A Three Bean Mouthful (With Preserved Tuna)

This is one of those recipes. It seems like there are a lot of steps. It’s best if you can do it over a day or two. But I promise you these are the very things that make this recipe EASY! It’s especially good if you spend a bit of time in the kitchen one day, but know you will have limited time later in the week.

Or you can accomplish a few small steps over several days. Because all the steps take only a few minutes of actual activity each. The cooking itself is very easy and can be made easier with a self-timed oven.

Besides it is an opportunity to use up that day old bread, and those less than ideal off-season tomatoes you stupidly bought. Plus, it’s fun to introduce new tastes to the people in your life who may take a bit of prodding when it comes to unusual or strong flavors.

This is my entry in My Legume Love Affair from the Well Seasoned Cook. I call it a Three Bean Winter Panzanella Salad with Preserved Albacore Tuna.

I know that even the title is long and perhaps daunting. But it’s a terrific salad consisting of green beans, cranberry beans, and great northern white beans. I call it a panzanella because rich, savory, toasty chunks of bread are a main ingredient. So are tomotoes.

But every one knows February is not a great time of year to eat tomatoes. That’s why I call it a winter panzanella.

Because I have a trick. I am taking the only halfway decent variety of tomato you can find this time of year (the cherry or grape tomato) and roasting them slow and low in the oven. This will amplify the sweet nature of the tomato and mellow it’s acidic (off-season) nature. Add them to the salad while still warm and you have a great combination of tastes, textures and tempertaures. Savory, sweet, and satisfying. Cruchy, soft and oozey. Warm but crisp!

I very rarely just post a recipe. I usually prefer to find some subect that interests me or that I just feel like talking about, and then tack on a recipe that makes the thing all work together. So this proves what a winner I think this recipe is. It’s my own creation so if you see room for improvement. I am open to suggestions. Here goes: 

1 pound albacore tuna steak (1 1/2 inch thick)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes
4–5 anchovy filets
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 cups or more olive oil, plus one tbsp


1/2 pound fresh or dried cranberry beans
1/2 pound fresh or dried great northern white beans
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 pound fresh green beans

1 medium shallot
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of the reserved tuna oil
salt and pepper

2 cups cherry or grape tomatos
olive oil
salt and pepper
2–4 tbsps more of the reserved tuna oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 slightly stale French baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 bunch bitter greens (such as dandelion, mustard or radicchio)
1 red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup anchovy aioli (optional – see recipe)

1. Carefully dry the tuna steak as well as possible.

2. In a mortar and pestal add the salt, thyme, garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, anchovies, and black peppercorns and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Grind and mix the ingredients well to form a paste.

3.  Rub this paste all over the tuna. Add the tuna to a deep bowl. Cover it with 3–4  cups of olive oil and refrigerate for several hours overnight.

4. The next day transfer all these ingredients  to a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium high heat.

5. When the oil is the right temperature (not too hot) bubbles will begin to form along the edges of the pan. Lower the heat to maintain this temperature, and put the lid on. Poach the tuna in this mixture about 15–20 minutes, turning the fish over once or twice to ensure even cooking. Check the tuna by piercing with the tip of a knife. It should still be pink at the center, but a little past rare.

6. When the tuna is ready remove it from the oil and allow it to come to room temperature. Reserve the oil. Once the tuna cools completely, return it to the oil and refridgerate 4 or 5 hours or up to to 3 days.

1. Simmer the cranberry beans in enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add a little salt, and fresh thyme and cook about 30 minutes until tender. Prepare the white beans similarly. Let the beans cool in their cooking liquid. If you are using dried, cook in oven and adjust time. These may be cooked ahead and kept at room temperature for a few hours or up to 3 days.

2. Clean and trim the green beans leaving them whole. Add them to a pot of rapidly boiling salted water. Cook for 2–3 minutes. Quickly plunge them into an ice bath to stop their cooking.

3. Make a vinaigrette in a small bowl with the diced shallot, red wine vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk in ½ cup of the preserved tuna oil and add freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt and vinegar to taste.

1. Toss the tomoates in a little olive, salt and pepper. Roast the tomotoes on a parchment lined baking sheet for 2 hours at 225 degrees F. They should be crinkly, but still moist inside. This will bring out their sweetness, even in winter when the tomatoes are not at their best. You can skip this if you have sweet, juicy summertime tomatoes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the preserved tuna oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic clove slices and as many cubes of bread as will fit in a single layer (this may need to be done in a couple of batches). Toss and toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring frequently. Add additional tuna oil as needed (the bread will soak it up as it toasts). Remove from heat and place the bread in a large bowl. This may be made up to a day or two ahead.

3. When ready to serve, add the washed greens to the bowl with the bread cubes. Drain the cranberry and white beans and toss them with the green beans and the vinaigrette. Add these, along with the warm roasted cherry or grape tomatoes to the bowl as well. Toss well.

4. Pour the well mixed salad onto a large serving platter. Toss the onion slivers across the salad and top with the tuna, broken into bite sized chunks. Serve with optional aioli alongside.

So I hope you see this is do-able! So I say go do it! Otherwise those crappy little tomatoes you bought are headed for the garbage pail. What were you thinking?


Greg Henry