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Sicilian Grilled Tuna with Oregano

This is a simple recipe from Sicily for a well-marinated, grilled piece of tuna. The original recipe, from Clifford Wright’s A Mediterranean Feast, calls for bonito — a small tuna with very dark meat — and I happened to catch one in Mexico, so I used it here. You could use any red-meat tuna, however; yellowfin or skipjack are good substitutes.

In all cases, slice out the very dark centerline of the tuna or bonito: It is perfectly edible, but has a strong, fishy flavor most people don’t like.

Make sure you cut the tuna pieces into steaks or serving pieces no thicker than about an inch. It takes time for the marinade to penetrate the meat, and the marinade will not get to the center of really thick slices.

You must use fresh oregano here. It is easy to find in supermarkets, but if you do much Greek or Italian cooking, you ought to grow it yourself.

If you want to serve this bonito with the marinade, I’d suggest making a second batch of it — I don’t like re-using marinades unless they’ve been cooked first (it’s a germ thing), and as this one is really just olive oil, garlic and oregano, cooking would destroy the flavors.

Serves 2 (can be doubled)

  • 1 pound bonito or tuna
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 chopped garlic cloves
  • 5-6 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano
  • Lemon wedges to serve

 

  1. Put everything but the lemon and tuna in a blender and buzz it until it’s pureed.
  2. Put the marinade in a seal-able plastic bag and put the pieces of fish inside. Massage the marinade over the tuna so all the pieces are well-covered, then seal the bag and put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 10 hours.
  3. Get your grill nice and hot, and clean the grates well.
  4. Using tongs, grab a crumpled piece of paper towel you have dipped in some vegetable oil and wipe down the grill grates.
  5. Take the tuna out of the marinade and shake off any excess. Lay the fish on the grill. Let this grill hard for 4-7 minutes, depending on how thick the pieces are.
  6. While the fish is cooking, baste once with the marinade.
  7. Gently lift the fish up with tongs or a spatula and flip. Grill for another 2-4 minutes. Baste one more time.
  8. Serve with lemon wedges and some freshly cracked black pepper. A crisp white wine would be good here.

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