. Fresh is best in this recipe, and to ward-off evil.
Next, clean and thinly slice your scallions, then sprinkle them over the beans, tuna, grape tomatoes and garlic. You should smell the aromatics and feel pretty chef-y right about now. Yeah – take that Mario Batali!
It’s caper time. Use a small fork to pull the capers out of the jar minus the juice. I know capers can be scary to some people, but their brininess and saltiness really compliment the bright notes of the tomatoes and garlic, and pair perfectly with tuna. Sprinkle the capers over your salad and move on to the next ingredient.
If you like a little kick of spice, measure and sprinkle your dried crushed chile pepper flakes over the salad. This is optional. The raw garlic already has a bit of heat to it so you may want to hold-off on the pepper flakes if you can’t handle more than a touch of spicy.
Next, add a little salt. In fact, you may want to skip this step because the tuna in the recipe is pre-salted (unless of course you chose to use the unsalted, water-packed variety). I used around half a teaspoon, measured in my palm. If you have big hands, use a measuring spoon. If you have small hands, I’m jealous, but that’s another story.
Okay you’re almost done. Easy right? Pour your extra virgin olive oil over the salad, trying to drizzle a little bit over the entire dish. You will be mixing it soon, but there’s something cathartic about watching golden oil trickle across the ingredients in a shallow stream of lusciousness. I don’t recommend using a different type of oil, as the flavor in extra virgin olive oil is smooth and peppery – which balances out the other strong flavors in the dish.
Are you still with me? Good. Line five of your fresh basil leaves and then roll them into a tight cigar shape. Then, slice the basil-cigar into thin ribbons. This is called chiffonade, and just saying it makes you sound like a cooking-authority. Sprinkle the ribbons over the top of the salad.
Now’s the big moment. Gently stir the ingredients together on the plate, until they are well combined. Use a paper-towel or a clean dish rag to clean the edges of the plate like a fancy restaurant would do, so your salad stands out in the dish. Top it with a fresh whole basil leaf and serve.
If you want, you can even add a small handful of baby arugula leaves to each of your serving plates and then pile the salad on top. The bitter arugula is a wonderful addition to this type of hearty, flavor packed salad.
It pairs well with a dry Chardonnay. Enjoy!