Foodist Approved: Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad with Giardiniera

by | Jan 29, 2014
Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad

Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad

A friend asked me the other day where I get the ideas for my recipes. Lucky for me I live in Portlandia where there is no shortage of foodie inspiration. If I have a whoa-Nelly eating epiphany while dining out, I jot down notes in my phone to remember the flavors. I then try to recreate the masterpiece at home and love the challenge of adding my own wholesome spin.

That’s how most of my recipes I share with you begin. But this week, I decided to go straight to one of the creators of some of Portland’s best dishes, and asked the uber-brilliant Cathy Whims, owner of both Nostrana, and Oven & Shaker and 5-time James Beard Award Finalist to share one of her healthy go-to recipes.

Cathy happily offered up the recipe for her salad of cannellini beans and albacore tuna conserva that’s a favorite on the menu at Nostrana.

At Nostrana the tuna is quickly seared over a flaming charcoal grill to maintain its beautiful rare flavor. For a stress-free weeknight meal, Cathy gives us her endorsement to use canned tuna, but only top-quality from Spain or Oregon.

Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad with Giardiniera

Yield: 3 servings

  • ½ lb Albacore tuna in 1” thick portions or 6.5 oz jar high-quality tuna (personal favorite: Sweet Creek Oregon Gourmet Albacore Tuna)
  • 1 16oz can cannellini beans
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • giardiniera, or other small-batch pickled vegetable (not sweet; I used Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers…yum!)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • optional: arugula or other leafy green
  • optional: rustic ciabatta

Speedy option: for a quick, healthy weeknight dinner use high-quality canned or jarred tuna and skip step 1.

Heat grill to medium-high. Brush tuna with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill tuna until seared on the outside, 1 min per side or until desired doneness. The inside should be rare, but you can cook it more if you prefer. Remove from grill (or you can sear the tuna in a pan over high heat).

Soak sliced onion in cold water. Change water every 10 minutes and squeeze onions with your hands each time until they are mild and sweet, about 30 minutes total. Drain well.

Drain cannellini beans and rinse under cool water in a colander. Place in a large bowl.

Break tuna into large bite-size pieces and add to beans.

Drizzle tuna and beans generously with extra virgin olive oil and some of the pickling liquid (or red wine vinegar). Arrange on a bed of arugula or other leafy green, top with the sliced onion. Garnish with giardiniera and grind black pepper over.

Serve at room temperature with slices of freshly baked ciabatta.

Elyse Kopecky is a social media consultant and whole foods chef based in Portland, OR. After 10 years working for NIKE and EA SPORTS she left her desk job for the chance to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and on the trail at and @freshabits.

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4 Responses to “Foodist Approved: Cannellini Bean and Tuna Salad with Giardiniera”

  1. Nicole B. says:

    I’ve never heard of soaking onion in cold water. What’s the purpose? Thanks!

    • You know that gross aftertaste when you eat raw onions where nobody wants to get too close to you?! Soaking them helps minimize this similar to how cooking makes onions more mild.

  2. AJ says:

    Thanks for the yummy looking recipe! I try to avoid large fish that accumulate mercury like tuna, so do you have another substitute suggestion?

    • Hi AJ,
      Thanks for asking. The good news is high quality tuna from Oregon is much lower in mercury. I’m pregnant and I’ve been eating tuna on occasion. Like anything, everything in moderation. Also I checked with Chef Cathy and she says the recipe would be great with any smoked fish like smoked sturgeon, sablefish, trout or halibut. Tuna is overfished so I love it when people explore other options.

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