Did you stock up on a lot of fancy canned tuna earlier this spring? Do you live for tomato season? Do you spend too much time daydreaming about the before times when you could daydream about traveling to places like Spanish Basque Country to eat every Cantabrian anchovy and burnt cheesecake in sight? Are you instead, like many others, in the midst of a stressful pandemic housing move, so you’re trying to clear out your pantry and fridge for pre-moving day meals that feel like a contrived cooking show challenge? Or are you just a fan of simple, no-fuss, let-good-ingredients-shine salads? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should make this Spanish-style tomato and ventresca tuna salad. If you’re like me and answered in the affirmative to all of the above, hang in there—and also make this salad.
As with a good caprese, there isn’t an “a-ha” secret component or technique to this tomato and tuna salad, which is popular throughout Spain. Put a few good ingredients together on a plate, then get out of their way. In this case, those ingredients are sliced ripe tomatoes, coarse sea salt, olive oil–packed ventresca tuna (fatty tuna belly), olive oil, and thinly sliced onion.
I fell in love with this dish in a windowless basement at Antonio Bar in San Sebastian, where it played the perfect opener—alongside a plate of salt-cured anchovies swimming in olive oil—to an outrageously flavorful txuleta de viejo (a giant ribeye from an actual old cow, not just an aged steak) with fries.
There is no vaca vieja steak cookery happening in my windowless studio apartment kitchen right now. The kitchen is a pre-move Marie Kondo nightmare, with the stove and counters covered with stacks of pans, utensils, and a Baking Steel that miraculously didn’t break every bone in my foot when I tried to cushion its fall as if it were a soccer ball the other day. But I have made a couple tomato and ventresca salads for quick and easy lunches, with just a few farmers market tomatoes, a can of ventresca, and some ramps that I pickled a few months ago (thinly sliced raw spring onions, scallions, or yellow onion are traditional, but I like how vinegar tempers their raw bite, plus, there’s no way all the homemade pickles in my fridge are making the move with me).