The gross, acidic, bitter, almost-chemical taste of the lowly preserved lemon is the star of this dish. Paired with salty Kalamata olives and draped over some expensive-ass fresh tuna, it takes a piece of protein perfect on its own to new levels. I’m always hesitant to experiment on precious foods like fresh tuna from the farmer’s market. Why mess with something that’s already an almost perfect food when simply salted and peppered and seared? Because I’m a masochist and was desperate to dig into the two preserved lemons recently purchased at Sahadi’s. Well, you’re lucky I deviated from the Sunday routine of seared tuna, beans and greens, because this dish was one hell of a triumph. The tuna marinates for a few hours in oil and bits of flavor before getting a heavy-handed sear. Then white wine sloshes around in the pan for a few minutes, digging up and re-hydrating all the crispy bits and plumping up the preserved lemons and olives. All that, paired with my infamous Israeli couscous plus roasted stuff, and last Sunday was nearly perfect. Pair it with Eminence Road‘s dank-ass Riesling.
Preserved Lemon & Olive Seared Tuna Steak
1 3/4 lb. piece of high-quality Ahi tuna
2 tablespoons chopped pitted Kalamata olives
3 tablespoons olive oil + additional teaspoon to finish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1. Coat the tuna in salt and pepper and marinate in the olive oil, preserved lemon and olives for at least an hour in the fridge and up to 6.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Use your fingers to remove as much of the marinade as you can (don’t throw it away, that’s your sauce). Cook the tuna for about 3 minutes on each side for a lovely sear and set aside. Cover the pan if you want more of a medium-well steak.
3. With the tuna resting comfortably on a plate, turn the heat down a little bit and add the oil, olive and lemon marinade back into the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes so the lemon burns a little and then add the white wine (heat should be at a solid but light fame) and stir a few times. Cook for 3 more minutes and add an additional teaspoon of olive oil to finish the sauce. Spoon over the tuna (which you should cut into two portions) and serve.
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Israeli Couscous
It’s hard to believe this recipe is almost 10 years old. Here it is again.
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/3 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 small eggplants (I like fairy tale eggplants) cut into one inch cubes (about 2 cups cubed)
8 cloves garlic, slightly smashed
1 pinch sea salt (I like the extra-flaky Maldon kind)
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Throw the tomatoes, garlic and eggplants in a ceramic roasting pan or metal sheet pan and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil.
3. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes shrink and the garlic browns. Stir it occasionally to cook the vegetables evenly.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan with a lid. Toast the couscous for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water (it will sputter and almost burn you) and cook for 1 minute. Cover and lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5.
5. Fluff with fork, add roasted vegetables, mix well and serve.