There are few things in life I am worse at making than tuna sandwiches. What horrible curse was placed on me? My sandwiches either end up dry and flavorless or way too oily and heavy. I keep trying because, when done right, it's one of my favorite sandwiches. That has to explain why I decided to make this recipe from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, inspired by the West Village wine bar 'ino. Also, I'll blame the fact that I'm in the middle of a pretty intense panini infatuation. I don't know why.
Of course, this isn't a simple tuna salad. Instead of just mixing mayonnaise with tuna, you create a dynamic black olive pesto, which is spread on the bread right before it's grilled. The tuna is then spiked with capers, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. It has flavor to spare. But the final trick that sends this sandwich over the edge is the panini press. Grilling the sandwich unifies it into one glorious, crispy package.
- For the Pesto
- 1 cup black olives, pitted
- 10 caper berries, any stems removed
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup olive oil
- For the Sandwiches:
- One 6-ounce can tuna in olive oil, drained
- 6 caper berries, stems discarded, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about ½ lemon
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 ciabatta rolls, split in half
For the Pesto: Toss all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until chopped, but still a little chunky.
For the sandwiches: Add tuna, capers, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Stir until combined.
Smear one tablespoon of the pesto on the cut side of the three bottom rolls. Divide tuna mixture between the three rolls, and then place each top on.
Grill on a panini press until browned, three to five minutes. Alternatively, you can place the sandwich on a grill pan over medium heat, and top with a heavy iron skillet. Cook until browned, about three minutes a side.