I love canned tuna. A simple tuna salad piled on toasted bread or stuffed inside a ripe avocado or tomato is my idea of a delicious lunch. I eagerly dig into a salad niçoise-style dish with chunks of the tinned fish attractively arranged on a plate with green beans, potatoes, olives, tomatoes and a boiled egg. Same with a supper bowl filled with chilled chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, carrots and tuna.
I stocked up on tuna as part of my effort to cut down on grocery shopping during the pandemic. The canned fish hits all the markers for me. It tastes great and is long-lasting, versatile and affordable. It’s also low in calories and high in protein. (It can, however, be high in mercury, so the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends eating it only once a week, especially for pregnant women and those with health issues.)
Here’s the thing, though: I’ve never liked canned tuna in hot dishes. Put it in a casserole, mix it in a fried fritter or toss it with warm pasta, and it loses its charm for me. I’ll eat it, but not with the same relish.
That is, until now. I came across a recipe for Mediterranean Tuna Panini recently and put my reservations aside because it contained so many things I think are delicious: marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, capers, feta cheese and red onion.
That’s all tossed together with a little seasoning and olive oil. Then it’s piled on bread, pressed down and toasted until it’s crunchy on the outside and just warm in the inside.
No panini-maker? That’s OK. You can make these by using two skillets. Put a little oil in one pan, heat it, add the sandwich, then put the bottom of the other skillet on top of the sandwich. Weigh that top skillet down with a few cans from the cupboard. Wait a couple of minutes. Then flip the sandwich and cook the other side.
I don’t know if it was because they were so skinny after being pressed down and so, psychologically, seemed smaller, but I ate one sandwich and then — too soon afterward — ate another. Maybe it was because the crunchy outside and the feta mixed with that salty tuna filling was so delicious.
The sandwiches can be made more healthful by using water-packed tuna, whole-grain bread and less feta and oil.
They were on my plate in well under 30 minutes. Add a side salad, or eat them with soup and chips.