Breadless Tuna Salad “Sandwiches”



Today I’m going to stray a bit from the general theme of this blog and share a recipe for a Breadless Tuna Salad “Sandwich”.   While I can’t claim that it’s a family favorite yet, it is part of a new project I have which continues the theme of helping people put good food on their table.

Starting in April I’m going to be teaching some classes at a local Senior Guidance Center that provides free Health and Wellness support to the community.  The theme for my first class is recipe make-overs.   I’m choosing the classic Tuna Salad Sandwich as the recipe to tweak in the direction of lowering the fat, sodium and carbohydrate and at the same time keeping the  omega-3 fat from the tuna and adding and a nice serving of vegetable in the form of cucumber and other green stuff.

I think it’s a nice switch from the rather bland classic tuna salad sandwiches and will be a perfect fit for those hot summer days that must be just around the corner.  It will also provide a great outlet for the abundance of cucumbers that I usually have in my front yard garden plot.

So here we go.

Most of the ingredients are pantry and refrigerator staples.  Today I’m substituting shallot for the green onion/scallion in the recipe because it was what I had on hand.  The same goes for the dill component, dried dill weed will stand in for fresh until I have some in my garden.   You could substitute some dill relish or dill pickle etc. but this will increase the sodium content.   So if your watching your sodium intake stick with the herb or leave out any added salt called for in the recipe.


The best cucumbers for this recipe are the long English type that come wrapped in plastic in the grocery store.  They have thin skins and are not waxed (that’s why they are wrapped in plastic).  The also have fewer and smaller seeds than many cucumber varieties.   When you can find locally grown cucumbers that have no wax coating they would be a great choice as well.  

Depending on your preference you can leave the peel on or peel stripes as I’ve done here.  Scoop out the seeds (a grapefruit spoon is a great tool for this but any spoon will work) and poke some holes along the length of the cucumber.

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Because I don’t like to waste food, I’m saving the middles and the ends of the cucumbers to make some tzatziki for another meal!  You’ll find a recipe for tzatziki on this site in the Lamb and Goat section, but this one will be a more simple version with just a little salt, garlic and Greek yogurt.


Back to the recipe at hand!  The base of the dressing for this salad sandwich is a basic vinaigrette with a ratio of one part acid (red wine vinegar) and one part extra virgin olive oil, a bit of mustard and some salt and pepper


Whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking constantly to form the vinaigrette.


Lightly brush the cucumber quarters with the vinaigrette.  Those holes you poked in earlier will help the cucumber absorb the dressing.


Now your ready to start building the rest of the filling.  Because I’m using shallot I finely mince it and add it to the vinaigrette first.   This helps take even more of the sharpness of an already mild onion down a bit. Next, it’s a fine mince on the celery leaves and celery stalk and some lemon zest for brightness  (if you don’t have a lemon on hand don’t worry, it will be fine without it)

Add all of the above to the vinaigrette bowl along with the dill, yogurt, mayonnaise and some black pepper  and  optional salt (no more than 1/4 tsp. but I left it out entirely).  Stir to blend.


There are many choices in canned tuna.  For the most omega-3’s choose tuna canned in water rather than oil.  Today I’m using one can of white albacore and one of chunk light.  These happen to both be 7 oz. cans rather than the 5 oz. cans specified in the original recipe.  I didn’t find that the extra 4 oz. of tuna made the salad too dry but it will alter the nutritional profile. 

Now for a little finely shredded lettuce which is standing in for the sprouts today.  I love fresh sprouts (alfalfa,spicy mix, onion etc.) but they have a short shelf life so I usually don’t have them on hand.  I do almost always have some sort of dark green leafy lettuce however.  Today it’s baby romaine.


Now we’re ready to build the “sandwich”!  If you wanted you could also turn it into a stuffed tomato “sandwich”

And there you are, a breadless tuna salad “sandwich” with a side of tomato.  I did find the sandwich a little fat to bite through, and ended up eating it as an open-faced “sandwich”.   I didn’t miss the bread or extra mayonnaise at all.


