Thursday, November 3, 2011

pasta sauce with olives and seared tuna

so. early. i don't know what's wrong with me, but i woke up stupid-early this morning (3:45!) and couldn't go back to sleep. believe me, i tried, but my brain wouldn't shut up and turn off. it wasn't even thinking about smart or important things - in the hour i spent trying to will myself to sleep, i thought about: a) turtles; b) which kinds of socks are better than others; and c) 90s song lyrics. way to go, brain!

anyway, all that by way of saying that i am up too early and am not 100% happy about it. and i don't feel able to talk coherently about gougères, even though they are so pretty and tasty:

but choux pastry, while easy, is not the easiest thing to describe properly on not enough sleep, so instead we are going to talk about a simple and delicious pasta (or whatever) sauce with tuna and olives. doesn't that sound nice?

here is a rather terrible picture of most of the ingredients:

it gets dark so early these days that it's super hard to get enough light in our kitchen to make for a good photograph. i mean, i totally meant to make this all overexposed and weird! awesome!

from the top, going clockwise, you have: tuna (cut in ~ 1/2 - 3/4 inch chunks), two of those peppadew-type peppers that are in fancy olive bars now, a medium onion, some italian parsley, oregano, and thyme, minced garlic, and (in the center) some oil-cured black olives. the only other things you need are a large can of tomatoes, about half of one of those little cans of tomato paste, pepper flakes, wine, olive oil and butter. i know it sounds like a lot of ingredients, but you can probably skip or change out some of them and not be too much the worse for wear.

just heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a largish pot on medium-high heat, then sear the tuna a bit - just so it gets a little browned on the sides. it's probably not a terrible idea to put a little salt and pepper on the tuna before you sear it. you aren't really cooking it right now, so don't worry too much about that. then take it out of the pan and set it aside.

add the onion to the pan (i was using a dutch oven - you want something big enough to hold everything) and let it cook down a bit over mediumish heat - maybe for 5 minutes or so. then add the garlic and the pepper flakes and cook for another minute or two. then add the tomato paste and let it caramelize a bit. lidia bastianich said to do this in one of her pbs shows one time, so now i always do that. you don't argue with that lady. at this point, i like to add a splash of dry vermouth - like 1/4 cup or so, but you could also use a dry red wine. i just didn't have any.

next, add the tomatoes. i like to get whole plum tomatoes in their juices and just crush them in my hands as i add them to the pan, but maybe that's not fun for everyone. you can get pre-crushed ones or chop them up or something instead, if you like. then i add 1/3 or 1/2 can of water as well as the chopped herbs, peppers, and olives. you could also use green olives, if that's your thing. i really like the oil-cured ones, though.

then just turn the heat to medium-low and let it cook for awhile so all the flavors meld. i think i left it on for maybe 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. you can put the tuna back in whenever you think it won't overcook - it depends somewhat on how cooked it got when you were searing it. personally, i like my tuna cooked more thoroughly than many people do, so i put it back in after 20 or so minutes. i know - such a philistine.

the crowning glory is just before it's done, when you put a lump of butter in there. it sounds weird to put butter in pasta sauce, perhaps, but it really does add a nice silky richness that brings everything together. you don't have to use it, but you should. i got the idea from marcella hazan's ridiculous-famous (seriously, look it up - it is ALL over the internets) simple sauce, which is just canned tomatoes, butter, and onion and is really quite tasty. so.

anyway, this is a good simple sauce with a lot of flavor. we had it on capellini pasta, but it would also be good on rotini or something like that. or polenta!

man, i bet i could go to sleep now. too bad it's time for me to get ready for work.

2 medium tuna steaks, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
3+ cloves garlic, minced
several tablespoons of herbs - i used thyme, italian parsley, and oregano, but you can use whatever. i bet marjoram would be good.
about a dozen or 15 olives, chopped
2 medium-large peppadew-type peppers, chopped (or roasted red peppers would be good, or you could skip them altogether)
1 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes
3 ounces tomato paste
1/4 cup+ dry vermouth or dry red wine
pepper flakes, to taste
~ 1 tablespoon+ butter

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