Fresh Tuna with Dry-Cured Black Olives

This combination makes an exceptional salad, and is equally good as a filling for halved avocados or sandwiches. I use albacore, but any fresh tuna will do.–Gerald Gass


No, this is not your typical tuna salad. And no, this is most definitely not your mom’s classic tuna salad. And that’s okay. But don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself. And while you’re at it, feel free to jigger things around a little per your personal preference and what happens to be in your pantry. Personally, we think it’d be lovely with a little finely chopped fennel in place of celery. It’d probably also be equally lovely minus the capers. Or even without its edible avocado serving dish. Or, well, we’ll let you tell us what sorta inspiration strikes your fancy….

Fresh Tuna with Black Olives

Two avocado halves filled with fresh tuna with dry-cured black olives.
Gerald Gass

Prep 25 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 45 mins
2 to 4 servings
No ratings yet
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For the tuna salad

  • 1 tuna steak (about 1 inch thick and 3/4 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds lightly toasted in a dry skillet
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil or more as needed
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks with some leaves, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, drained, and chopped
  • 1/3 cups dry-cured black olives pitted and chopped

For the dressing

  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets preferably salt packed, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Olive oil reserved from poaching the tuna plus extra if needed
  • Fresh lemon juice


Make the tuna salad

  • Select a saucepan just large enough to hold the tuna steak. Place the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a tea ball or place them in a square of cheesecloth, bring together the corners, and tie securely. Add the spices to the pan with the tuna along with just enough olive oil to cover the fish.
  • Place the pan over very low heat and cook very gently, turning the tuna once halfway through cooking, until the tuna is nearly cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully lift the tuna from the oil with a slotted spatula and transfer it to a plate. Place the tuna in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to stop the cooking. Reserve the poaching oil.
  • When the tuna is cool, break it into rough chunks and place them in a bowl. Add the onion, celery, capers, and olives.

Make the dressing

  • In a small shallow bowl, combine the garlic, anchovies, salt, and pepper, and mash together with a fork. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Whisking constantly, slowly whisk in the reserved olive oil in a thin, steady stream, as you would when making mayonnaise. It may be necessary to add a little more olive oil to make a fairly thick dressing that will cling to the ingredients. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Spoon the dressing over the tuna and vegetable mixture and gently stir to combine. You should have about 2 cups. Taste and adjust the seasoning again. Serve immediately.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I loved this dish, however I think the amount of onion and olives could be reduced a bit. These two flavors are powerful, and were a bit overwhelming toward the end of the meal. Yet the flavor in this dish was outstanding. All of the components blended together well, and I particularly liked the balance between the salty olives and the thick tuna steak. The meal was hearty without being dense. I served it with a couple slices of bread, and would definitely make this dish again.

This was a fun and easy recipe. I’m so used to eating my tuna rare that cooking it was somewhat painful, especially at the price I paid ($17 a pound.) The end result was more favorable than I anticipated. It made, as described, a great light meal. I also served it with the suggested avocado half, and that really added to the presentation, as well as the recipe, in a positive way. I would include this as a menu item at most any luncheon.

Originally published June 01, 2004


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