Breadless Tuna Salad “Sandwiches”

by: M.B. Einerson

Adapted from Food Network

Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 English cucumbers (peel on or partially peeled) – any un-waxed cucumber will work
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine or apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp. Dijon or Spicy mustard
  • Kosher or Sea Salt and Ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 green onions/scallions, white and light green part, thinly sliced or one small shallot finely minced or ¼ cup minced chives
  • ¼ cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dill weed or seed
  • ¼ cup celery leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (low-fat if desired)
  • 1 small stalk celery, thinly sliced or minced
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest
  • Two (5 to 7 oz. can-ounce) cans chunk white or light tuna in water, drained
  • ½ cup sprouts (alfalfa, onion etc.)* or finely shredded lettuce

Halve the cucumbers crosswise and lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh to make a boat shape.  Poke the inside of the hollowed out cucumber several times with a fork.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, 1/8 tsp. of salt and a few grinds or a pinch of pepper.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until well blended.  Brush the inside of the cucumber boats with some of the vinaigrette.  Reserve the extra vinaigrette for making the filling.

Add the onion or shallot or chives to the remaining vinaigrette and stir to combine.  Stir in the yogurt, dill, celery leaves, mayonnaise, celery, lemon zest, ¼ tsp. salt (optional) and a bit of pepper into the bowl with the vinaigrette and onion.  Add the drained tuna and stir to combine.

To assemble the sandwiches, fill four of the cucumber quarters with the tuna salad and top each with ¼ cup sprouts or lettuce.  Top each with one of the remaining cucumber quarters.  Wrap each sandwich in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate if not eating immediately.

* Note that fresh sprouts are highly perishable and have been associated with salmonella and other food borne-illness.  They should only be purchased from a reputable supplier, kept refrigerated and used promptly.   People with weak immune systems, should avoid eating sprouts.



for comparison

Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Source: Betty

  • 2 cans (6 oz each) tuna in water
  • 1 medium stalk celery
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 8 slices bread

Drain the tuna in a strainer in the sink. Chop the celery to measure 1/2 cup. Peel and chop the onion to measure 1/4 cup.

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna, celery, onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Spread tuna mixture on 4 bread slices. Top with remaining bread slices.

Nutritional Comparison

Calories Fat Sodium Total Carbohydrate Fiber Protein
Breadless Recipe (using 10 oz. of canned tuna) 210 11 g 300 mg 7 g 1 g 19 g
Standard Recipe ( 12 oz. of tuna) 410 24 g 870 mg 29 g 1 g 21 g






Banh Mi (Vietnamese/French Sandwich)


There’s just something about the marriage of two great cuisines that makes for great food and I think that Banh Mi Sandwiches are one of the finest examples.  I had the good fortune to live in Los Angeles during the time when Wolfgang Puck and California Pizza Kitchen were making wild pizzas and Puck opened a marvelous fusion restaurant named Chinois on Main where the mini crème brûlèes served on the lazy susan were flavored with  all sorts of Asian flavors and were small enough that you could try them all.  Ever since that time I’ve been a fan of exploring the possibilities of taking the best ingredients and techniques of cuisines that seem worlds apart but when brought together make  unique and amazing new dishes.

I can’t recall exactly when I had my first Banh Mi Sandwich but I was obviously hopelessly hooked on them because if a sandwich shop or kiosk has them on the menu  I’m in!  BTW this  also goes for crab cakes, moules frites, sweetbreads (not the pastry) and phad thai!

So what is this sandwich I’m raving about?   It starts with some bread that is crispy on the exterior with a open texture on the interior, a luscious protein or two, some spicy mayo, some quick pickled veggies, a bit of thinly sliced spicy pepper and if you want some lettuce and tomato.  The possibilities are endless.  I’ve had them with chicken, spicy meatballs and grilled beef and can even imagine them with tofu and avocado.  The only thing I would insist on is that there is some fish sauce in the quick pickle brine.  The umami ness it brings is what pulls all the flavors together to make the unique flavor of Bahn Mi

So let’s start with the quick pickle.  Like I said the essential ingredient is fish sauce, then you need a bit of sweet (I like light brown sugar), some acid (unseasoned rice vinegar and/ or lime juice) and a bit of soy sauce for salt and flavor.  Next comes something to pickle.  When I get daikon in my CSA bag I know there is a Banh Mi sandwich in my future.  If you’re not familiar with daikon, it’s that long white root on the right in the photo below.  It has a mild radish flavor and is great eaten raw or roasted.  The round root  vegetable with the bright pink interior next to it is a watermelon radish which is also in the daikon family.  They both add great flavor and texture to the pickle.  Carrot and sweet onion round out the pickle ingredients today, but feel free to experiment!


Sometimes I grate the veggies on a box grater or in my food processor but I’ve decided that I actually prefer to making shavings with my trusty “y” peeler for the carrot and white daikon and to cut ” julienne” pieces of the watermelon radish and onion with my chef’s knife 

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Stir the veggies into the brine and set it aside while you go to work on the rest of the sandwich.

