A Tuna After Atonement

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a holiday for serious fasting — no food or drink for 24 hours. At the end of the day, thoughts inevitably turn to what to eat at sundown, and breaking the fast with family and friends.

Our family tradition has been to serve dairy and seafood dishes when we return from the synagogue. I found the perfect fish dishes to prepare for this meal when I attended a food fair at the Skirball Cultural Center. The highlight of the festival was a series of cooking demonstrations, given by well-known local chefs. They were on a stage in front of a movie-size screen so the audience could see what they were demonstrating. During each session everyone was invited to taste what the chefs had prepared.

Chef Neal Fraser, formerly of Boxer Restaurant, gave the first demonstration. He is planning his own restaurant, Grace on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Neal prepared a dish that he called Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio With a Spanish Touch. He offered several cooking tips as he went along, and the audience clearly enjoyed his presentation. The tuna fillet was placed between wax paper and pounded until almost translucent. Neal transferred the tuna onto a plate and prepared a mixed vegetable salad that he placed on top of the tuna.

This can all be prepared in advance, and served as part of a break-the-fast meal. He also showed how to roll the tuna with the salad tucked inside and then sliced into bite-size portions, to be served as a finger food.

Next came Chef Kazuto Matsusaka, formerly of Chinois on Main, and his wife, chef Vicki Fan, who assisted him. Kazuto prepared Infused Sake, Cilantro Cured Salmon (my favorite), Vegetable Dumplings With Ponzu Sauce and Seared Ahi Tuna With a Daikon Vinaigrette. This handsome Japanese chef and his wife were a great team, adding humor and charm to their dumpling mix.

This year I will add these dishes to our traditional family buffet along with bagels, cream cheese, platters of herring and smoked salmon and a wonderful array of cold salads. Serve a variety of baked delicacies including honey cake, an assortment of sweet rolls and fruit salad for dessert.

Neal’s Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio with a Spanish

8 ounces Big Eye Ahi Tuna, cleaned

of sinew and cut into 2-ounce medallions

Olive oil

4 ounces baby arugula

1 ounce capers, chopped

3 ounces Spanish green olives,

pitted and chopped

1 ounce olive tapenade

1 bunch parsley, chopped

2 ounces sherry wine vinegar

1 ounce balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 ounces shallots, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces haricot vert, blanched

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced*

For the Tuna:

Brush the fish with a little olive oil. Place between two pieces of plastic wrap.

Using a hammer or tenderizer pound the tuna until almost translucent and reserve. Repeat with remaining medallions.*

For the Vinaigrette:

In a medium-size bowl, add all of the ingredients except the tomato and arugula, and mix with a wire whisk. Season with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil so that it is balanced with the vinegar. (The ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1) Taste and add the peppers and tomatoes at the end.

To serve, remove the top piece of plastic wrap from the tuna, and using the remaining plastic wrap as a guide, invert the tuna onto a serving plate and peel off the remaining plastic wrap (repeat with remaining tuna). Season with salt and pepper. Toss the arugula with the vinaigrette and carefully arrange on top of the tuna.

*Variation: Remove the top piece of plastic wrap from the tuna and place a small portion of the salad on top of the tuna. Roll up the tuna and slice it into bite-size pieces.

Kazuto’s Cilantro Cured Salmon

1 (4-pound) salmon fillet, skin on

6 bunches washed and picked

cilantro leaves, chopped (about 3 cups)

1¼3 cup salt

1¼3 cup sugar

2¼3 cup freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tequila

With a sharp knife, score the skin of the salmon in four or five places about 2 inches apart.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the cilantro, salt, sugar and pepper. Place a small handful of the cilantro mixture on the bottom of a large glass baking dish. Place the salmon fillet skin side down on top. Cover completely with the remaining cilantro mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly weight it down and refrigerate for 72 hours or until salmon is firm to the touch.

Wipe off the cilantro mixture to clean the salmon filet. If serving as an hors d’oeuvres or appetizer, slice thinly. Serve with a cucumber salad, on a toasted bagel or with a German-style potato salad.

If you wish, you may also slice the salmon into 1-inch-thick slices, sauté and serve with a cucumber salad, on a toasted bagel or with a German-style potato salad. If you wish, you may also slice the salmon into 1-inch-thick slices, sauté and serve with a honey mustard sauce and mixed green salad.