Here’s a meal that’s simple and alfresco friendly — take it to an outdoor concert, a ballgame or your backyard patio. You’ll reach into your Dinner in Minutes pantry and pull out a can of tuna packed in oil . . . and before you dismiss the notion of tuna salad, allow me to mention the particulars.

Colorful bell pepper and carrot add crunch. Thin half moons of zucchini provide a nice contrast in texture. Lemon juice and Sriracha account for the punch and spice; you can use a sweet chili sauce instead of the Thai hot sauce for a tamer bite. A small amount of canned-tuna oil is whisked into the dressing, and it tastes like it belongs there. Quick-pickled red onion on top makes the sum of this dish greater than its parts.

If you’re out and about, pack the salad separate from its whole-wheat pitas. When you’re plating at home, you can serve it atop a warmed pita on a plate, open-taco style; just enough of the dressing from the salad will be absorbed into the bread and remind you of a panzanella salad as you dig in.

This recipe makes a crunchy and light and almost no-cook meal. (Bonnie Benwick, Kara Elder, Jayne Orenstein, Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)


  • For the pickled onion
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 14 cup red wine vinegar
  • 14 cup warm tap water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • For the tuna and sauce
  • One 5-ounce can tuna packed in oil
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 small or medium zucchini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha or sweet chili sauce (see OVERVIEW)
  • 2 whole-wheat or white pita breads
  • Salad greens, for serving

Step 1

For the pickled onion: Cut the onion into thin slices and place in a medium bowl. Add the vinegar, water and sugar, stirring to dissolve the latter. Let sit while you prep the remaining ingredients. (Make sure the onion is submerged.)

Step 2

For the tuna and sauce: Drain the tuna, reserving a tablespoon of its oil. Scrub the carrot, then cut into thin matchsticks. Cut the flesh of the red bell pepper into 1/2-inch dice. Trim the zucchini, cut it in half lengthwise and then into thin half moons. Combine the drained tuna (I like to leave some of it in big chunks), carrot, red bell pepper and zucchini in a mixing bowl.

Step 3

Mince the garlic. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon half into a liquid measuring cup, then whisk in the garlic, sugar, salt, Sriracha or sweet chili sauce and the reserved tuna oil to form a dressing. Add half the dressing to the tuna salad mixture and toss to incorporate.

Step 4

Wrap the pita breads in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave on LOW for 8 seconds, or just. until pliable. Use each pita to line a cereal-size bowl while the bread is still soft enough to mold in, or place each pita on its own plate. Arrange a handful of salad greens on each one. Spoon the remaining dressing over the greens. Divide the tuna salad mixture between the bowls or plates, on top of each pita.

Step 5

Drain the pickled onion and use it to top each salad.

Adapted from “Itsu: The Cookbook,” by Julian Metcalfe (Mitchell Beazley, 2014).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to

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Calories: 500; Total Fat: 22 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 720 mg; Carbohydrates: 54 g; Dietary Fiber: 7 g; Sugars: 14 g; Protein: 27 g.