Poppy Seed Albacore with Fennel Salad

  • 12-inch-long albacore tuna loin
  • Large pinch of saffron
  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small bulb fennel, greens trimmed
  • ¾ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. poppy seeds, plus more if needed
  • 1/3 cup niçoise olives with pits
  • ¾ cup ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup preserved lemon peel
  • Sea salt

Cook the chickpeas in water with 1 tbsp. salt and the saffron. Process cooled chickpeas, garlic, and ½ cup of the olive oil until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Divide the albacore loin into 3 equal pieces, season on all sides with salt and pepper. Roll in poppy seeds to coat, then tightly wrap each piece of fish in aluminum foil, keeping the foil smooth and without crimps.

Sear the tuna, still wrapped in foil, on all sides. Unwrap each piece of fish right after cooking so it does not cook further. Set aside at room temperature.

Slice the fennel paper-thin. Add the lemon juice; mix gently. Add tomatoes, olives, lemon peel, and mint and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; gently toss all ingredients to coat.

To serve, slice the albacore into ½-inch-thick pieces. Place dollop of chickpea puree in center of plate. Set albacore on plate next to the puree and sprinkle with sea salt. Top each plate with fennel salad and drizzle with more olive oil. Serve immediately.
=== Reprinted with permission from The Paley’s Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest by Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley with Robert Reynolds, © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. Photo credit: John Valls © 2008