grilled tuna with oregano and panelle

August 27th, 2008 · 33 Comments

this is all straight out of lidia bastianich’s book, ‘lidia’s italy’.  it has begun to irk me that for all the wonderful cookbooks that i have lining my shelves, i find myself rarely cracking the covers.  i need to do better in that regard as i am well aware that nearly every book i own contains a mini university.  and especially in this case where i adore lidia’s food, and have since i was a kid – and there’s so much to learn… and i’d be well suited to learn much of my italian repertoire from her.

these are two recipes that i know i will go back to again and again – together and on their own.  they’re pure sicilian… and well, that has a personal allure that i can barely explain.  the two cities i dream of spending time are palermo and barcelona.  i’ve been to barcelona – but many years ago and for only a couple of days.  and i’ve never been to sicily.  ever.  although i have been to the amalfi coast, twice… but i need to cross the strait of messina.  it is something i feel strongly about.  maybe ’09 will be my year…

tuna or africa?  you decide…

frankly, i’d have to say that the tuna steak right there is about as good looking as a tuna steak gets.  it was bought from costco which could potentially mean food coloring, waxing, plumping and extra added mercury… i’ve really no clue how any of that works but was willing to take my chances with this surreal looking piece of fish.  wait, i just googled this and sho’nuff, the odds that my tuna was gassed with a smokeless carbon monoxide (banned just about everywhere but the usa) is probably near 100%.

it’s yet another case of the old "too good to be true" reality, here to bite us once again…  but see how we learn together?  it was worth my ingesting artificially induced watermelon red colored tuna – just so we could have this moment…

the tuna steaks come off the grill and get a drizzle of olive oil and a shake of the oregano bouquet

tonno riganatu
adapted from ‘lidia’s italy’ by lidia bastianich

stir thinly sliced garlic, salt and pepper into extra virgin oil and let it sit for up to an hour.  reserve some of the oil for later and use the remainder to marinate the tuna for 2 or 3 hours making sure the steaks are well coated on both sides.  flip them about 3 times through this process.  heat the grill to hot, oil the grates and sear for 2 minutes and then flip for another 2 or 3 minutes.  the flesh should not be fully cooked and will continue to cook when taken off the grill.  remove to a platter.  stir dried oregano into the garlic infused oil and immediately brush over the fish.  sprinkle with some coarse sea salt and serve.

a perfect accompaniment to this dish is ‘panelle’ which translates to fried chickpea polenta, in foodspeak.  there are 4 ingredients in this panelle and 3 of them are water, salt and olive oil.  the 4th is garbanzo flour which i found at whole foods.  imagine the three way love child of polenta, french fries and hummus and meditate on that for a moment…

panelle is where it’s at.  this stuff is crazy good.  you mix it up, slow cook it like polenta for about 20 minutes and then you cool it on a sheet, cut and pan-fry in olive oil.  i made a quarter of lidia’s recipe and then cooled it in a small round cast iron pan, hence the triangles.  i believe it is traditionally cut into squares.  but i’d eat them in mickey mouse head shapes.  because they are awesome.

adapted from ‘lidia’s italy’ by lidia bastianich

4 cups water
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for frying
1/2 pound garbanzo flour

pour 4 cups water, the salt, and the olive oil into a saucepan, and gradually whisk in the garbanzo flour until smooth.  set over medium heat, and whisk constantly as the batter slowly heats.  it will thicken and eventually steam but does not need to boil. cook and keep whisking, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan frequently, until the mixture is quite stiff and starts to pull away from the sides as you stir it, 15 – 20 minutes.

turn the batter onto an oiled 9×13 baking sheet and spread it quickly with a stiff metal spatula before it cools and sets, so it fills the pan in an even layer.  wet the spatula with water and and smooth the top of the batter.  let cool for an hour or longer , until completely firm.

cut pieces with a sharp knife into whatever size and shape you like.  lidia recommends 1 1/2 inch squares for appetizers and 2×3 inch bars to accompany a main course.  lift the cut pieces with a spatula and seal the remainder with plastic wrap and refrigerate for longer keeping.

cover the bottom of a skillet with 1/8" of oil and set over medium heat.  when the oil is hot, lay in the panelle, leaving plenty of space between them.  fry about 3 minutes until the underside is crisp and golden and then flip and and brown the 2nd side about 2 minutes more.  drain the panelle on paper towels and eat while they’re warm.

in palermo they pile these fried panelle in layers onto a semolina sesame seed bun and then top it with fresh sheep’s milk ricotta and pecorino romano.

see why i need to go there?

