Makes about 5 portions
This past October, Kristin and I auditioned for gigs at a small family-run Italian restaurant in New Hampshire. After months of unemployment and travel, our nest egg was dwindling. We needed work. Chef jobs in Memphis didn’t exist and to be honest, I was pushing for relocation. When Kristin timidly admitted that New England was back on the table (she had vetoed the Northeast many times because of “the cold”) I reactivated my Indeed.com account and started the job search. Three weeks into the probe, I received an email from Doug and Kim Clark, owners of Ciao Italia in Durham, New Hampshire. We flew up a couple weeks later and met the pair.
This was the first course at the dinner Kristin and I prepared for the Clarks and their friends. I am happy to report that we got the job.
- 1 pound ice cold bluefin tuna, bloodline removed, cut into ¼ inch thick strips (yellowfin tuna or other quality raw tunas are fine substitutes)
- ¼ each small fennel bulb, washed, core removed and finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fennel tops (fronds), washed and finely minced
- 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed and finely minced
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest (use your Microplane)
- 2 ounces peeled hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely crushed (it’s fine to use the pieces sold in the baking goods section of your local supermarket)
- ½ small lemon, juice only
- Good quality olive oil (I used California Olive Ranch)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Sharp chef’s knife (you’ll ruin the tuna with a dull knife)
- Microplane zester
- Small mixing bowl
Divide the sliced tuna equally on five appetizer-sized plates and place in the freezer 10 minutes before serving.
Combine the minced fennel bulb, fennel tops, parsley, lemon zest and crushed hazelnuts in the mixing bowl with a healthy glug of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Remove the tuna from the freezer, season lightly with salt and pepper, a squeeze from the lemon and a few drizzles of the olive oil. Top each portion with fennel-hazelnut gremolata. Serve immediately.