You know how some people can go into a clothing store and see the fashion potential in a completely weird looking shirt?  I’m not one of those people.  I do, however, fancy myself as the kind of cook who can see how odd ingredients will come together to make a delicious dish.  I don’t think I’m a cooking visionary or anything, but I can look at a recipe and think, “Hmm, that will be really tasty,” whereas most other people would look at it and say, “OH MY GOD, ANCHOVIES, GROSS!”  This, of course, is in reference to the time I made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pasta Putanesca, which has anchovies in the sauce.  I think this was around the time that Stephan decided to get frisky with his Tuna Helper by adding spinach to it, which resulted in some questionable leftovers the next day that left him a little put off by fishy smelling foods.  Understandably, he was a little hesitant to try the putanesca, but in the end he admitted that the dish was really tasty.  I think he only tried it because I said that it was in Gywneth Paltrow’s cookbook.

By the way, can we talk about Gwyneth?  She is like an Ina Garten in the making.  They are both seemingly oblivious to how snobby they sound when they talk about their “good quality mustard” (Ina) or their organic/all natural produce (Gwyneth), and I LOVE it.  There’s nothing better, in my opinion, than a pretentious chef.  I guess it’s because I have a secret pretentious side as well.

But back to the weird recipes.  A few weeks ago I wanted some easy, simple, and flavorful recipes to make for dinner, so naturally I went to the Real Simple website.  I found a recipe for panzella, which is an Italian bread salad.  I know it’s traditional in Italy, but it is kind of an odd concept for your average American – it’s stuff mixed with crispy bread chunks, essentially.  This particular panzella recipe had white beans and tuna, which is a typical ingredient combination, but it also had chopped pickles.  I mean, to me it seemed like a random ingredient, but I have this gift where I can visualize how the different tastes of all the ingredients will come together.  I could sort of taste how the bread, the pickles, and the tuna would all fall in sync.

Am I giving myself too much credit?  Does everyone else do this?

So anyways, I made this White Bean and Tuna Panzella and added some sauteed zucchini and capers.  And you know what?  The finished product looked just about as rustic as the recipe picture did.  That’s what I love about panzella – it’s so rustic and simple.  It also tasted great; it will probably be a recipe I repeat in the future, which is saying a lot because I rarely remake recipes (except quesadillas – I make those once a week).

The seemingly random pickles added the briny bite I thought they would and melded nicely with the salty capers, the meaty tuna, and the crunchy bread.  As an added plus, this is a relatively inexpensive recipe.  Although I added capers, they weren’t really essential to the finished product and are probably the most expensive ingredient.  The pickles, however, are a huge taste component of the dish, so make sure you buy good quality pickles (as Ina would say).

White Bean and Tuna Salad
Real Simple Magazine

1/2 baguette, torn into chunks
Olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 can of cannellini beans
2 pickles, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1 zucchini, cut into half moon slices
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 6 oz cans of tuna

Turn on your oven’s broiler and toss the baguette chunks with 2 tbsp olive oil and the garlic powder.  Put the bread on a baking sheet and broil 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, heat a tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan and saute the zucchini and onion slices until slightly soft and golden.

Combine the beans, the pickles, the capers, the vinegar, a tbsp of olive oil, and the sauteed vegetables in a bowl and mix.  Fold the bread in gently, then distribute the salad and top with tuna.

Dietitian tip of the day: summer produce, like eggplant, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, etc. make great additions to most dinner-type dishes.  Just because it’s not in a recipe doesn’t mean it won’t taste good!  Add extra vegetables to stir fry, pasta dishes, even sandwiches.


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