Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Basil Pesto Tuna Salad with Havarti, Kalamata Olives, and Tomato with Dijon Vinaigrette

Wow. What a mouthful, right? That’s exactly what I thought with a mouth full of this playful, zesty salad. Hunks of still-pink, seared tuna, soft havarti cheese, ripe Kalamatas and fresh, red tomatoes laid gently on top of a delicate bed of lettuce was picturesque for a hungry belly. It appears that I apprehended a copy of the latest menu item from some trendy, upscale restaurant. College kitchens can be more chic than we get credit for. We know that tuna steak is different from tuna fish [in a can]. Tuna steaks gained popularity during outbreaks of “mad cow disease” as an alternative to beef steaks. Quite the choice as tuna steak is quite flavorful, not too fishy, can be eaten rare, and has protein enough to rival our dearly beloved steak.

Salads can brag about the use of the full color spectrum: green lettuce, yellow corn, red pepper, black beans, etc. But when they also can boast the gamut of taste: savory, sweet, zesty, salty, etc. – unroll the red carpet! That deserves a Golden Bowl Award. My celebrity salad tonight featured: ruffled green leaves, pleasantly crisp; tuna smothered in basil pesto had an aromatic smell and a meaty taste; havarti, kalamata olives and tomatoes made the perfect triad of buttery, briny and sweet; and a zesty Dijon vinaigrette tinged with lemon and vinegar drizzled on top. Poor lettuce; she is consistent, but often upstaged by the many five star toppings that sit on top of her.

This won’t be some “nobody” salad you will find at your local cafeteria salad bar, so impress your friends with your debut salad while you can. Keep toppings, lettuce and dressing separate so that you can bite into fresh salad fixin’s every time afterward.

Basil Pesto Tuna Salad with Havarti, Kalamata Olives, and Tomato


About 2-3 T basil pesto

1 T olive oil

1 tuna steak

Salt, pepper, garlic

Havarti Cheese, diced

Kalamata olives, sliced

Tomato, diced

Head of your favorite lettuce


1. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat until hot. Add 1 T olive oil. Season tuna with salt, pepper and garlic. Place on frying pan.

2. Sear tuna for about 2-3 min per side. [Should appear still dark red inside, just browned about a ¼ in – it’s safe to eat!]

3. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature.

4. Rub with basil pesto, slice into bite sized pieces.

5. Prepare other toppings. Toss with salad. Drizzle with dressing.

Admittedly, the Dijon Vinaigrette was made up on the fly, without measurements but basically here it is:

Dijon Vinaigrette


2 T Dijon mustard

1 T red wine vinegar

3 t lemon juice

2 brown sugar

One clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

½ cup vegetable oil


1. Mix together all ingredients except oil.

2. Whisk in a small stream of oil into thickness.

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