For such a simple dish, salads are incredibly difficult to get right. I am not a fan of the standard garden salad, I just don’t think it really lets any of the ingredients shine they way they should. As for Ceasar salads, they are such simple fare that each and every ingredient must be the absolute freshest and carefully crafted. Dressing from a bottle and croutons from a box just don’t cut it.
For me a good salad is simple and contains a few key ingredients:
1) Homemade salad dressing – always homemade salad dressing. A basic vinaigrette is about 3 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar and requires just a few fresh herbs to take it to the next level.
2) Dark leafy greens – I really dislike iceberg lettuce and will never actually buy it. Generally all of my salads are made with spinach, but sometimes I’ll mix in a mesclun mix, arugula, or butter lettuce.
3) Textures – Whether its croutons, crunchy garbanzo beans (like I use here), or a crunchy veggie like carrots or radishes, I always make sure to add a bit of crunch to my salad.
This basic spinach salad topped with warm tuna cakes includes all three of these vital components plus a little cheese for added flavor. While I love this with the tuna cakes warm and fresh, if you don’t eat it all, the tuna cakes are still delicious cold on the salad for lunch the next day.
SPINACH SALAD WITH TUNA CAKES
1/2 cup champagne (or white wine) vinegar
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard or horseradish mustard
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
Crunch Garbanzo Beans
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
salt and pepper
2 10-ounce cans water packed tuna, drained
2 slices bread
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons horseradish
Fresh baby spinach
Shredded Parmesan cheese
1) Combine dressing ingredients in Tupperware container or mason jar that seals tightly. Turn on good dance music, and shake vigorously. Okay, the music is optional, but it makes it so much more fun. If you need suggestions, I’ve find it impossible to stay still when this playing:
Place dressing in fridge until you need it again.
2) Preheat oven to 400°F. Drain garbanzo beans and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Careful pour beans on to a clean towel and rub gently with another towel until the beans are completely dry. You will notice that a thin skin comes of the beans, remove as many of these as you can. Toss the beans with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes until the beans are crispy.
3) Begin making the tuna cakes by place 2 slices of roughly torn bread, one small shallot, and 1/4 cup parsley leaves in a small food processor. Process until you have seasoned bread crumbs.
4) In a large bowl, flake drained tuna and mix with bread crumbs. Stir in mayonnaise and horseradish as well as additional salt and pepper.
5) Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties about half and inch thick.
6) Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Carefully place tuna patties in the pan and cook on the first side for 4-5 minutes.
7) Carefully flip the patties and cover with a lid. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
8) Place a heaping portion of fresh babe spinach on a serving plate and sprinkle with garbanzo beans and shredded cheese. Place 1 (for small salad course) or 2 (for a main course) tuna cakes on top. Drizzle with mustard vinaigrette and serve.