If for no other reason, summer is my favorite season because it’s fig season. Fig season is a celebration of sweet heaven for your mouth rendering your senses overstimulated with rich flavors and history. The fig is versatile as snack, a valuable source of energy and nutrients for athletes, and an integral element to the most discerning culinary Pro’s summer fare. This storied, nay, mythological fruit appears in the Bible, the Q’ran, is sacred to Dionysus and significant in Hindi poetry– and for good reason. But take away the myth and the history and you’re left with something unforgettable in your mouth, never mind your mind.
In Southern California, figs are rampant, growing (now) wild in the canyons, in neighbors’ yards and in your office building’s parking lot. A Mediterranean climate loving plant, the fig thrives in the year-round summer life. And this fills us with glee. If you live anywhere else in the country, you’ll pay a premium for this delectable and very seasonal fruit, but do, it’s worth the extra penny. While dried figs are delicious, nothing can come close to the texture and rich flavor of a fresh fig.
At mtbchick, we have several recipes, new and old, original and borrowed, we’d like to share with you. I give you number 1, Perfect Fig Tuna Salad. For people on the go, busy people and athletes, tuna salad is a staple for a delicious, nutrition-packed lunch. But the typical tuna salads get old, agreed? So give this fig-peppered variation a try for something new!
Perfect Fig Tuna Salad
4 oz fresh tuna OR 1 can tuna, drained (look for sustainably caught tuna, don’t be afraid to ask)
15-20 mint leaves, minced (if you don’t grow your own, ask your neighbors. mint is a true runaway, and most people will be happy to hand over a few stalks)
8 Kalamata olives, pitted and minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
handful of goat Feta cheese, chopped (cow is OK, keeping in mind goat cheese jives better with the human digestive system) (We love Karoun or Redwood Hill.)
1-2 fresh and ripe figs— any style is fine– minced
a small handful of Parsley, minced
1 shallot, minced
Olive Oil, enough to cover and moisten the tuna
Sea salt to taste if using fresh tuna (optional)
White ground pepper if desired (optional)
Pinch of cardamom (optional)
Pinch of ground coriander (optional)
Arugula for a bed of salad, pita, sliced bread, or simply, a bowl.
1. If you are using fresh tuna, you have several options:
1- sear in a pan
2- broil in an oven or toaster oven
Cook tuna to taste and let cool. If you prefer raw, the lemon juice from the mixture will cook the tuna ceviche-style given a few hours.
2. If you are using canned tuna, drain and place in a small mixing bowl.
3. add all ingredients to bowl with tuna: mint, olives, olive oil, figs, parsley, shallot, cardamom, coriander and cheese. mix vigorously. Taste. Add salt and pepper, if desired or needed.
4. Spread tuna salad over arugula, on bread, on toast, inside a pita or just have it plain in a bowl.
5. Garnish with a fig slice.
6. Eat! And relish in the taste of summer!
While this is a great last minute lunch, it can be made ahead and keep for days in the refrigerator for work or a mid-day at home snack.
What makes this so refreshing aside from the figs is the fresh lemon juice and mint. These summery, bright flavors invite you to feel the sunshine radiating from your insides. It’s a beautiful thing.
Mint is easily gathered from yards and gardens across the country in the summer, and as we said before, don’t be afraid to ask your neighbors. You’re likely doing them a favor taking some of this delicious herb off their lawns. Besides, mint can be crushed into water, lemonade, mojitos or any other summery drink you can dream up.
Lemons are a menace to most lemon tree owners, so in Southern California it’s easy to find a lemon or so. Many are Meyer Lemons (an orange-lemon hybrid) which are much sweeter and in my mind less desirable for this particular recipe, but will definitely do. Pictured above is a typical lemon, natural and perfect in its imperfections. The lemon offers a bright and tangy surprise to any tuna salad, and is a must to keep the savory-ness of the tuna at bay.
The Kalamata olive is soft, savory and meaty. This addition to the salad hearkens to the Mediterranean culture and taste profile we seek in this tuna salad. If you can’t find Kalamata olives, leave the olives out of this one. It’s a particular flavor that mends the tuna with the rest of the ingredients in a magical way. And very Med.
Another strictly Mediterranean flavor is Feta cheese. While any Feta will certainly do, we love the crisp, tart and very firm goat Feta. This cheese has to be chopped with a knife into small pieces before being added to the mix, but the end result is a tart and firm bite that tickles the front of the tongue. If you decide you want a tuna melt, add extra cheese to the sandwich before placing on the grill, griddle or in the oven.
When it comes to tuna salad, everyone has different tastes. If you prefer more or less of any ingredients, that is up to you. I implore you to sample and add or subtract any ingredients which please you. This is your food, your life, and your nutrition! I simply at the tuna salad out of the bowl with a beautiful fig slice. However, this is your lunch, and you can have it your way. On bread, toast, rice, farro, arugula salad, bulgur… let your imagination go wild!