Poor Man's Dinner, Chef Style: Curly Endive and Tuna Fusilli

tuna, curly endive, fusilli
tuna, curly endive, fusilli

Tuna, Curly Endive, Fusilli (photos by Rachel Brown)

So I had curly endive in the fridge.  But you could use kale here, escarole, dandelion greens, whatever.  And I needed some protein - for that my wife and I always keep some wild caught tuna cans around.  I highly recommend doing that -

but buy wild albacore that is responsibly caught

- it's a buck or two more and if that's too much, eat something else you bastard.

Tuna Can
Tuna Can

This pasta is super easy and only takes about 1/2 hour from start to finish - a few more when you and your wife are trying to photograph the process. The most essential part of the dish comes right at the beginning.  Sweat and then slightly caramelize your aromatics. In other words - cook some onions, a little garlic and red chile if you like, really slowly in a decent amount of grapeseed or olive oil. Start low and slow, letting the onions get a bit soft - then up the heat and let them get a touch golden. Don't go too far, nothing bad will happen, but I like to still let my veggies have some integrity on their own to give another texture to dish. Mushy onions don't have much texture. 

Then you throw in some washed greens - in this case the aforementioned curly endive.  Give everything a toss and think: "How pretty."

Sprinkle some Alepo pepper into the dish.  It's awesome - adding both a zing and a bit of bite. Sweet and tangy and only a hair spicy.  From Aleppo in Syria, pray for them - they are having a really shitty time over there. 

Be sure to cook your pasta al dente, toss the whole thing together with the tuna.   Chef trick - always add some butter to finish your pasta.  It does a couple of things: one it adds fat which is a great carrier for flavor - all that time you spent on those onions earlier?  Yeah, add some butter so you can taste that. The butter also starts to melt when it hits the hot pasta and the water that still clings to the pasta, along with the warm oniony, curly endivey juices in the pan emulisfy or come together with the butter to form something like a sauce. 

When you are done, season the dish up, make sure you can really taste it. If not add some more salt. And last but not least, squeeze half a lemon into the dish and toss one last time. It'll brighten the whole thing.

Curly Endive, Tuna and Fusilli

2 tbsp.

grapeseed oil or olive oil

1 large

onion

, peeled, quartered and sliced thin

3 cloves

garlic

, peeled and roughly chopped

1

red jalapeño

, stemmed, seeded and julienned (slice thin)

1 lb. f

usilli

(I used some colorful stuff)

1 bunch

curly endive

, washed and roughly chopped

1 tsp.

Aleppo pepper

1 small can

wild caught tuna

, drained (water or oil, both work)

1 or 2 tbsp.

butter

juice of 1/2 l

emon

salt and pepper

to taste

Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta.  Set a large saute pan over medium-low heat and add the oil and let it get hot.  Add the onions, garlic, chile and a pinch of salt.  You should hear a little sizzle - not too much.  Sweat the onion mixture slowly, about 8 minutes until softened.  Then increase the heat to medium-high for a minute or two, just until the onion mixture starts to brown a bit.  

Add a handful of salt to the now boiling pot of water and carefully drop the fusilli in and give it a stir.  Cook until just al dente.  

While pasta is cooking, add the curly endive to the onions and stir together over medium-high heat, just until it wilts, about 1 or 2 minutes.  Add the Aleppo pepper and toss.  

Strain the pasta and do not rinse.  In fact, leave a little hot water on the pasta, don't shake it too much when draining.  Return the pasta to its empty but still hot pot and set over medium heat.  Quickly add the onion and curly endive mixture to the pasta and toss together.  Break up the tuna and add to the pasta along with the knob of butter.  Gently stir the butter and tuna into the pasta over medium heat, about 1 minute.  Cut the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice and stir again.  Taste.  Needs more salt right?  Add some, and if you like pepper or a little more Aleppo - go for it.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4 for Dinner