I'm almost embarrassed to admit how often I eat this salad for dinner. In my defense, though, it is absolutely delicious, and – with tuna, beans, lemon, shallot, olive oil, fresh herbs and leafy greens as its only ingredients – ridiculously healthful.
I adapted the recipe from one in Nigella Lawson's book Nigella Express. Delicious in its own right, Lawson's creation uses a higher ratio of tuna to beans, and no greens, so it's much more antipasti than salad. I tinkered with her version, substituting chickpeas for barlotti beans, cutting the amount of tuna a bit, and adding arugula, which is a natural with tuna and lemon. The resulting one-dish meal can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes.
This recipe is virtually effortless, but a few details are critical. You must – must – use imported Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil. Don't even think about using domestic tuna, even that which is packed in oil. It just doesn't have the same flavor. Also, don't omit the parsley unless you loathe it; its verdant note complements the tuna and lemon beautifully. And do chop the arugula. I know it smacks of those ubiquitous late 80s/early 90s chopped salads (which, I unapologetically admit, I still love, along with sundried tomatoes) but there's something about getting a taste of everything in each forkful that really works with this salad.
The rest you can play with. If you don't have shallot, use red onion, or even regular yellow onion. Vary the amount of lemon juice according to your taste, and, if you love parsley like I do, pile it on. Other beans, such as cannellini, can be substituted for chickpeas, but I think chickpeas are perfect here. Throw in chopped fresh herbs (thyme would be nice) and/or finely-chopped fennel, though I think this salad tastes best in its simplest, lemony, green, ocean-ey incarnation. You can also add quite a lot of arugula. (Sometimes I shock myself by how much I add, but I do so love it.) Keep in mind, though, that added greens require added olive oil, unless you're part bovine.
Tuna and Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Arugula
Adapted from Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson
1/3 cup minced shallot (or onion)
1 5-oz can imported tuna packed in oil
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
2 tbs lemon jiuce
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbs chopped parsely
Arugula, chopped, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Drain the tuna of its excess oil and toss it into a large bowl, preferably wooden. Add the shallot, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and chickpeas. At this point, if you can leave things for an hour or so at room temperature so that the flavors can meld, all the better.
2. Add the arugula and additional olive oil, and adjust the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Serves 2 very generously.