Albacore + ratatouille = summer on a plate

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The secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself. —Joël Robuchon, The Complete Robuchon

You might have made ratatouille in the past, but if you baked it or stewed it, you missed out on the fresh taste of summer – which is the exact point of today’s Seared Albacore with Ratatouille and Caramelized Figs (pg 170).

I was tempted to cut some corners on this #4 difficulty recipe, because as I read through the instructions, I was a little frustrated by Becky’s directions to saute each veggie individually – seriously??  I was sure I could shortcut the process and toss it all together, saute a bit, and be done with it.  But I would have missed the true intention of the dish and the opportunity to really let each flavor shine, as the brilliant French chef Robuchon says in the opening quote.

Okay, fine then – I will saute the eggplant (a veggie I’m not really fond of…) first, then remove it to rest in a bowl.  Repeat with the zucchini. Then repeat with red bell pepper and onion.  And toss them all together with four freshly minced herbs.  Hmmm, that doesn’t look like the big pot of stewed veggies I used to call ratatouille – but it sure looked fresh and delicious, so we shall continue…

The availability of local albacore tuna this summer has been a bit sketchy, so I called around until I found some at University Seafood in the U-District and made a special trip to pick it up for this dish.  And even the thrill of also finding the first Arctic Char of the summer (hallelujah!!!) wasn’t enough to temper my irritation at getting a parking ticket in front of the store while I shopped…I *know* it’s a commercial loading zone, but I put my quarter in the machine and it said I had five minutes and I could see the car 10 steps out the door and….okay, the price of tuna and arctic char just tripled, but now I have it and off we go!

Back to more patient step-by-step directions and cooking the ingredients one by one – the tuna seared “exactly 2-1/2 minutes on each side” as Becky instructed, to a beautiful medium rare.  Then time to sear some split figs, an ingredient I do not like at all, but I proceeded anyway – and actually liked them very much in the final dish.  The last ingredients are halved cherry tomatoes that cook just a few minutes to char nicely, and we’re almost home free.

The last duty of the day for my exhausted and overworked saute pan was a red wine/clam juice/balsamic vinegar reduction, which took about 3-4 minutes to develop into the loveliest syrup that truly tied the entire dish together.  I’m sure it’s not appropriate but next time I will double that sauce and use it even more liberally on this meal!

After plating all the elements, it truly is a beautiful summer bounty to behold and the fresh flavor of every individual ingredient really was apparent…that Robuchon guy knows his stuff – LOL!  My personal taste would have been to add some garlic (Becky is allergic) and more salt and pepper, so feel free to season the veggies as you like to complement the juicy fresh albacore.  A big red Burgundy, full of fruit and spice drinks well with this summer veggie bounty.

NEXT: Finally, arctic char is available, just in time for the end of the project! And day after that, three “raw” recipes are up for a family dinner including uncle/cousin from Hotlanta!


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  1. Zita Gustin says:

    As always, Karen, nicely done. Too bad you don’t live next door! We could sample all of your hard work….

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Copyright 2011 Karen Rosenzweig