Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sicilian Tuna in Stemperata Sauce (Sicilian Sweet & Sour 'Salsa') with Zucchini Noodles

Local ahi tuna steaks seared with a touch of balsamic glaze, served with sweet and sour Sicilian stemperata sauce--chunky like a salsa. This is a quick-to-make dinner with great flavors. I wanted pasta but didn't want all the calories and extra carbs so I kept it fresh with some spiralized zucchini noodles (we get local zucchini year-round here), sauteed with a touch of olive oil and oregano to match the sauce.

Diana says, "Sicily is tuna heaven. The fish is served in hundreds of ways--in countless tomato sauces, with almonds, with oranges, with vinegar and onions, raw, marinated, with pasta and without. Many of the dishes, like this one, are sweet and sour, showing the island's Arab legacy. This sauce is a cinch to make , can be prepared in advance, and tastes great.

Sicilian Tuna in Stemperata Sauce
Adapted from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

4 thick tuna loin steaks
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

extra virgin olive oil to serve

For the Sauce:
4 celery sticks plus the leaves, finely chopped

1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 1/2 oz pitted green olives, some halved, some coarsely chopped
6 oz capers, rinsed
3 oz raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan and fry the onion and celery until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic, olives, capers and raisins and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the oregano and vinegar and cook until the vinegar is evaporated.
When you want to serve, rub olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper on each side of the fish and heat a ridged griddle or frying pan until very hot. Cook the tuna for 1-1 1/2 minutes on each side. This will give you tuna which is like a rare steak – charred on the outside, pink and melting inside. In the final few seconds splash in some balsamic vinegar and let it bubble away, turning the tuna over once in the vinegar. It gives a wonderful glow.

Serve the tuna immediately with the stemperata sauce and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Notes/Results:If you are a caper fanatic and olive fan like I am, you will like this dish. The sweet/sour combination and crispness of the sauce is a wonderful contrast for the creaminess of the seared ahi tuna. It worked well on the zucchini noodles too. I was a little leery of putting the balsamic vinegar on the tuna as sometimes the taste overpowers everything, but the small splash (I used a just a bit of a lighter-flavored sundried tomato balsamic) livened it up without competing with the other ingredients. Such wonderful  flavors for a really fast-to-the-table meal. I will make this again. 

This dish is being linked to I Heart Coking Clubs for this week's "Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold" theme--celebrating the joys of garlic and olive oil. It from the chapter of the same name in Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by current IHCC chef Diana Henry. You can check out what everyone makes by checking out the picture links on the post. 



  1. Lovely dish, Deb! Serving it over zucchini noodles looks wonderful! Indeed a healthier and refreshing change from the normal pasta!

  2. This looks exactly my cup of tea! What a great dish!

  3. That looks like something I would definitely enjoy. I love that you served it over zucchini "noodles".

  4. I didn't know you had one of those spiralizers. I'd like to get one, but I'm starting to become limited on space. I love how fresh and colorful this dish looks with all the olives, capers, and zucchini. Even the tuna has wonderful color. I always feel like olives are meaty and substantial. Coupled with the tuna I imagine this was a very hearty and satisfying meal.

  5. Couscous & ConsciousnessNovember 25, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    I love olives and capers, as you know, and I really love this kind of sweet-sour sort of sauce. I bet it is absolutely amazing with the tuna. I never would have thought of finishing the fish off with the balsamic in the pan - I definitely need to give that a try.


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