Friday 27 January 2012

Seared Tuna with a Niçoise-Style Green-Olive, Caper & Tomato Salsa

I'm in the mood for turning recipes inside out and upside down this year, so I've dressed this platter of seared tuna strips with a twanging sauce containing most of the ingredients you'd expect to find in a Salad Niçoise: olives, tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, capers, chopped boiled eggs and excellent olive oil. Granted, fresh tuna is very expensive, but this dish is so intensely flavoured that a little goes a long way, especially if you serve it as a starter, with some sliced fresh bread for dipping.

Porcelain platter by David Walters
I wouldn't dream of pairing such a punchy salsa with top-notch sashimi-grade tuna (as if - please allow me a hollow laugh here - I could afford such a thing) but this peppy dressing is great for perking up slices cut from a slab of commonplace fresh tuna.

You may notice a conspicuous lack of chopped boiled eggs in the picture above.  This is because my younger basset hound, a thieving little miss, stole my just-boiled wedges of egg off the table while I was getting ready to take the photograph. At first, I couldn't understand where my eggs had gone, and it was only when I saw her guilty expression and the tell-tale crumbs of yolk clinging to her whiskers that the penny dropped. I considered boiling another batch of eggs, but I was pressed for time, and the tuna slices were in danger of drying out, so I snapped the dish and then gave the little brat a desultory scolding.  (Any tongue-whipping delivered to a basset hound has to be half-hearted, because they pay no attention at all.)

No one in my family would taste this, let alone eat it, because it contained two tiny fillets of anchovy. If you're also a loather of anchovies, you may leave them out, but consider yourself struck off my Christmas-card list forever.

(Oh, do please give them a try. Pounded to a paste and well blended with the other ingredients, they add a lovely savoury note to the sauce, and don't taste at all fishy.)

Seared Tuna with a Caper, Green Olive and Tomato Salsa
350 g fresh tuna (ask your fishmonger for a nice thick steak)
salt and milled black pepper
1 T (15 ml) sunflower oil, or similar light vegetable oil
2 extra-large free-range eggs
2 ripe tomatoes
8 green olives, pitted
1 T (15 ml) brined capers, drained
4 sprigs fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 slim anchovy fillets
1 clove of garlic, peeled
 the juice of a small lemon
4 T (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

First sear the tuna. Pat the fish dry using kitchen paper and season lightly with salt and milled black pepper.  Heat a frying pan over a very high flame for two or so minutes, then add the vegetable oil. Wait for 15 seconds, or until the oil begins to shimmer and the pan is blazing hot (but not yet smoking).  Lay the steak in the hot oil and sear it for 45-60 seconds on one side, or until the band of opaque, cooked fish on the underside of the steak is about 3 mm thick. Flip the steak over with a pair of tongs or a fork and sear its underside for another minute or so. Now turn the steak so it's standing vertically and very quickly sear the thinner edges, on all sides, for 30 seconds. The tuna should be raw and still cold on the inside when you're done searing it. Put the steak on a plate, let it cool for 10 minutes, then cover with clingfilm and set aside.

Fill a saucepan with water and bring it to a gentle boil. Slide the eggs into the simmering water and set a timer for 9 minutes. Cut a shallow cross through the skins of the tomatoes and add them to the water in which the eggs are boiling. Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then lift them out of the water and set them to cool on your kitchen counter. When the timer goes off, fill the pan with cold water and set it in the sink under a dribbling tap for 5 minutes, or until the eggs are cold.

Now make the salsa. Finely chop the green olives and capers and set them to one side. Pound the garlic and anchovies to a smooth paste using a mortar and pestle or the blade of a heavy knife. Scrape the paste into a mixing bowl and stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and the reserved chopped olives and capers.  Strip the skin off the blanched tomatoes (it should come away easily), halve them, and use a teaspoon to scoop their seeds - these are packed with umami - into the mixing bowl. Cut the fleshy bits out of the centres of the tomatoes and discard. Cut the remaining tomato flesh into small, neat cubes and add these to the mixing bowl. Stir the salsa gently and season to taste with black pepper (you shouldn't need to add any salt, as the anchovies are quite salty).

Using a very sharp knife, cut the cooled tuna into strips, and arrange these on a platter. Spoon the salsa over the tuna and garnish with a few little sprigs of flat-leaf parsley. Peel the eggs, chop them fairly finely, and scatter them over the tuna (that is, if your dog hasn't scoffed them). Serve immediately (or keep tightly covered with clingfilm, adding the parsley garnish at the last minute) in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

Serves 4, as a starter.
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Nina Timm said...

In my house, it is only little missy and I who eat anchovies, but then again, sharing this divine salad with only one other is far better than to split it 4 ways. Brilliant!

Maryon said...

Just the thing for a nice hot day and just as well I like anchovies.

Julie said...

Shew! Looks delish, I just love the flavours of the Nicoise.

Gillian Chambers said...

Can't wait to try this - who can resist anchovies and a 'twanging' sauce?? Love it.