Delicious and attractive, this simple but sophisticated dish makes a great first course. The tartare is served on fresh-tasting mixture of sliced cucumber, vinegar, minced chives, peanut oil, and salt. The tuna is better chopped by hand rather than in a food processor.
Serves 4 as a first course
About 1 pound tuna steaks, preferably center-cut bluefin tuna
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large shallot, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped (1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Cut 4 small slices (1 ounce each) from the tuna and reserve. Cut the remainder into 1/4-inch dice.
Place 1 tuna slice between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it into a thin slice about 4 inches in diameter. Repeat with the other 3 slices. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap from the slices and season them lightly on both sides with salt. Set aside.
Mix the chopped tuna, shallot, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, oil, vinegar, and Tabasco in a bowl. (Mixed with vinegar, the chopped tuna will whiten somewhat, becoming opaque. This is because the acetic acid in the vinegar coagulates, thus “cooking,” the protein in the tuna.)
FOR THE CUCUMBERS: Peel the cucumber. With a vegetable peeler, cut long, thin strips from it on all sides until you come to the seeds. Discard the seeds and mix the strips with the vinegar, sugar, oil, and salt.
To serve, divide the cucumbers among four plates. Form the tuna tartare into 4 balls and place 1 on top of the cucumbers on each plate. Wrap a slice of tuna around each tuna ball, sprinkle with the chives and capers, and drizzle with olive oil.