fresh sandwich ideas: italian chicken salad and mediterranean tuna salad
The recent springy, even summery weather seems to be leaving me craving light, fresh dinners. We went through a salad-for-every-meal stage, and then a ravenous farmers market stage, and now I’ve come to a place where it gets to be dinner time and all I really want is a sammich; gimme two pieces of bread with some goop in the middle, and I’ll happily chomp away with the early evening sun streaming in and a drink in my hand.
However, as a person who likes to cook (and as a person with an interest in bloggables), I do feel like if I’m going to bend meal-rules and eat a sandwich for dinner, it had better be something interesting that requires at least a smidge of something resembling cooking (but not too much cooking, since it is just a sandwich after all). Regular ol tuna salad or grilled cheese or turkey sandwiches are just fine at lunch or for a snack, but for dinner I require at least a little something different from my sandwiches. So, when I stumbled upon the ideas for Italian Chicken Salad and Mediterranean Tuna Salad, I threw them onto our weekly meal plan and we ended up moving our schedule around so we could eat them sooner.
My usual prescription for a tuna sandwich involves a can of albacore, a little bit of mayo, a nice handful of finely chopped celery and scallions, and some black pepper and dill. It’s simple and delicious, and generally it satisfies a hankering for a tuna sandwich. But I do love me some mediterranean flavors, and I also love tuna salads that involve more interesting add-ins than they do mayo, so I jumped on the case when I saw this recipe. The original recipe involved a few things I’m not crazy about (kalamatas, bell peppers) but I wanted to keep it chock-a-bock full of cool stuff, so we added some chunks of cucumber and some feta crumbles instead and loved the extra dimension they added to the final effect (and you can still throw in the olives and peppers if they’re up your alley!). The sandwich had all the nostalgia and familiarity of a good tuna salad, but was way more interesting and flavorful when pumped up with herbs, artichoke hearts, onions, cucumbers, feta, garlic, and a splash of lemon juice.
As for chicken salad, I’ve had sort of a love-hate relationship with it over the years, going through phases from time to time where I want to eat it for lunch everyday and then phases when I can’t stand the sight of it. I’ve actually only made traditional chicken salad myself once, a couple years back, and I made the terrible mistake of trying to take a shortcut with some pre-cooked strips of chicken from trader joe’s, and the whole affair turned out rubbery and disgusting and mayonnaisey. Since then, I have not ventured back to chicken salad territory, until I saw the idea for this italian-inspired one that did not in fact use any mayonnaise at all! The effect of the little red wine and mustard vinaigrette was really nice and tangy on the sandwich, and the addition of red onion, celery, sliced almonds and chopped bacon gave the salad some interesting textures and flavors.
So go forth, and embrace sandwiches for dinner! Or for lunch, or a midnight snack really– any time will do for a refreshing new take on chicken or tuna salad. I’d advise trying both!
Italian Chicken Salad
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 2 -3 sandwiches
1 large chicken breast, cooked and chopped or shredded (the ideal would be some leftover roast chicken, but I never just have chicken laying around, and am usually too lazy to do the right thing and roast some bone-in skin-on chicken thighs just to chop the meat, so I used a boneless skinless chicken breast and simply poached it in some chicken stock to keep it moist and then chopped)
1 small rib celery, finely chopped
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small handful sliced or slivered almonds (about 1/4 to 1/3 almonds)
Salt and pepper
2 slices bacon, cooked
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
1.5 T olive oil
First, if you don’t have leftovers to work from, cook your slices of bacon and your chicken so they’re ready for you. While those are going, you can chop your onion, celery, and get out your almonds and vinaigrette makings.
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper, and then whisk in olive oil.
Combine your chopped chicken, onion, celery, almonds, and bacon in a small bowl or container. Season with salt and pepper, then add the vinaigrette (don’t worry, put it all in) and mix it all together. Pile on some toasted bread and enjoy!
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Makes 3-4 sandwiches
2 cans tuna, drained (use what you have/what you like in terms of albacore vs. reg, chunk vs. solid)
1-2 artichoke hearts, chopped into small chunks
1/4 cucumber, seeded and chopped into small chunks
1/4 red onion, chopped
about 1 T fresh parsley, chopped
about 1 T fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
dash dried oregano
squirt of lemon juice
2 T mayo (or try a drizzle of olive oil if you prefer to go mayo-less)
Salt and pepper
optional add-ins: feta crumbles, bell pepper (roasted or fresh), chopped greek olives
This recipe has the kind of instructions I like to read: mix all of the above together and serve!