Cannellini Bean and Tuna Conserva Salad with Giardiniera

Cathy Whims

Nostrana and Oven and Shaker - Portland, OR

"Every year Oregonians (and our kitchen) await the summer arrival of fresh Albacore tuna from the Oregon coast, and fortunately the fatty tuna freezes very well so we are able to employ it on the menu year round. Poaching it in aromatic herbs in extra virgin olive oil enhances its moisture and fatty texture."—Cathy Whims


4 servings



  • 5 radishes, halved 
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 4-inch strips
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 4-inch strips
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 4-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets 
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 
  • 3 sprigs oregano 
  • 3 sprigs thyme 
  • 1 1/2 cups Champagne vinegar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Baked Cannellini Beans:

  • 1 1/4 cups dried cannellini beans (or any other white bean)
  • 10 cups water, divided
  • 2 sage leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Coarse sea salt to taste

Olive Oil–Poached Tuna Conserva:

  • 2 cups light extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • One 3-inch strip lemon peel (peeled with a vegetable peeler, without the white pith) 
  • 3/4 pound fresh albacore tuna, cut into two 6-ounce portions and brought to room temperature

To serve:

  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste 


Make the giardiniera: in a large non-reactive bowl, combine the radishes, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and cauliflower with the garlic and fresh herbs and mix well. You should have just over 4 cups of vegetables.

In a medium non-reactive saucepan, combine the Champagne vinegar, water, bay leaves, sugar, salt, black peppercorns, and fennel seeds.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Immediately pour the hot vinegar mixture over the vegetables and mix gently. Allow to cool at room temperature, uncovered, then cover and refrigerate. The pickles taste best in 3 days and will last for a month, covered and refrigerated. 

Make the beans: soak the beans in 5 cups water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Drain the beans, place them in a large ovenproof saucepot, and cover with 5 cups fresh water. Add the sage, garlic, and olive oil. Bring the liquid to a boil, skimming off any scum that forms on the top. Cover and place the pot in the oven until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool beans for 15 minutes in their liquid before adding salt to taste. 

Make the olive oil–poached tuna: put the oil in a saucepot large enough that will hold the fish fillets in one single layer. Add the garlic, thyme, peppercorns, and lemon peel. Heat on medium–low heat for about 15 minutes until the oil reaches 150°F on a candy thermometer. Add the fish and lower the heat to maintain a temperature of about 130°F.  Poach for 8 to 10 minutes until the tuna is just opaque almost throughout. Let the tuna cool in the oil and refrigerate in the oil. It will keep for several days. 

To serve, soak the onions in cold water, squeezing with your hands and changing the water every 10 minutes, until sweet and mild, about 1 hour total. Drain well. 

Break the tuna into 1 to 2–inch chunks with a fork. In a large bowl, gently combine the beans and tuna and moisten generously with the reserved poaching oil. Arrange on a platter, top with the onions, and garnish with giardiniera, drizzling a little of its pickling juice over the top. Grind some black pepper over salad and serve at room temperature. 

Recipe adapted from Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger.