In the pink
Fresh tuna has a meaty texture and a taste that's completely different from the canned variety (although tuna canned in olive oil is a delicacy in its own right). It is delicious served raw (in sushi or sashimi) or lightly seared, so it's still pink and moist inside. Don't waste an expensive piece of tuna by overcooking it.
Tuna tataki (pictured)
This dish couldn't be easier. Choose one or two long slabs of tuna that are 5-6cm wide and 2-3cm thick (triangular pieces are fine too). A shop specialising in Japanese ingredients, such as Uny, City'super or the basement grocery store in Sogo, should be able to supply you with what you need. If cooked correctly, the fish will be seared on the outside and cool and raw inside. For a light meal, serve the fish with steamed Japanese rice or cold noodles with dipping sauce and some Japanese pickles, such as seaweed or cucumber. It can also be served as an appetiser.
250 grams tuna fillet, in one or two pieces
About 15ml cooking oil
2 tsp sesame seeds (preferably a mixture of black and white)
1 spring onion, white and pale green parts only, cut into thin rounds
For the dipping sauce:
25ml fresh lemon juice
50ml soy sauce
100ml rice vinegar
Finely grated zest of ? a lemon
Mix together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside (it can be made several hours in advance and refrigerated). Toast the sesame seeds in a small, unoiled pan. Stir constantly and watch them carefully so they don't burn. As soon as the sesame seeds are fragrant and begin to pop in the pan, pour them into a small dish.
Heat a skillet until it's very hot - almost smoking.
Brush the tuna on all sides with cooking oil. Sear the tuna for about 30 seconds on all sides. Cool briefly then use a sharp knife to cut it into pieces about 8mm thick.
Lay the tuna on a plate (or individual plates) then spoon a little of the sauce on top and sprinkle with the spring onions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve the fish with some of the sauce in small bowls (remaining sauce will keep in the fridge for about a week). Serves two as a main course or four as an appetiser.
Salade Nicoise with seared tuna
There are many versions of salade Nicoise. Classicists will argue this version is an abomination because it uses fresh tuna rather than canned. Some say the classic recipe doesn't have anchovies, potato and/or red pepper; others believe it should have tiny fresh artichokes (if you can find them).
1 tuna fillet, about 300 grams and at least 1.5cm thick
20ml extra-virgin olive oil
Cooking oil, for the grill or pan
4-6 small new potatoes
2 large eggs (or 8 quail eggs)
120 grams haricots verts
12 cherry or oval tomatoes
? red pepper, ends trimmed, seeds and core removed then cut into strips
1/4 red onion, cut into thin rounds
About 80 grams unpitted, good-quality olives
4 (or more) anchovies in olive oil (optional)
About 10 grams small capers, rinsed and dried
1 small head of lettuce such as curly leaf, red leaf or Romaine, rinsed and dried
Fresh herbs of choice (thyme, oregano, parsley, basil)
Sea-salt flakes (preferably Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing:
About 10 grams Dijon mustard
60ml fresh lemon juice, or to taste
180ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Massage the olive oil into the tuna then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Combine the ingredients for the dressing and season with salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning if necessary then leave at room temperature. Put the unpeeled potatoes in a pan and cover with cool water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer until cooked but still firm. Drain them and refresh under cool water. Put the eggs in a small pan, cover with water then bring to the simmer over a medium flame. As soon as the water starts to bubble, turn off the flame, cover the pan with the lid and set the eggs aside for 10 minutes (or two minutes if using quail eggs). Run the eggs under cold water and peel when cool. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt then blanch the haricots verts for about 30 seconds, or until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse them.
Brush the grill or a skillet with oil. When the grill or pan is very hot, sprinkle the tuna lightly on both sides with salt and black pepper then sear for about one minute on both sides (this is for rare fish; cook slightly longer for medium rare). Remove the fish from the pan.
Arrange the lettuce leaves in the centre of a plate (or use two plates). Cut the potatoes into wedges, toss with a little of the dressing and arrange on the plate. Cut the tuna in thick slices, toss with some of the dressing and arrange on the plate. Toss the haricots verts with some of the dressing and arrange on the plate. Add the red pepper strips, the egg (cut into wedges, or if using quail eggs, leave them whole), tomatoes, onion, olives and capers. Cut the anchovies in half lengthwise and drape them over the salad. Drizzle lightly with more dressing (you won't need all of it; store the rest in the fridge). Sprinkle with fresh herbs, flakes of sea salt and black pepper. Serves two.
styling Rachael Macchiesi