Recipe: Orecchiette with Fresh Tuna, Orange, Anchovy, and Arugula
So here I am on my bed eating oranges and reading through a stack of love/hate letters sent from various males decades ago. Why I torture myself with this business is anyone’s guess. One in particular is filled with unfairness, especially his annoyance with my “wicked” dislike of jazz-fusion, and in particular my refusal to attend any Pat Metheny concert anywhere or anytime. He called me ignorant. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I’ve now got a great husband who has excellent taste in music (he even likes my tango albums), and I’ve got my continuing interest in pairing oranges with anchovies to keep my culinary head busy for at least a few more weeks.
Carrying on with my recent theme, here’s a pasta improvvisato Siciliano with a mix of fresh tuna, orange zest, anchovies, and a handful of arugula thrown in at the last minute so it stays salady. I really like this one. It has a lot of pizzazz, more than I can say for any jazz-fusion music I’ve ever heard. Make sure to flash-sear the tuna, keeping it tender and slightly pink at the center. The recipe cooks fast but kind of slinky, like a good tango.
Orecchiette with Fresh Tuna, Orange, Anchovy, and Arugula
½ pound fresh tuna steak, cut into ½-inch cubes
A palmful of fennel seeds, ground to a powder
1 teaspoon sugar
A generous pinch of Aleppo pepper (or a semi-hot paprika)
½ pound orecchiette pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced
3 oil-packed anchovies, roughly chopped (I used Agostino Recca, a brand I really like)
The grated zest from 1 large orange
A generous splash of dry white wine
A handful of baby arugula, well stemmed
Put the tuna cubes in a bowl, and toss them with the fennel seed, a little salt, the Aleppo or hot paprika, and the sugar.
Set up a pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil. Add salt, and drop in the orecchiette.
In a medium skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. When the skillet is very hot, add the cherry tomatoes and the garlic, and sear quickly, just until they give off some juice, about 4 minutes. Add the anchovies and a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat.
In another medium skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over high heat, and when it’s really hot, add the tuna chunks, searing them quickly, until they’re lightly browned (the sugar will aid in this) but with a touch of pink at the center. Add the tuna to the tomatoes.
Add the orange zest and the white wine to the skillet you cooked the tuna in, and deglaze the bottom quickly, for about 30 seconds. Pour the liquid into the skillet with the tomatoes and tuna.
When the orecchiette is al dente, drain it, leaving a bit of water clinging to it, and pour it into a serving bowl. Add the tomato and tuna sauce and a generous drizzle of fresh olive oil. Toss gently. Add the arugula, and toss very quickly. Serve right away.