Tags: beans · fish

33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 melissa // Aug 27, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    *Looking around*

    Wow, I’m early.

    I’ve said before that Lidia is single-handedly teaching me what Italian cooking means. Not that there aren’t other Italian chefs I can learn from, I just happened to buy one of her books first. And I LOVE her. Discovering her made me want to go to Italy, like mad.

    Lidia’s Italy is thus far the most used of any cookbook I’ve bought, though granted the ones I bought prior to that were over-hyped crap. Bought before I very quickly learned from my fellow food bloggers that (the majority of) celebrity chefs aren’t worth their weight in doo doo.

    And this tuna? Yes. I have the page folded down. Thanks for testing it for me. Ha!

  • 2 Robert // Aug 27, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    You know, I didnt believe there was anything possibly better than Fried Mush and cane syrup. Anything. Ill be damned if that Chickpea stuff doesnt look like it will trump Mush. Ill let you know…….

  • 3 MangerLaVille // Aug 27, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    I had chickpea fries at Craft Bar in NYC, and this seems somewhat similar to Panelle. I can’t wait to try making it, seems like a great side.

  • 4 Chris // Aug 28, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Bummer about the gassed tuna.
    I got to pick up some of Lydia’s books. I was eying one last weekend as a matter of fact. The very one you used here… I think.
    The panelle looks really tasty.

  • 5 Heather // Aug 28, 2008 at 12:46 am

    I don’t think I’d have made further than taking the tuna from the wrapper. It’s so gorgeous, I’d have just eaten it raw!

    I hear you on the cookbook thing. Can you believe I have i>four Charlie Trotter books, and have not used any of the recipes?

  • 6 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Aug 28, 2008 at 12:58 am

    I didn’t know they gassed tuna up too.

  • 7 Mary Coleman // Aug 28, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Where did you get that tuna!! It’s gorgeous! You know I love this way of cooking.

  • 8 jim voorhies // Aug 28, 2008 at 8:02 am

    imagine the three way love child of polenta, french fries and hummus

    magnificent line!

  • 9 Julie // Aug 28, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I’m a fan of Lidia Bastianich’s books and also her television show. On her show she comes across as such a genuine person — none of that Food Network “television personality” crap. Lidia’s also a natural teacher which is one of the things that makes both her books and television show so good.

    Tuna gassed? Who knew.

    The three way love child of polenta, french fries and hummus! Heh! Love that!

  • 10 Jack // Aug 28, 2008 at 8:14 am

    YUM! Tuna is one of my favorite proteins. Definitely in my top five. Raw, seared or even cooked well. I love it

    I think the gassing started sometime in the last five years. Tuna steaks used to start looking rather unappealing even a day after being exposed to air. Now they look prettier in the supermarket.
    Carbon monoxide is supposed to preserve the natural color and is considered to be safe. The major criticisms I have heard are that you can end-up purchasing fish much older than it looks.

  • 11 cookiecrumb // Aug 28, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I had never heard of gassing tuna. Damn, I’m never eating tuna again. (Well, I already don’t.)

  • 12 Lauren // Aug 28, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    What an absolutely beautiful piece of Tuna! You know how I love good Tuna.

  • 13 Lesley // Aug 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Hmm…I am intrigued by the panelle. Though nothing has been cooked in my kitchen in weeks. Weeks! I’m so ashamed.

  • 14 We Are Never Full // Aug 28, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    fabulous! there’s that panelle I’ve been waiting to read about on this blog! looks great.

  • 15 Vincent // Aug 29, 2008 at 1:40 am

    this looks so delicious. ceci and i are friends and the tuna looks AWESOME!

  • 16 fluffernutter // Aug 29, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Panelle for dinner at maison fluffernutter tonight. Carbless Fella will be so happy.

  • 17 Mal Carne // Aug 29, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I just heard about gassing tuna back in January. The wholesaler was explaining the process and how beautiful it made the fish – the whole while I’ve got my fist clenched under the table, ready to punch him. He never really picked up that I thought it was a bad idea… go figure.

    Panelle is a gift from the gods. And Lidia is, was, and shall remain – a freakin’ bad ass.

