Albacore steaks on the grill.

When life gives you bonito, start planning menus. A five-kilo hunk of bonito del norte—albacore tuna—landed in my kitchen last weekend. It had already been frozen and thawed, which meant I pretty much needed to use it up. 

Albacore tuna, also known as atún blanco, white tuna, is fished primarily off the northern Cantabrian coast of Spain, where much of it goes to the canning industry. Summer is the season for albacore. Its flesh is lighter than that of bluefin tuna (called atún rojo because of its red flesh in Spanish) and not very fatty. 

We cut the piece of fish into four thick steaks. One I chilled to use raw. The other three were grilled alongside a couple of chickens that were already on the menu when the bonito arrived in my kitchen. Grilled and served with nothing more elaborate than a vinaigrette sauce, the tuna was delicious. The remainder of the cooked fish, I de-boned and refrigerated. 

Here’s how the bonito week went. (The cat also had a bonito week.) If you have not got fresh albacore, try using chunks of canned or bottled bonito del norte, preferably that which has been conserved in olive oil, for all but the recipe for raw fish.

For this poke bowl, chunks of raw albacore tuna are marinated in a soy-based sauce with ginger and sesame seeds to top rice. With the tuna are, clockwise from the top, cucumber curls, strips of red bell pepper, shredded cabbage, seaweed salad, grated carrots, pickled melon, cherry tomatoes and cooked green beans. 

A quickie meal for two: chunks of grilled albacore tuna are added to a sofrito of fresh onions, fresh tomatoes and diced zucchini, served over spaghetti. A sprig of basil adds a summery scent.

Sort of like a Niçoise salad, but with Spanish ingredients–albacore tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans and olives. The secret is marinating all in vinaigrette.

Marmitako is a classic summer dish in Basque Country. It’s chunks of albacore tuna cooked with potatoes and green peppers in a white wine sauce. (The recipe is here.)

Crispy fish cakes are made with chopped albacore tuna and rice. They are plated with coleslaw and potatoes vinaigrette and served with a fresh tomato-caper sauce.

Poke Bowl

Bol de Poke

Poke is a one-bowl cold dish of rice lightly flavored with vinegar (same as sushi rice), topped with raw fish and an assortment of salad ingredients, cooked and raw. (More about poke here.
For protection against parasites, fish to be served raw should be frozen before use. (See more information about raw fish here.)

Allow about 1 ¼ cups of cooked rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar per serving. Or, use your favorite sushi rice.

Raw tuna or bonito, cut in bite-size cubes

Sauce for poke (recipe follows)

Cooked short-grain rice

Vinegar (rice or wine)

Shredded cabbage or slaw

Cherry tomatoes

Cooked green beans or asparagus

Strips of red bell pepper

Seaweed salad (recipe here)

Sliced avocado

Cucumber curls

Grated carrot

Slivered onions

Melon pickle (recipe here)

Place the cubes of tuna in a bowl and add 3 tablespoons of the sauce for poke. Cover and chill until ready to assemble the bowl.

Toss the rice in a bowl with the vinegar. Spread rice in individual bowls for serving the poke.

Place cubes of the marinated tuna in the center of the rice. Place shredded cabbage, tomatoes, beans, red pepper, seaweed salad, avocado, cucumber, grated carrot, slivered onions and melon pickle around the tuna. Spoon additional poke sauce over all.

Pieces of raw albacore tuna have been marinated in sauce to add to the poke bowl.

Sauce for Poke

Aliño para Poke

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

½ teaspoon sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Dash of hot sauce such as siracha

½ teaspoon sesame seed

Combine all the ingredients. 



Use this vinaigrette as a marinade, a dressing or a sauce for any grilled foods. It keeps well, tightly capped and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature and stir well to mix  the oil before using. 

1 clove garlic

1 shallot, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup Sherry vinegar

½ cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of pimentón de la Vera (smoked sweet paprika)

Combine the garlic, shallot, parsley mustard and vinegar in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the oil, salt, pepper and pimentón and blend again.

Store the vinaigrette, refrigerated, in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to room temperature before serving. Shake or stir well to combine the oil before using.

Not-Niçoise Salad

Ensalada No-Nizarda

This composed salad with albacore tuna is a perfect summer meal.

With the use of Andalusian brine-cured olives and local tomatoes, this classic recipe is more Spanish than French. 

