Make the dressing for this Mediterranean chopped salad bowl with the olive oil in which the tuna was packed. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Make the dressing for this Mediterranean chopped salad bowl with the olive oil in which the tuna was packed. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Let canned tuna anchor this crunchy Mediterranean salad

This recipe’s single must-have ingredient is a high-quality jar or can of tuna packed in olive oil.

While making this salad for lunch recently, my umpteenth time over the years, it dawned on me that I should share it with you. I suppose I had not thought to do so before because it never seemed like a real recipe as much as a quick assembly of random on-hand ingredients. But there is a formula to this favorite meal, one that allows the result to take on many forms.

Its single must-have ingredient is a high-quality jar or can of tuna packed in olive oil. The brand I typically buy is a 7-ounce Italian import, which runs about $8. But before you balk at the price, consider the value: This one item provides plenty of premium fish for this salad for two, plus enough olive oil to dress it.

The big chunks of flaky fish get tossed with an assortment of crisp, colorful chopped vegetables, which is where the endless variations come in. The accompanying recipe represents a good sampling of the year-round basics: lettuce, bell peppers and cucumbers. But when I have leftover cooked vegetables — steamed broccoli, green beans, asparagus — they would get tossed in there as well (or instead), as might raw ingredients such as chopped tomato, radishes, kohlrabi, cabbage, celery and radicchio.

I always add a fresh, tender herb such as parsley or basil, and a sprinkle of dried oregano, which gives the salad an immediate Mediterranean vibe. And I also like to toss in a briny element such as olives, capers or even chopped pickles, depending on what I have that needs to get used up.

As I mentioned, the oil from the tuna creates the base for the dressing. All you need is an acid such as fresh lemon juice, or vinegar, plus salt and pepper to create a lovely vinaigrette, and presto! Lunch, or a light dinner, is served.

Mediterranean chopped salad bowl with tuna

3 cups chopped romaine hearts or Little Gem lettuce

½ medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (½ cup)

½ cup chopped English (seedless) cucumber or Persian cucumber

⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

¼ to ⅓ cup sliced pitted green olives (optional)

¼ cup chopped red onion

1 jar (7- to 8-ounces) tuna packed in olive oil, undrained (may substitute two 4- to 5-ounce cans)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

⅛ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toss together the lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, olives, if using, and onion in a mixing bowl. Add the tuna, along with the oil it was packed in, then use a fork to break up the tuna a little.

Add the vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper; toss gently to incorporate.

Serve in individual bowls.

Makes 2 servings. Nutrition per serving: 200 calories, 27 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 600 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams sugar.

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