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© Paden Reich
A serious misconception is that the good ol’ days of enjoying comfort food are dead and done, like an oil-soaked empty pizza box sitting at the bottom of the trashcan. People, this just isn’t true. Hearty, warm comfort food can be healthy and nutritious. Tuna melts are one of my favorite examples. Tuna, of course, is rich in iron and protein. And tuna salad is so easy to make. When I first lived by myself, I made open-face tuna salad sandwiches all of the time. To this day, I find the sight of bubbling cheese very beautiful. But these days I’m less concerned with a small hill of cheese than I am with making sure my food has nutritious value. Whenever I make this for lunch, I add avocado and a bitter green, like arugula. A crunchier lettuce pairs well, too. Sometimes I do it with romaine leaves, thinly sliced red onion, and a pickle or two. And maybe a handful of potato chips on the side.
1. Place the tuna, celery, egg, mayonnaise, capers, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir gently to blend, breaking the tuna into smaller pieces.
2. Place the bread slices on a flat work surface; top each of 4 slices with 1 cheese slice. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the tuna mixture over the cheese on each, and top evenly with the avocado, tomato, arugula, and remaining cheese. Cover with the remaining bread slices. Lightly brush the outsides of each sandwich with olive oil.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high until hot. Place the sandwiches, in batches if necessary, in the hot skillet, and cook until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Cut the sandwiches in half, and serve immediately.
Solid white albacore tuna has a clean, not fishy, taste and allows other ingredients to shine.
There’s tons of room for variation with this sandwich, particularly with the choice of tuna. Consider your preference before cooking. I prefer jarred Italian tuna to the canned albacore tuna. The jarred tuna comes in oil, so I use less mayo later on.
4 (2.6-ounce) pouches solid white albacore tuna in water
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1⁄4 cup drained capers or chopped pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest, plus
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
8 hearty white deli bread slices
8 Havarti cheese slices
1 ripe avocado, quartered and sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
1 cup loosely packed arugula
Hands on time