Ah, the Spaniards. They can do some mighty fine things with the beautiful assortment of ingredients available in Spain. From the beautiful array of seafood to the luscious produce, and their jamon and Manchego…..
But honestly, Spain is the first country in which I was culinarily challenged. And it really took me by surprise.
Everyone has become familiar with tapas, and I was so excited to try them out in Spain, instead of in a restaurant. But it was perhaps because we didn’t hang around the bigger cities, but instead, as is our usual protocol for traveling in Europe, headed to explore the countryside and the villages. And in the little restaurants where we ate, there were certainly tapas out, but they all appeared to have been sitting around for days. And, they moved. I witnessed a lot of snails in red sauce, moving. Sea snails. Not what I expected, and not what I wanted. Call me chicken.
And the most common breakfast involved rubbing garlic on toast, followed by rubbing a tomato half over the garlic, and then topping it with an anchovy. Yum. Not. I mean, as a snack, sure. But as a breakfast?
So throughout our journey, which took us through the provinces of Castilla, Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia, I stuck with salads – mostly seafood salads or ensalada mixta as they’re often called. And they were always fantastic.
This salad is a version of one I enjoyed when we were on the eastern coast of Spain along the Mediterranean. In spite of all of the fresh seafood available on the coast, my salad came with canned tuna, but it was good.
And since that trip I discovered that there is definitely higher quality canned and bottled tuna available if you just look for it. The best tuna, called bonito, comes from Italy and Spain. You can also buy tuna loin, ventresca, and tuna belly, which all come from anatomically different tuna areas. I haven’t experimented with all of them, but I’m sure they’re less dry than typical canned tuna and more tender.
For this salad today I’m using canned tuna belly from Sicily. I thought this particular one was from Spain, until I looked at my photo! Oh well, I hope you enjoy this simple salad!
Spanish Tuna Salad, to serve 1
1 1/2 or so jarred roasted red bell pepper pieces, or 1 red bell pepper, roasted and peeled
1 serving canned or bottled tuna, I used 4 1/2 ounces of tuna belly
Red wine vinegar
Olives, I used Kalamata olives
Top the red bell pepper pieces with your tuna.
Season with salt and pepper, drizzle oil and vinegar over the salad, then add some olives.
* I had just recently purchased this Arbequin olive oil because while staying at Parador de Cardona in the Catalon region of Spain I fell in love with the little Arbequin olive. I probably ate my weight in these olives. Unfortunately this oil isn’t as good as I thought it would be, but it’s still good!
And I must add, that as a starter for our first dinner in Spain, in the old town of Cuenca, that my husband and I got a platter of Jamon Iberica and rosemary Manchego drizzled with olive oil. I could have died happy right then.