Sunday, June 10, 2012

olive oil tuna spread

Nathan likes to make fun of pantry meals. You know, when people brag about "oh you know I just dug through my cupboard and pulled out some dried goods and some canned goods and threw this and that together and voila! A filling, hearty and tasty meal that also happens to be totally thrifty!" I don't want to speak for him, but think he finds it rather self-satisfied and smug—although he also seems to have a problem with "going to the market and seeing what's fresh," so really there's just no pleasing him. Being inspired by the ingredients at hand is apparently obnoxious now.

Well, sorry Nathan, but this one is totally a "pantry meal," and I'm not afraid to brag about it. 

Chances are, you could totally make this olive oil tuna spread from your own pantry tonight. It's easy, requires no cooking (unless you count toasting bread as cooking, which I suspect that you do not), and the ingredients are all pretty standard staple-type things that I at least usually try to keep hanging around.

It's also a perfect way to dress up a humble can of tuna. Blending the tuna with olive oil, butter, garlic and lemon juice utterly transforms it into an elegant spread that could totally be an overpriced appetizer at some little vaguely French or New American bistro. You know, served up in a precious little mason jar with perfectly buttered toast points? Can't you just see it?

This dish definitely would be easier if you have a food processor, but I don't, and I made it work with the blender. It took a little more patience, and I had to stir up the butter at the bottom with a fork at the end, but ultimately I powered through. The thing that I think works about this dish is that the butter really mellows the strong flavors of the garlic and the tuna, and that the lemon juice brightens things up nicely. It's certainly not something I would recommend if you don't like tuna fish, but if you do, this is a great and easy way to dress it up. Give it a shot!

Olive Oil Tuna Spread with Lemon and Oregano
adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

6 oz canned tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Zest of 1 lemon
2½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1½ tsp chopped fresh parsley

Place tuna (and the oil it's packed in), butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, parsley and garlic into a food processor.  Pulse a few times and then process until smooth and creamy. Season the mixture to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and additional lemon juice (if needed), pulsing to combine. Serve on toasts or crostinis, sprinkled with chopped parsley.


  1. Yum. I love tuna -- unfortunately Marie does not.

  2. It's good leftover too though, and a can of tuna doesn't make a huge portion. Maybe you could bring it to work for lunch?