tuna & beans

black-eyed pea salad with tuna

Last week there were rather a lot of things I was frantically trying to get done. One of them was to take some pictures to enter in the Leite’s Culinaria food photography contest, which involved making a recipe from their website and taking a photo of the finished dish. I am very bad at following recipes closely, so it was a little hard for me to find one that I thought I could remain mostly faithful to. I ended up choosing a salad of canned tuna and black-eyed peas, a traditional Portuguese dish with many possible variations.

The recipe is incredibly simple, just cooked black-eyed peas tossed with tuna, onion, garlic, olive oil and vinegar, with some parsley stirred in. I was a little dubious at the initial smell of the black-eyed peas (which I had never cooked before) – they seemed unpleasantly grassy and stunk up the house remarkably. But when I had mixed in the other ingredients and let the salad sit for a little while, it took on a whole new level of flavor that was compellingly good. We ate it plain for dinner the first night, then stuffed into pitas with lettuce for two more lunches. Delicious.


A side note – the recipe, as many of this sort do, calls for imported tuna in oil. We are lucky that we can buy locally canned albacore of extremely high quality and flavor, from Island Trollers on Whidbey Island. It’s packed in water, but is not watery at all – it hardly produces any “juice” for our cats, much to their disappointment. If you ever see this product, buy it! It’s wonderful.


And to drink – I’m sure a classic Portuguese white, like a Vinho Verde, would be great here. We recently stocked up on this charming little Verdejo to get us through the summer, and it went beautifully with the tuna and beans, with its light floral-and-grapefruit notes. Summer in a glass.

Portuguese Salad of Black-Eyed Peas with Tuna
Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria by David Leite

Note: as per my usual, I made a few minor changes to the recipe. David Leite calls for white wine vinegar, imported tuna in oil, and yellow onion. I used sherry vinegar, local water-packed tuna, and Walla Walla sweet onion. I also mucked around with quantities a bit. You can make your own decisions – the original recipe is here.

  • 1 ½ cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 5 Tbsp or so good olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • Half of a Walla Walla sweet onion, very thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 7 ounces good canned tuna, drained and flaked
  • salt and pepper

Soak the beans for two hours. Drain and fill the pan with fresh water, covering the beans by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer about half an hour, until the beans are just tender. Drain and set aside, or refrigerate until needed (I did this part a day ahead of time).

Combine the oil and vinegar in a small bowl. In a serving bowl, mix the beans, onion, garlic and parsley. Pour over the dressing and mix carefully (you don’t want to mash the beans too much). Stir in the tuna and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate two hours if possible, or let sit at room temperature for half an hour before serving – it makes a difference.

Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve.

black-eyed pea salad with tuna

2 thoughts on “tuna & beans

  1. We had this couvert at Dona Barca in the old port at Portimao, Algarve but it was made with corriander not parsley. I have also made it and would not substitute parsley for corriander as in my opinion it is an essential ingrediant to enhance the flavour of this very simple and fresh tasting dish. If using tinned black-eyed beans for speed then ensure you rinse and drain them well to remove the starch and salt. You also need to source white spanish onions as they are more delicate than our English onions. I like your idea of using it as a filling for either pitta bread or tortillas. Enjoy!!

    1. I agree that cilantro would be very nice in place of the parsley. I have no idea what English onions are like, but where I live there are really good locally grown sweet onions that are excellent in this sort of dish, and I would generally prefer to use those instead of imported onions. Thanks for the suggestions!

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