Albert Burneko is off. Your guest Foodspinner is friend of the program and pork belly enthusiast Miserable Shitehawk.
If you're anything like me, a couple times a week, you look up at three p.m. and realize you haven't eaten a goddamn thing all day and are ravenous. This is the every-other-day moment when all your best intentions go out the window.
You were going to eat more greens and lean protein and less bread, less pasta, less fat, less fried junk, less fast food—but here you are, way too hungry to bother preparing anything nutritionally virtuous, way too hungry to be satisfied by a miserable pile of leafy greens, way too far along in your day to formulate any sort of practicable plan for righting the ship. If you're anything like me, you will then find yourself parking in front of Potbelly, or in line at Chipotle, or, God help you, in the Taco Bell drive-thru, telling yourself all the while that you'll start anew tomorrow, tomorrow will be the day when everything turns around, when you seize some measure of control of your life, when you start acting your age for a change, when you finally get your car inspected for the first time in 39 months.
That state inspector is going to shit himself.
Nah, look, forget all that. Your life is an unsalvageable disaster. You know it, I know it, the state inspector will have it hit him in the face like a goddamn freight train when he checks your brake pads. Man, those brake pads. Oh God, he will think, as a chill descends his spine.
If gaining comprehensive control of your life is a complex undertaking far, far beyond your capacity, you can at least have daily sustenance that is nutritionally passable, easily made, cheap, and genuinely delicious. You can have tuna-bean salad. Let's get to it.
Most of this shit you already have under a layer of dust and mouse poop in your pantry: a few cans of tuna or albacore, four or five cans of beans, some good extra-virgin olive oil, and vinegar. In order to elevate this into the kind of thing you will eagerly yank out of the office refrigerator and noisily hoover down right there at your desk, you're going to need a couple of additional ingredients: a yellow onion, one bunch of scallions, a stalk or two of celery, and some fresh parsley. There will be chopping.
Let's talk beans for a second. Use whatever the hell beans you like for your tuna-bean salad. I'm a big fan of dark red kidney beans, garbanzos, and black beans. White beans, great northern beans, limas, navy beans—pretty much any bean will do. Whichever you choose, make sure you drop them into a colander and rinse them pretty good at the jump. You won't want any of that syrupy bean juice in your tuna-bean salad, and canned beans can be pretty salty. I recommend two cans of garbanzos, two cans of dark red kidney beans, and a can of black beans, rinsed thoroughly. Whatever you use, once they're rinsed pretty well, chuck your beans into a huge bowl or tupperware thing.
Now, let's talk tuna. It's called tuna-bean salad, of course, but here's the thing: Tuna is, like, the greatest fish, and it's the most important sushi fish of all, and its numbers are in great decline. Sushi is an ancient and unimprovable cuisine that respects and ennobles tuna, whereas cramming it into a can to be used in desperate frugal lunch preparations ... well, it's harder to live with endangering an entire species for such mundane purposes.
What I'm saying is, we call it "tuna-bean salad" because it has fewer syllables than "albacore-bean salad." Buy some canned albacore. For this preparation you'll want, say, three cans. Strain the liquid and toss the fish into the bowl.
Here comes the chopping. Finely chop, say, half that yellow onion and all the celery. Chop your scallions into thin rings, and make sure whatever portion you add to the salad includes a nice mix of dark green ends and tasty white bulb. Finally, give your parsley a thorough chopping. Chuck all this vegetable stuff into the bowl.
Pour a few healthy glugs of olive oil into your bowl and give the whole thing a big stir. Next up is the vinegar. What have you got? Balsamic vinegar is fruity and delicious, and if you've got some of the good stuff, bully for you. Red-wine vinegar will do just fine, as will sherry vinegar or malt vinegar. I would stay away from any sort of pre-made vinaigrette, and I'd be very shy about using apple-cider vinegar. My favorite for this preparation is sherry vinegar with a splash of white vinegar to punch it up. Start with a light pour of whatever you're using—a single glug, say—and taste your way to perfection, adding salt and black pepper as you go. There. Voila! Done.
Dig in. Or, sock that fucker away in the fridge, where a few hours of stewing will give the oil and vinegar time to soak into the beans and fish and green shit and transform your tuna-bean salad into the sort of thing you'll find yourself hungrily eating directly out of the fridge at 3 a.m., dropping beans all over your grimy floor like the dysfunctional slob you are.
Except this dysfunctional slob has a week's worth of lunch stowed away in his fridge, something reasonably healthy, heartily filling and satisfying, and outrageously vibrant and delicious to keep him out of the ominously empty Burger King drive-thru. And, you will discover, this simple tuna-bean salad goes well with everything. It is never more at home than when it is sidled up against, for example, a heaping, steaming pile of macaroni and cheese.
No! No! Wait! Forget that last part! Grownups do not eat macaroni and cheese! This is the new you! You have turned the corner for good this time! Put down the heavy cream!
Oh, God, what have I done.
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Image by Sam Woolley.