Fresh tuna steaks, the thicker the better, are usually seared in a screaming hot cast iron skillet. They are usually served with just a simply sauce. This version is different and this is no ordinary sauce. The tuna is briefly and gently simmered in a lovely, tomato-based, sweet and sour sauce. This sauce, with its dried fruit, tomatoes, capers and olives, employs the flavors of Sicily. The dried fruit is a remnant of the Moorish influence in Sicily. I usually use white raisins, but as luck would have it, I used all of them in another recipe, so I improvised. I used some dried Mandarin oranges. Trader Joe’s sells them and if you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out on a real treat. I just simply diced the oranges up so they were about the size of a raisin. I think this may be a permanent change.I sauté the onions, lemon zest and dried fruit in some olive oil until the onions soften slightly. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and broth. Add the tomatoes, capers, garlic, and olives. You want to simmer this mixture for a few minutes to let the juice thicken up a bit and to allow the flavors to mingle. We just quickly sear the tuna steaks, and set them aside. Since the sauce is now ready, gently plop the tuna steaks in the sauce, cover the pan and simmer for about 2 minutes. You want the tuna to remain nice and pink. See how simple this is to prepare, but you do need to watch it. Then, when you’re ready to serve, pull the tuna out of the sauce, toss in the fresh herbs, give it a good stir and simmer for about 1 minute. Spoon some of the sauce over each steak.
One rarely sees fresh tuna simmered in a sauce, because it’s difficult to keep the tuna nice and pink. But this recipe works and it’s just simply delicious. I served this with Creamy Corn and Cheese Polenta. The polenta works very well with this, but basmati or jasmine rice also work well.
This sauce can be made ahead and reheated. I think it might even taste better. It’s a nice option to have.
Sicilian-Style Tuna Steaks
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of tuna steaks, at least 1-inch thick (about 4 small or 2 large)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup sliced onions (about 1 large onion)
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- Julienned zest from 1 lemon
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
- 8-10 pitted green olives, thinly sliced
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (I like fire-roasted)
- 1/2 cup fish stock or water, as needed
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pine nuts, toasted
- Creamy Corn and Cheese Polenta or basmati rice.
Heat a heavy, medium skillet over moderately high heat. Add the oil and let it warm. Season the tuna with salt and pepper; sauté for 2 minutes per side, or until both sides are golden. Remove the tuna and set aside. Do not clean the pan.
Using the same pan, sauté the onion with the lemon zest, stirring frequently. Cook until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, capers, olives, raisins, tomatoes, broth and white wine. Continue cooking, for about 2 minutes. Let simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens and has some body.
Return the tuna to the pan, nestling the tuna down in the tomato sauce. Cover with a tight-fitting lid; Continue to cook over moderate heat until the tuna reaches the desired doneness, 2 to 3 minutes for medium.
Remove the tuna to a serving plate. Add the fresh herbs to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper; stir well. Spoon the sauce over the top of the tuna; garnish with nuts.
NOTE: It’s important that the tuna steaks are at least 1 inch thick…the thicker the better, as the tuna will be less likely to overcook. The sauce can be prepared early in the day, then the tuna can be done just before serving, simmered briefly in the sauce and served. Instead of the raisins, I used dried Mandarin oranges, which are available at Trader Joe’s.
Sicilian-Style Tuna Steaks Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2017. All rights reserved.