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So what’s a sandwich without a little mayo.  For a Bahn Mi the mayo should be a bit spicy.  I’ll give you ratios but remember that this is your sandwich, so make it as mild or spicy as you like.  Today I’m using a combo of Sambal Oelek and Sriracha but  feel free to use whatever hot sauce you may have in your refrigerator (yes good old Tabasco or Franks would work and next time I’m thinking of trying the gochujang I just acquired)


Now for the meat of the matter.  I’ve been dreaming of this sandwich for a while, so I had the liverwurst on hand.  For me this is where the marriage of French and Vietnamese flavors shine.  The richness of the “pâté” against the sweet vinegary bite of the pickle and the crusty bread is a food marriage made in heaven.   The roast pork (more on this later) brings more substance and flavor to each bite.

If you’re not a pork person some chopped chicken liver with some roasted or grilled  chicken would be awesome and I’m thinking that for my vegetarian friends, some mashed avocado and some sauteéd tofu or grilled tuna could be mighty fine as well.  


The pork loin I’m using is leftover from the roasted bone-in pork loin with roasted winter vegetables I made this weekend.   It is a seriously (pun intended) a great recipe, starting with excellent pork from BluesCreek Farms and a reverse sear method of cooking.

Now we’re almost ready to build this sandwich.   Today I’m also switching out the customary  baguette for a different style sandwich bread that I’ve recently discovered.  It’s a Torta sandwich roll from La Brea Bakery in LA and sold at Costco.   So, in comes bread from yet another culture.  I’ve also seen it in store bakeries labeled bolillo.   It works well for this sandwich because like its French cousin, it has a crispy exterior and a soft interior for soaking up all the juices and flavors in the sandwich.   A ciabatta would work beautifully also.    In addition to the pickled veggies in the sandwich I’m going to include some slices of tomato, romaine lettuce leaves, thinly sliced jalapeno and cilantro sprigs. 

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Start by spreading a thin layer of the liver sausage on the bottom slice of toasted roll, add a couple of thin slices of roast pork.


Top with some of the pickled veggies, thinly sliced jalapeno, cilantro, tomato and lettuce.  Spread the top half of the roll with the spicy mayo and press down firmly!

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You can eat it as is, but I prefer to wrap it tightly in foil and heat in a 350° F oven for 10 minutes or so until it’s heated through.

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Now all you need is a cold one and then a nap!  I like to serve it with some of the pickled veggies on the side and of course it tastes so much better if it’s served on a hand-crafted cutting board (thank you Katy).


Chúc ngon miêng & Bon Appétit 


Pork Banh Mi

by: M.B. Einerson

Adapted from Bon Appétit January 2010 – Pork Meatball Banh Mi, Cooking Club April/ May 2011–Warm Vietnamese Pork Sandwiches and Gourmet February 2008 Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich (Banh Mi)

Servings: 4 hearty sandwiches

  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • ½ tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely grated daikon
  • ½ to 1 cup julienned watermelon radish (optional but pretty)
  • ½ large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Baguette cut into 4 pieces and split lengthwise or 4 Torta or Ciabatta rolls split and toasted
  • 8 to 12 thin slices cook pork loin/tenderloin
  • ⅛ to ¼ lb. liverwurst or liver pâté
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tsp. hot chili garlic sauce (sriracha, sambal oelek etc.)
  • 1 to 2 jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Romaine lettuce leaves
  • Tomato slices

Whisk rice vinegar, lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce in a medium bowl.  Add grated carrots, daikon, radish and onion.  Mix well and set aside.

Combine mayonnaise and hot chili garlic sauce.

Spread the bottom of each sandwich with a thin layer of the liverwurst.  Top with pork, some of the carrot/radish/onion mixture (save additional for serving alongside the sandwich), jalapeno, cilantro sprigs, lettuce leaves and tomato slices.  Spread the top of each sandwich with some of the mayonnaise/hot sauce mixture.  If desired, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and heat in 350°F oven until warmed through.

Chúc ngon miêng & Bon Appétit



Pimento Cheese and Toasted Pimento Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches


Before the season ends and I’m back to canned tomato products, one of the things on my summer must eat list is a simple  Toasted Pimento Cheese & Tomato Sandwich.  Some hearty bread, good pimento cheese and a thick slice of vine-ripened tomato are all that’s required for a satisfying lunch or dinner.

