Usually I try to plan my cooking projects ahead of time; in fact, I’m often planning several—way too many, actually—projects at the same time. Sometimes the elements collide fortuitously, however, and an idea is formulated and brought to fruition in just a few hours. I turned into the fish market on a whim, peeked into the little fridge that contains the discounts of the day, and spotted huge fresh tuna steaks. Immediately a delicious salad I had a few weeks ago came to mind: medium rare tuna, crisp salad, and avocado aioli. I snatched up the tuna and headed home.
Aioli. Thick. Heavy. Artery-hardening. Generally, whether good or bad, these are the adjectives that usually come to mind when I try aioli. But when it’s good, it also addictive. Until I did a bit a research, I was under the impression that mayonnaise was intended to be the main component in aioli. And raw egg yolks. While egg yolks do show up in traditional aioli from Provence, traditional Catalan aioli, or allioli, has only salt, garlic, and olive oil. I suppose mayonnaise makes up the bulk of different aiolis due to it’s ready-made texture. Supposedly, when you mix garlic and oil correctly, you end up with a texture like mayonnaise. In my experience, this is difficult. Mine was too runny, so I followed a tip I found, and added a bit of cold mashed potato to thicken it, since I already had the potatoes boiled for the salad.
At the end of the day, I’m a full supporter of the mayo base, but in this salad, and in my upcoming post for Minty Tuna Persimmon Salad, I used the garlic-oil only combination for my dressings. And rather than put you through the arduous task of making it in a mortar and pestle, I’ve separated the elements, and have the garlic and oil as distinct ingredients in each dressing. Since I used my aioli as one of several ingredients in the dressings anyway, it doesn’t really change the quality of it.
This recipe serves one for dinner or two for a light lunch.
3/4 teaspoon crushed garlic (more or less to your taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small avocado
2 teaspoons crème fraiche
140g/5oz tuna steak
1/2 tablespoon pink peppercorns
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 big handfuls of mixed greens
3 small boiled potatoes, cooled
small tomatoes in mixed colors
1 small shallot, sliced
half a fresh lemon
salt and pepper
Tip: Usually I go for the Hass variety of avocado (the dark, bumpy ones), but for this salad, I used one of the green, smooth varieties, which was a little sweeter. The sweetness worked well for this dressing.
Smash your avocado until it’s as smooth as you can get it. Combine it with the other ingredients. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
Coarsely crush peppercorns with a mortar and pestle and press them into all sides of the tuna. Add a bit of freshly ground salt too, if desired. Heat a heavy iron skillet on med-high heat until very hot. Add the oil and swirl around until it coats the bottom. Sear the tuna for 1-2 minutes on each side, paying close attention to how much pink you want to leave in the middle. Gently use tongs to hold the tuna as you sear each edge. Remove the tuna to a cutting board, and with a very sharp knife, cut it into slices. If you’ve made extra tuna for additional salads, refrigerate it right away.
Squeeze the lemon over the greens, along with a good drizzle of olive oil. Toss to coat, and arrange on your plate. Arrange sliced tomatoes, potatoes, and shallots around the greens. Arrange tuna slices on top, then give the whole salad a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add a dipping bowl of avocado aioli and dig in!