Remember how, when you were a kid, summer was like this separate part of your life? Like, there was the regular life of the school year, and then there was summer? And it seemed to go on FOR-EH-VRRRR????
There is this huge part of me that still feels like that - or at least entitled to that. Like, I should have been born in France and come July 14th, been allowed to vacate for 6 weeks every summer. Congress would have been an alternative, I guess, but then you'd have to be in Congress. What is it about summer that just makes me feel a little lighter on my feet, a little more inclined to ignore bedtimes and definitely more than happy to eat all manner of cold food?
But, unlike in childhood, now summer seems over in the blink of a droopy, aging eye. Maybe it's the looooooooong Seattle winters (not complaining, I swear) or the fact that we adults still have to work most of the summer days (again, just stating facts. seriously. ) but it feels like my long-awaited summer has barely begun before I'm buying non-cold storage apples at the market.
Trying to hold on so tight to the last little rays of sunshine, I was doing a little recipe hunting when I came across an old favorite. My mom used to make this salad every summer when I was growing up, because then lunch was effectively made for 3 days and my friends and I could run in from the Yakima heat, pile heaps onto our plates and run back out side to eat (in 90 degree sun - I swear we hardly noticed) while she could hide away and read her German books without being bothered.
Ok, so want to know what it is?
Tuna pasta salad. heheheh.
No, wait - don't judge.
It's an ooooooooold family recipe, passed down through generations, which basically makes it, like, heirloom tuna salad. So, super fancy. And each little family faction makes it slightly differently, but at its core it's always the same: Tuna. Pasta. Crisp veggies. And a super vinegary dressing. All tossed together and left in the fridge to get nice and cold. Seriously, this shit is the bomb.
I've made a few changes to my mom's recipe - cause that's part of the fun - so feel free to do the same if something in the ingredient list doesn't strike your fancy. And don't let anyone hate on the pasta here because it's delicious and carbs are good for you (ok, but, see note* below for quick disclaimer).
Summer is going and we all have to be ok with that. I guess that fleeting character is what makes it so amazing. But I'm going to sulk about it for a little bit longer and continue eating way too much ice cream because "it's too hot" for anything else. Join me?
Heirloom Tuna Salad with Parsley and Pickled Onions
Before starting this recipe, quick pickle your onions (if using). See recipe at the bottom!
12 oz tuna (oil-packed is best, but do what you will), drained
3 bell peppers (any or all colors), diced
1/2 cup diced celery
8 oz short pasta (pick your favorite shape), cooked just al dente, drained and cooled
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup diced, quick-pickled red onions (see recipe below – should be done four hours ahead)
2 T minced dill, for topping (optional)
¼ c olive oil (or more to taste)
½ cup red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
½ tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
Toss the first 6 ingredients together, making sure to break up the tuna. Mix together olive oil with vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over pasta mixture and toss together gently. Refrigerate until cold. Serve by its lonesome or on a bed of lightly dressed lettuce, sprinkled with dill, if using. Keeps well in fridge for 2-3 days.
*Note from above: If you want to make this gluten-free, recently Tygh bought a box of these garbanza bean flour based noodles called Banza and I had run out of regular penne (which, like, NEVER happens in this house) so I used it and it was actually quite good. I think you can even get it on Amazon.
Quick Pickle Brine:
1.5 cups white vinegar
1 C water
4 T sugar
4 tsp salt
1 T black peppercorns (optional)
Bring above to boil in saucepan, making sure to dissolve all particulate.
For red onions, put thinly sliced red onions in the bottom of a deep bowl and pour hot brine over top. Let sit for at least four hours, then use according to recipe. Extra onions are great in any salad, on sandwiches or even atop grilled veggies or meat.