No Mayo Tuna Salad

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

No Mayo Tuna Salad is laced with a tangy fresh lemon vinaigrette. 

Three things are always better at home.

1.  Tuna salad.  Have you ever had a tuna sandwich from a deli that wasn’t overly mayonnaised and plain old wet?  The bread never holds up.  And only you know whether you prefer dill or sweet pickle relish.  I don’t like to be surprised in that area.  Simple egg salad is on this list, too.  It just never tastes right, probably because they bought those foodservice already-cooked eggs, and again it’s victimized by too much mayonnaise.  Chicken salad, I’m on the fence with that one.  For some reason, foodservice folks tend to take chicken more seriously and enjoy the creativity of combining sweet and savory ingredients.  You can order that out without too much disappointment, but not tuna.

2.  Chili.  Eat chili at home only.  Otherwise, 95% of the time you’re in for a soupy, bland bowl of gnarly meat and beans.  It’s just too easy to cut corners and you never really know what’s in there.  Sure we know of plenty of late night chili huts around the country famous for hangover curing bowls and chili dogs, but they don’t count.  That’s medicine, not food.

3.  Regular highball cocktail beverages. You’re always better off with a good stiff scotch and soda at home. Bartenders never make them strong enough period.  A good gin martini is on this list, too.  If that first sip doesn’t give you the shivers, then it’s been watered down.

So how’s your tuna salad? You don’t really need a recipe, do you?  Just add enough mayonnaise to hold it all together. Celery is critical.  A squeeze of fresh lemon is a nice touch. My mother and grandmother insisted on a little briny pickle juice along with chopped dill pickles to take the fishiness out of the tuna.  Nevertheless, I’ve learned to love tuna with sweet pickles, too.  Those convenient jars of already diced dill or sweet pickles sure are handy.  Chopped onions, good but optional.  Lots of crisp lettuce a must. Toasted rye, yes! How about an Italian-style mayo-free tuna salad?  This may be one of our all-time favorite healthy lunches.  It’s satisfying, crunchy, salty, and tangy.  Serve it over a pile of greens and with crackers or a hunk of good crusty bread.

Even better, this recipe will help you understand the three components of vinaigrette–oil, acid, salt.  Instead of blending a dressing to pour over the salad, add each ingredient separately and taste as you go. Notice that a hearty ingredient like beans requires that you pump up the acid and salt a bit.  The tuna also begs for a good bit of tang. Keep that in mind and experiment just as you would with a mayo tuna.  You’ll be ready for a picnic.

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