Tuna & Heirloom Tomato-Basil Salad

Tuna & Heirloom Tomato-Basil Salad

Tuna & Heirloom Tomato-Basil Salad


I saw this great recipe by Amanda Gold in the Chronicle on Sunday for an heirloom tomato and tuna salad, so I decided to make my own.  Ripe tomatoes are everywhere now (except in my backyard, thanks to late planting and colder and cloudier weather than usual for this time of year), and they are at their peak flavor and nutrition.  (If you’ve ever eaten ripe, local summer tomatoes, then you will never again want to eat one of those pale, pink starchy things grown halfway around the world that are called “tomatoes” and are served in chain restaurants and supermarkets throughout the year.)  Basil is also abundant these days, so I picked up a bunch as well.  And a beautiful head of butter lettuce!  To make a delicious salad, or anything for that matter, it simply comes down to using quality ingredients.  And that means local, seasonal, ripe fruits & vegetables, fresh herbs, and clean meats (no antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, or other harmful ingredients). 


When I make a tuna salad, I like to use white tuna packed in olive oil.  But I don’t buy it that way.  It’s easy to do it yourself.  Just buy a good can of tuna in spring water, add your own extra-virgin olive oil, and save yourself the extra money.  Unless you are buying a super premium brand of tuna in the $5-$10 range, you can bet they are using cheap olive oil.  I also get the unsalted kind, so I can add my own mineral salt instead of consuming more refined salt.  But don’t buy the really cheap commercial brands, because if you look at the ingredients you’ll see “vegetable broth” listed, and that is just the company’s way of inserting a bunch of artificial flavorings without having to put them on the label.  I usually buy tuna at Trader Joes.  It’s wild-caught, dolphin-safe, clean, and inexpensive.  (I have also heard that smaller, light tuna tends to be lower in mercury & PCB’s than the larger albacore tuna.)


1 head fresh butter lettuce

2 ripe multicolored heirloom* tomatoes of your choice (I used purple Cherokee)

1 can light tuna in spring water

Fresh basil leaves

Kalamata olives

Extra-virgin olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Mineral salt

Fresh cracked pepper


Open the can of tuna and drain the water.  Add 1-2 T extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle generously with mineral salt; set aside.  Wash the lettuce leaves, drain, and arrange on a platter.  Slice the heirloom tomatoes and place on top of the butter lettuce leaves.  Top each slice with a large leaf of basil or two.  When the tuna has absorbed much of the olive oil, put a spoonful on top of each tomato slice.  Make a simple balsamic viniagarette by whisking 4 parts olive oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar; drizzle over the salad.  Garnish with kalamata olive halves and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.


Makes 2 salads.

*Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated (not hybrid) varieties with unique flavors, shapes and colors that are usually cultivated over many growing seasons to develop these characteristics as well as disease resistance.¹

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