The classic souther Italian condiment of lemon juice and oregano, called Salmoriglio, is made directly in the pan and served with the simply seared tuna. Easy and quick!
This Salmoriglio tuna steak recipe reveals the story of a fantastic day on the Island of Favignana, in Sicily. Last June my wife Caterina and I spent a few days on the Aegadian Islands. One day we have been so lucky to have a day on the boat of the famous Italian fisherman Gioacchino Cataldo. Gioacchino has been a pleasant guide bringing us to explore the Island and cooking for us this delicious tuna steak recipe. On the contrary of the classic Salmoriglio marinate, the seasoning is made directly in the pan. The tuna is quickly seared on both sides, then seasoned with lemon juice and oregano: a simple, quick, and tasty recipe!
In a day of June, abnormally hot, the ferry cut the scorching air bringing us toward the heaven: Favignana, the main of the Aegadian Islands (Isole Egadi) crests the horizon. Moving closer to the Island, the deep blue water changes into a color palette from bright green to greenish blue. This spectacular sea drives our minds to the tropical regions, but we are just in Italy, a few miles far from Trapani.
This is Sicily: a territory where plenty of the most amazing places of the world are depict in a few miles of land and water!
Since the time of Phoenicians, tuna fishing has been one of the most important business in Sicily. The Romans used to set a snare composed by a nest of fishing nets on the marine currents to catch the fish.
The morning after our arrival, My wife Caterina and I reach the little port of Punta Longa in the south part of the Island. We are looking for a man, but in front of us crests a human mountain: Gioacchino Cataldo welcome us on his boat. Thinking about Gioacchino, the first things that come to my mind are his gigantic hands: I’m 6 feet tall, but under his shadow, I just disappear!
Gioacchino speaks slowly, a mix of quietness and authority, like a man used to be heard. At present days, Gioacchino Cataldo brings the tourists around the island and makes them aware of the wonders and the history of Favignana. But, Gioacchino is not a conventional guide, he has been the last Rais of Favignana, until the last Mattanza in 2007.
Sharing the boat with Gioacchino means sharing the secrets of the island. The boat proceeds slowly and the time does the same articulated by the stories of the old sailor: the rise and decline of Florio family, the tuna number every year smaller, and the Tuna quotes that regularize the quantity of fish that can be caught. After several bad seasons, the tunas are repopulating the Sicilian sea, Gioacchino says staring the water, a new hope for a better future for Favignana.
The day flows through dives into the blue water, salt and sun on the skin, and glasses of Malvasia wine. Gioacchino seat at the wheel, a little space where he also settled an ingenious kitchen.
The tuna is the protagonist of our lunch. We start with Lattume, a local delicacy. Lattume is the tuna’s milt, traditionally sliced and pan fried: the proof that Strabone was right, in the tuna nothing can go to waste!
After a generous portion of pasta with tomatoes and capers, Gioacchino prepares the main dish: thick slices of fresh red tuna seared and seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano. This is local tuna, with a natural red color and taste: so tender and delicious!
As the day draws to a close, the boat comes back to the harbor. Caterina and I land to the pier, sated by sun and fish. It’s time to say goodbye to the old fisherman: Gioacchino’s hand swallows ours, and his smile sounds like a see you soon. What a day we had in Favignana!
Salmoriglio TunaFilippo Trapella
- 4 fresh tuna steaks 1 inch thick
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp capers
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 dash black pepper
- to taste table salt
- First of all, peel and crush the cloves of garlic. After that, squeeze lemon juice and combine with 3 tbsp of olive oil, the dried oregano, and the black pepper. Pour the lemon and oil mixture in a jar and close the lid.
- Now, pour 1 tbsp of olive oil and the cloves of garlic in a pan big enough to cook the tuna steaks. Sauté the garlic on low heat until pale golden, then discard the garlic, raise the flame and sear the tuna 1 minute per side.
- After that, shake the lemon and oil mixture and pour in the pan along with the capers. Cover immediately with a lid and cook 1 minute more. Finally, place the pan covered far from the heat, and wait 5 minutes more before serving.
Born and raised in Bologna, Italy (hometown of lasagna and tortellini!), I grew up under the table of my grandmother helping her making fresh pasta for our Sunday feasts with the family. My passion for food stems from my curiosity, which has led me to travel around almost all continents (I still miss Oceania, but I hope to fill that gap soon!). During my trips I discovered the power of food. In my blog philosokitchen.com I write my recipes and my experiences around the world.