  • 18 Samantha from Austin // Aug 29, 2008 at 9:17 am

    HI! I just checked your blog and saw THIS! I love this plate of food, it looks so yummy. I am stopping at Whole Foods tonight and buying (ungassed) tuna and the garbanzo flour. And oregano because I ran out. So thank you for planning my dinner tonight. Your blog is really great and I always learn from you.

  • 19 Noodles // Aug 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Miro Who? Props to Palermo

  • 20 Matin // Aug 29, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I have never tried panelle before, looks pretty good:-)
    XX M

  • 21 phillygirl64 // Aug 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    how timely! I just bought this book!

    I love chickpeas, so I really can’t wait to try the panelle

  • 22 Tupperware Avalanche » Blog Archive » Haute dawgs // Aug 29, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    […] the plate partner there is panelle, a crazy good French fry substitute made from chickpea flour and nearly carbless, recipe from my […]

  • 23 chefectomy // Aug 29, 2008 at 11:55 pm


    Thanks for introducing the panelle, I have never heard of this. The tuna seems perfect for summer.



  • 24 countrymouse // Aug 31, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Another beautiful dish , Claudia.
    Two things to add to my must have list:
    Lidia’s book and an oregano bouquet!

  • 25 Donald // Sep 1, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I was all like, wow that’s a pretty piece of tuna! Then I read Costco…Costco? They sell sashimi grade tuna? Oh, wait…

    Holy coincidence Batman, we just grilled tuna steaks too. I did a toasted sesame crust with mine.

    Garbanzo flour? WTF?

  • 26 caviar and codfish // Sep 1, 2008 at 11:18 am

    I would’ve thought that was a steak from the first photo!! But that raw photo is so tuna (or africa) and makin’ my mouth water. Gorgeous!

  • 27 Peter // Sep 1, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Palermo is really nice for a couple of days, but other parts of Sicily are where the action is. They do unbelievable things with eggplant there (which mostly do not involve any carbon monoxide.)

  • 28 The Italian Dish // Sep 1, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    My mother was from Sicily. I’ve been there to visit my aunts and uncles and cousins. I love to make chick pea fritters – just a different version of the panelle.

  • 29 Brittany // Sep 2, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    After reading this post I got that Toto song stuck in my head.

  • 30 Robert // Sep 6, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Love the simplicity of the dish, minus the fish gassing of course.

    We are lucky enough in Anchorage to have the stuff fairly fresh shipped from Hawaii whole, and then fileted at the fish monger.

  • 31 Tina // Sep 17, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    WHY have I never heard of Panelle before? More importantly, how is it possible that I’ve never EATEN it?! Oh me, oh my – what a glaring misfortune that I didn’t know I had. I plan to rectify that STAT on the ASAP, particularly as I have a bag of garbanzo flour (from an ill fated Indian dinner) calling out my name….

  • 32 Kull // Aug 17, 2009 at 4:49 am

    ‘Panelle’ are actually the sicilian name of a Genoese/Ligurian food item named PANISSETTE.

    PANISSETTE stem from a chickpea/garbanzo farina called PANISSA which was a staple of Genoese/Ligurian cooking in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

    Liguria (the Northwestern coastal region of Italy, close to France) is a thin arched strip of land pressed between the Sea and a steep row of hills and mountains so in the Middle Ages there was no space at all to grow wheat and importing it from the Po valley was too expensive…Ligurians had to carve terraces out of the hills where chickpea(garbanzo) grew easily and so used their flour to replace wheat in several dishes.

    When Genoa grew to be the major naval power of its age Genoese merchant princes secured the Sicilian salt producing facilities after having wrested them from the Pisans (whose fleet was utterly destroyed in the Battle of Meloria and whose harbour we filled with rocks and silt to cancel them as a seafaring city-state).

    Hence sicilians got used to Ligurian PANISSETTE and adopted them, renaming them ‘Panelle’.

  • 33 Lee-Ann // Jun 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I have been to Sicily twice. As a matter of fact I just got back a week ago. When in Palermo I hunt down as many panelle vendors as possible and eat as many as I can! I have never seen them served with ricotta or any sort of cheese (that would spoil it for me). One thing I did see plenty of was the use of parsley or oregano in the mix. I one vendor used some minced garlic in his. He said it was not “normal” but “meh…garlic makes the mouth happy”. I have made these treats a tonne of times and always use parsley and am sure to serve them on soft sesame seed rolls with a good squirt of lemon juice!

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