Recently I made the food for a fairly large wedding shower/cocktail party.  It was pretty exhausting and made me realize how much caterer’s should be appreciated when they make food from scratch rather than relying on commercially produced stuff to fill their orders.  Good food doesn’t need to be fancy or fussy but it does need to be fresh and prepared with high quality ingredients.  So it wasn’t so surprising to me when one of the most commented on items on my menu was a simple Pimento Cheese Spread served alongside toasted baguette and celery sticks.  So much easier to prepare than the fussy Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema served in martini glasses, and the second bonus was that there were leftovers to be enjoyed the next day while cleaning up after the party.

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches were one of those things I grew up with and found to be just an ok kind of thing,  but it was often made with pasteurized processed cheese, salad dressing, generic canned pimento peppers and slathered onto what I have come to refer to as Wonder Fluff.  It wasn’t until I grew up and discovered aged cheddar cheeses, mayonnaise and roasted Piquillo peppers that  Pimento Cheese became one of those ” sometimes” foods to be savored.   A sometimes food because ,it’s not low in calories, saturated fat  or sodium for sure, but for an occasional meal with homemade whole grain bread and a thick slice of tomato I’ll make the sacrifice and cut those calories somewhere else.

In the past I’ve made this sandwich as a “Grilled” sandwich, meaning that in addition to the fat from the cheese and mayonnaise I added butter to mix as in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  So as at least a small  nod to cutting a bit of the saturated fat in the sandwich,  I decided to simply toast the bread and build the sandwich with modest amounts of my lovely Pimento Cheese and an extra thick slice of tomato.  Funny thing is,  I think I liked it even better than my old stand by.   I don’t think it will make it to the pages of Cooking Light but every calorie saved is one I don’t need to burn.

The inspiration for this recipe was Pimento Cheese Toasts that appeared in the January 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine.  I’ve used it for New Year’s Eve and Derby Day parties in it’s original form and then as a cold spread as I mentioned as an easy make ahead item for a cocktail party.  This week I’m just enjoying it made into a sandwich with tomatoes or on toast with a slice of tomato for breakfast.

The ingredients for the spread are simple so the quality really counts.  I use a combination of sharp or extra sharp (aged) white cheddar (Cabot Vermont is one of my favorites) and sharp or extra sharp yellow cheddar.  White pimento cheese would just seem weird, so the combo gives me the color I want with the great flavor of an excellent white cheddar.  I’ve replaced the cayenne pepper in the original recipe with chipotle powder and the generic roasted red peppers with roasted Piquillo Peppers.   Only Hellmann’s Real Mayo makes it into my refrigerator. 

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When I’m grating this much cheese I pull out the food processor and the coarse grating blade.  

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Pat the peppers dry


Two piquillo peppers with give you approximately 1/4 cup of diced pepper.  If you love the flavor feel free to add a bit more or you can do as I will and add more to the sandwich.


Mix the cheese, mayo, peppers and chipotle or  cayenne pepper ( if you like it spicy up the amount to 1/4 teaspoon or more to taste).  It needs to sit in the refrigerator a bit to allow the flavors to blend, but it’s essentially party ready as a lovely spread at this point.

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Now I’m ready to build my sandwich.  This week I was ambitious and made my own bread (Harvest Wheat from the King Arthur website and baked in a Pullman pan so I have great sandwich slices.  


More piquillo pepper patted dry, a thick slice of vine ripened tomato and a splash of awesome Lombardi Balsamic Vinegar.

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I have a new toy  in my kitchen (a Wolf countertop oven that works as a toaster) that makes making a toasted sandwich super easy.  The bread toasts and the cheese gets just slightly warm.  If you simply toast two slices of bread and work quickly you can achieve nearly the same effect.  Or you could dry toast the sandwich in a skillet.


Toasted bread and warm gooey cheese-oh yum!


All I need for lunch is a few more slices of those luscious vine ripened tomatoes from my garden.




Pimento Cheese

by: M.B. Einerson

Adapted from Pimento Cheese Toasts Gourmet Magazine January 2008 

Servings: approximately 2 cups – enough for 6 to 8 sandwiches or 36 hors d oeuvres on baguette slices

  • 10 oz. sharp or extra sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I like a combo of white and yellow cheddar
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp. chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely diced roasted Piquillo peppers, patted dry before dicing.

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with celery stalks or toasted baguette slices or spread on baguette slices and broil until the cheese is bubbling and browned.

Turn into a toasted sandwich with a hearty wheat bread, tomato slices and extra Piquillo peppers