Use the above recipe for vinaigrette for this salad. Also use it to dress the tuna, potatoes and onions. However, don’t add the dressing to the green beans until immediately before serving, as the vinegar will leach away the bright green of the beans.

Use Spanish brine-cured olives, green or black, for the salad or, if you like, use anchovy-stuffed manzanilla olives (and eliminate the anchovy fillets). 

I used grilled albacore tuna steak for the salad. Tomatoes are fabulous right now. Spanish-style, they are cut in wedges, not slices.

Add vinaigrette to the sliced albacore tuna.

Salad greens

Vinaigrette (recipe above)

Sliced cooked tuna

Tomatoes cut in wedges

Cooked, sliced potatoes

1 tablespoon brine from olives or capers

Cooked green beans

Hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Slivered red onion

Brine-cured olives


Canned anchovy fillets, drained

Spread salad greens on a serving platter or individual plates.

Drizzle vinaigrette on the sliced tuna. Add olive brine and a spoonful of vinaigrette to the sliced potatoes and mix gently. Add vinaigrette to the slivered onions. 

Arrange the tuna in the center of the platter or plates. Place the tomatoes, potatoes and beans around the tuna. Tuck in quartered egg. Scatter slivered onion olives and capers on top. Lay anchovies on top of the salad. 

Immediately before serving, drizzle vinaigrette over all.

Tuna Cakes

Tortitas de Bonito

I used tuna steak that had been cooked on the grill for these cakes or patties. Albacore tuna is not very fatty and tends to be dry. So, the cooked fish gains in juiciness if allowed to marinate briefly in vinaigrette. Canned light tuna can be substituted for the cooked tuna in this recipe.

If you have not got smoked hot pimentón, use regular smoked pimentón plus a pinch of cayenne.

Instead of the usual tartare sauce or mayo, serve the tuna cakes with a fresh tomato sauce with capers.

As a summer dish, neither the fish cakes nor sauce need to be served hot.  

10 ounces skinless, boneless cooked tuna

2 tablespoons vinaigrette (recipe above)

2 cloves garlic

1 shallot, coarsely chopped

½ cup parsley

1 cup cooked rice

1 large egg

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon oregano

¼ teaspoon pimentón picante de la Vera (smoked, hot paprika)

½ teaspoon salt

Fine dry bread crumbs

Olive oil to fry the cakes

Tomato sauce with capers, to serve (recipe follows)

Tuna chopped with rice.

Chop or flake the tuna. Place it in a small bowl and add the vinaigrette. Let marinate 10 minutes.

Finely chop the garlic, shallot and parsley in a food processor. Add the rice and egg and process briefly. Add the cumin, oregano, pimentón and salt and combine well. Add the tuna and any vinaigrette left in the bowl. Process just until the tuna is finely chopped but not reduced to puree. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate at least one hour.

Heat oil in a skillet on moderate heat. Take handfuls of the tuna mixture. Press it firmly into golf-ball-size balls. Flatten the balls slightly to make a patty. Coat them lightly with bread crumbs. Fry the cakes until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve the tuna cakes hot or room temperature accompanied by Tomato Sauce with Capers.

Tomato Sauce with Capers

Salsa de Tomate con Alcaparras

Unlike a sofrito, this tomato sauce doesn’t start with sautéeing ingredients. Tomatoes and oil go into the pan together. The sauce is done with 15 minutes of cooking.

An easy way to peel tomatoes: Cut an X on the blossom end of the tomatoes. Place them, stem side down on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on “high” for 2 minutes. Remove and turn the tomatoes so the stem sides are up. Microwave 4 minutes longer. Leave the tomatoes inside the microwave until they are cool enough to handle. Slip off the skins and cut out the cores.

The sauce can be served warm, room temperature or cold. If it has been chilled, stir it well before serving.

1 ¼ pounds tomatoes (about 6), peeled

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup dry Sherry

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon oregano

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons drained capers

Chunk the peeled tomatoes into a food processor with the garlic. Process until fairly smooth. Pour the tomatoes into a heavy saucepan. Add the oil, Sherry, salt, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover the pan. Cook 15 minutes.

Remove lid and, if you want a thicker sauce, simmer, uncovered, another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the capers. 

Serve the sauce warm, room temperature or cold.

More recipes with bonito/tuna:

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