Fishing for Compliments

A pantry staple worth the small splurge

Remember that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps from black and white into Technicolor?

Prepare for a similar canned-tuna revelation.

The dry, flavorless tuna of our childhood no longer has pride of place in our pantry. It has been replaced by far superior–and, yes, pricier–cans. But this canned fish is an affordable luxury.

Spain-based Ortiz, a fifth-generation, 100-year-old company, exclusively uses fish caught in the country's Bay of Biscay during the tuna's seasonal run. The albacore (called bonito del norte) is line-caught, and the succulent fillets are packed in olive oil ($16 for a 270-gram jar). The ventresca ($16 for a 110-gram tin), cut from the belly of the fish, is especially buttery and creamy. The company also sells anchovies and sardines.

As do Mar has strict policies to ensure the health and safety of the ocean, only purchasing fish that have been line-caught by registered fishing vessels from fish stocks that have not been overexploited. The cleaning and packing is done entirely by hand at the company's Sardinian headquarters. Though water-packed tuna is available, opt for the olive-oil packed fillets ($10 for 150 grams). As do Mar also packages mackerel, sardines and salmon.

You could use this tuna for a very high-class sandwich: No mayonnaise required. We also like to toss the fish and its oil with cooked white beans and fresh herbs, add it to potato salad or just eat it straight from the jar on crackers.