Individually, I hate two out of the four main ingredients in this recipe.
Tuna stinks. To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually believe tuna stinks; what I know is that at some point when I was a child one of my parents made a comment about tuna stinking, and from then on, I believed wholeheartedly in the stinkiness of tuna. I can count on one finger the number of times canned tuna has entered my house — unless you count cat food.
Pickles? I remember the day I tried my first pickle. It was a pickle spear given to me at a dinner party the day my parents’ friends’ daughter made me cry by playing with my Barbie Ice Cream Shoppe. I was six. I might have also gotten a top stuck in my hair. The top could have been another time, but it’s a painful memory I associate with pickles, so whatever.
As with tomatoes, I’ve recently taken baby steps into eating both of these foods. I’ve had tuna in sushi or on salads occasionally, and when a can of tuna went into a lovely plate of beans and rice I ate in Costa Rica last year, I certainly didn’t run screaming. And at some point I realized it wasn’t the concept of pickles I hated as much as the cucumbers; salt and vinegar and I were cool. But would I have thought I’d be making an entree in which these two flavors are stars? Hardly.
Apparently, though, at some point I thought I might, because when I was putting together the recipe binder, I came across a recipe for white bean and tuna panzanella. I asked Pete if he had saved it. He had not; he hates tuna, too.
Why did we have a tuna recipe? A tuna recipe with a key flavor being pickles? I have no idea, but I felt weirdly compelled to make some version of it. Maybe the 2008 Real Simple-reading version of myself was trying to tell me something.
And…it was good! Sour and tangy, which is pretty much the best I could hope for. I swapped bread for orzo, erring on the side of something slightly less absorbent. I minced the pickles tiny, like almost relish-sized, so they’d be all crunch and no squish. And I went heavy on the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, with a little sherry vinegar tossed in for good measure.
The only small problem: I got sick of it fast. There’s only so much tuna and pickle a tuna-hating pickle-despiser can handle, and after a couple of dinners, I really wanted it to be gone. Plus, I was afraid to take it to work — because, y’know, tuna stinks. (I’m also not sure I’ve ever made it to the bottom of any leftover tupperware containing orzo. That stuff is the bunny rabbits of the fridge.)
I’d make about half the amount next time, or at least halve the orzo to let the other flavors stand out more. There might actually be a next time, and that’s the most shocking part of all.
Orzo with White Beans and Tuna
1 small (5-6 oz.) can tuna (if you really like tuna, use two)
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
2-4 sweet-and-sour pickles, diced
1 small red onion, diced
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Dash of sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
1 cup dried orzo, cooked, rinsed under cold water, and drained well
1. Boil, rinse, and drain the orzo
2. Chop the onion and pickles
3. Rinse and drain the white beans, then drain the tuna
4. Dump the orzo, onion, pickles, beans, and tuna into a large bowl and stir well to combine
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegars, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour over the orzo mixture. Add additional vinegar, oil, or seasoning to taste.