Meaty tuna steaks with a cracked peppercorn crust add dimension to this salad. Bitter arugula, crunchy fennel, sweet caramelized onions and an assertively flavored vinaigrette create wonderfully contrasting tastes and textures.
Arugula & Fennel Salad with Black Pepper-Crusted Tuna
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) balsamic vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. sugar
10 Tbs. (5 fl. oz./160 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 small sweet onions such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. black peppercorns
6 tuna steaks (2 lb./1 kg.) total weight, each about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) thick
8 cups (8 oz./250 g.) arugula leaves, stemmed
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt until the sugar dissolves. Add 7 tablespoons (3 1/2 fl. oz./105 ml.) of the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is smooth and thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings and set aside.
In a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the sliced onions and 1 teaspoon salt and saute until the onions are softened and browned, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe the pan clean.
Place the peppercorns in a resealable plastic bag and seal. Using a mallet or the bottom of a small, heavy pan, coarsely crack the peppercorns. Season each tuna steak on both sides with a little salt. Then, dividing them evenly, press the cracked peppercorns into one side of each tuna steak.
Return the frying pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tuna steaks, peppered side down. Sear, turning once, until lightly golden on the outside and still dark pink and rare in the center, about 2 minutes per side, or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, fennel and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk the vinaigrette to recombine, then drizzle about half of it over the arugula mixture and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Divide the dressed arugula mixture among individual plates. Spoon the sauteed onions over the top. Thinly slice each tuna steak and arrange on top of the onions. Drizzle each salad with some of the remaining vinaigrette and serve. Serves 6.
Find more creative and colorful salads in our cookbook Salad of the Day, by Georgeanne Brennan.