With the summer over (sad face) but the warm days of Indian Summer lingering on (happy face), this dish will be relavant for a few more weeks (for those who are super traditional about eating warm weather dishes only in warm weather). For me, this will be an excellent dish to eat after months of freezing winter weather and extra fat stored from weeks of heavy stews. It’s a mix of light and heavy, but, for some reason, it feels lighter than heavier. Maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself?
Roughly translating to tuna’d tuna, tonno tonnato is grilled tuna with a cold tuna sauce, and probably doesn’t sound all that appealing. Even the photographs can not capture how delicious this dish really is (beige on beige – gorgeous!). That could be because it’s fish, but, if you think about the concept behind it, i.e. making a sauce out of the same thing as the principal element of the dish, you are reminded just how many times you’ve had a meat sauce. Taking it to it’s logical conclusion, how many times have you had leftover bolognese sauce cold the day after? It’s pretty good, right? In fact, most long-cooked sauces taste even better the day after.
Tonno Tonnato is take on the traditional Piedmontese dish, Vitello Tonnato, a cold, sliced veal dish topped with the cold tuna sauce (one we will make someday for this here blog). Vitello Tonnato is sure to make many American’s scratch their head in wonderment (or maybe even make their stomach churn at the mere idea of the dish). We are one food culture that doesn’t often mix fish with meat like many other countries do (with the exception of some Creole/Cajun and Lowcountry dishes). But, if you’ve ever given it a try, you’d realize just how well they can go together.
I think the tonnato sauce alone could be used in a variety of ways if you don’t feel like topping some tuna with it. It would make a great spread on some grilled bread with a bit of white beans and herbs mixed together as a bruchetta topping. Throw it in a bowl with some veggies as a dip? Toss it with some cold macaroni for a twist on tuna pasta salad? How about as a nice little condiment for your pannini (depending on the stuffing, of course) or maybe as a dipping sauce for some crispy fried shrimp, fried zucchini or fried oysters (or anything fried for that matter)?
It is important you try to have an open mind about tonnato. So, if you think of the tonnato (the sauce portion of the dish) as a fish version of a cold meat sauce, it might sound more appetizing. On the other hand, it might not. So feel free to skip this one if it grosses you out, but do us a favor and first ask yourself if you would turn your nose up at a nice medium-rare steak topped with bolognese sauce.
**A little on a personal note: You may notice we’ve been kind of MIA for the past 4 or 5 months – we really haven’t been posting as much. Well, we have a little bambino coming our way within the month and, although we love this blog, we also love life and, as you know, sometimes blogging can feel like it’s getting in the way of living life. Although we have still been cooking, we’ve also been trying to prepare for the kid, moved, Jonny started a new, more stressful job, we set up a nursery, learned about breast pumps, binky’s, boppy’s, barfy’s and any other stupid thing babies r us tries to make you think you need (I swear all I had growing up was a cardboard box for a toy and an umbrella stroller!). Jonny and I have also been enjoying our time together before this child arrives and turns our relaxing twosome into, well, who knows, probably a crazy, loud, but fun 3-some (ok that sounds weird). So you can see why blogging took a back seat to more important things. We are excited but, naturally, nervous. We swear we will still be cooking up a storm as soon as we learn how to parent a newborn so, please stick with us. We may be silent for a few months, but we won’t be gone. And I promise I will not turn this blog into a way to showcase my kid and his latest round of “perfect poos or perfect coos” and I promise we will not feature recipes for homemade baby food! This blog will remain Jonny and my baby – our thing. We’ve still gotta have our little things that are just for us, right? That’s not being too selfish? So, again, we don’t often get too personal around We Are Never Full, but we felt like all 4 of you who actually read our blog deserved to know why we haven’t really been keeping up the way we used to recently. Hopefully this new little life will inspire amazing dishes in the near future! Stay tuned!
- 1 can tonno in oil (go on, just get the good, imported stuff for this one!)
- 1 cup good quality mayonnaise (this is a short cut – traditionally the sauce should be made eggs, oil and vinegar, so go ahead and do it that way if you prefer)
- 3 to 5 anchovy filets (to your taste – I used 4)
- 1-2 tablespoons capers
- small splash of caper brine
- juice of half a lemon
- a bit of water (1 Tbsp) to thin out the sauce (if necessary)
- fresh ground pepper
- 4 thinly sliced (1/2 inch or thicker if you prefer) pieces of fresh tuna steak
- handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- In a blender, food processor (or, if you are a purist, mortar and pestle), pulse all the ingredients except the water until well combined. Add a small bit of water to thin it out if necessary (you should have enough liquid from the lemon and brine, but if it seems too salty for you, feel free to add a small bit of water). The sauce should not be thin – it should be thick enough to stick to the spoon but not as thick as a spoonful of mayo.
- Heat up a pan. Rub a bit of olive oil on both sides of your tuna steaks and season with salt and pepper. When pan is hot, sear the tuna on each side for a minute to two minutes per side (I like it pink inside), depending on thickness.
- Plate by topping your piece of tuna with a few tablespoons of the sauce coating the top. Add some parsley, a few capers or caperberries for presentation and you’re done! Enjoy with some greens or any other sides you like. See, easy, right?