In the United States tuna sandwiches are usually typecast as soggy, mayonnaise-drenched lunchbox rations or questionable pre-wrapped fare in a refrigerator case at your local deli. This is a bit of a tragedy when you consider what a fulfilling double-life the tuna sandwich leads abroad, particularly in Southern Italy where fresh, flavorful tuna sandwiches abound. This month’s Eat This/Not That takes a closer look at the two sides of the tuna sandwich.
While the classic American tuna sandwich is usually mixed with mayonnaise and perhaps chopped celery (I didn't know that the sandwich existed any other way until I was well into my teenage years), Italian cooks will exclusively use olive oil to dress their fish. Our recipe uses that olive oil to make a zesty vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and garlic, this adds a lot of flavor to the tuna without giving it the “gloppy” appearance of too much mayonnaise.
In Naples and Sicily it’s very common to see olives, either chopped or in a tapenade, served with tuna. While they don’t offer the same crunch as celery, the smoky flavor of Kalamatas more than makes up for it. To replace that crunchiness, crisp red onions are used and add their own sweet and mildly spicy flavor.
While this sandwich works just fine on pre-sliced white or wheat bread, it’s truly at it’s best on a crusty piece of Italian bread or baguette. Topping with sliced fresh tomatoes (or Divina Roasted Red Tomatoes) and sliced hard-boiled eggs is also optional though highly encouraged! The finished product is fresh-tasting with a crisp, acidic bite completely lacking in a mayo-based tuna sandwich. One bite of the Mediterranean Tuna Sandwich is all it will take to get you to Eat This/Not That!