How to Elevate Canned Tuna

Contributing Seafood Editor Barton Seaver shares how he likes to prepare canned tuna: a Roast Vegetable Tuna Salad.

By Barton Seaver

I have long enjoyed the great literature of the coast. As a kid, reading John Hersey's Blues, Henry Beston's The Outermost House, and Thoreau's Walden gave me a keen sense of the less-is-more philosophy of the seashore. "Simplify! Simplify!" These books firmly planted that idea in my mind.

At home by the sea, that modesty is precisely what I pursue. The noise of our lives abates in our retreat, so the food prepared here calls for the same sense of restraint. As we surrender our everyday worries, so, too, do coastal kitchens cast off the clutter and gadgets that sometimes can adorn other home kitchens. In this spirit, beach house cooking can be just as unassuming. The fridge might not always hold a vast variety and volume of foods; the pantry might not be overflowing with spices and sauces. And so my Roast Vegetable Tuna Salad is inspired by the very minimalism that makes a coastal kitchen so charismatic.

In this dish we elevate a humble but ever-present ingredient: canned tuna. While often defaulted to—when mixed with mayonnaise and a little celery salt—for lunchtime sandwiches, canned tuna also can be prepared in sophisticated ways. Taking a cue from the famed Niçoise salad by way of French shorelines, the tuna here flavors a host of vegetables. The vinaigrette—made spicy by mustard and its more potent pairing, horseradish—balances the roasted vegetables: green beans withered and browned, radish sweetened of its bitter personality, and tomatoes concentrated by the heat. Watercress rounds out the assembly with its peppery bite.

This salad can be composed as individual plates or served family style on a giant platter, and is as good the next day as when prepared fresh. So easy and quick to make, it gives you that much more time to enjoy the good—and simple—life on the coast.

The Best Canned Tuna
Canned tuna is often at the center of the sustainability debate, but many options get the environmental green light. My favorite is Henry & Lisa's, which is packed with dayboat-fresh, sustainably caught tuna, but all the picks below are good choices. Get more information on tuna sustainability at

Drain? No gain!
When it comes to oil- or water-packed tunas, don't drain away either. Use the oil as a sauce alone, or add the water to boiling vegetables or pasta for flavor.

Barton Seaver is a chef, sustainable seafood expert, and National Geographic Explorer, and the author of several books, including For Cod and Country.