I was first introduced to tonnato sauce one hot summer many years ago, via Melissa Clark. The idea of blending tuna and mayo into a sauce to be served over cold chicken (or veal breast, in the classic preparation, or tomatoes, in Melissa's version) seemed really weird, but one taste and I was hooked. I always make extra, and what I don't eat directly from the jar with a spoon (or, to be honest, my fingers) gets scooped onto crudités or slathered onto crusty bread. There's little it doesn't go with. When I read about this contest, the first thing that popped into my mind was tonnato; something magical happens when you combine great tuna with creamy avocados, and happily, this version exceeded my expectations. I have a feeling we'll turn to it again and again through this long, hot summer, and I hope you'll enjoy it, too. —lastnightsdinner
fat garlic clove, peeled and smashed
oil-packed anchovy filets
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked, oil reserved
small tender lettuce leaves (bibb or similar), optional
Pile your anchovies on top of your peeled garlic clove on a cutting board. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt and pepper, and smash to a paste with a chef's knife. Scrape this mixture into a blender or the small bowl of a food processor. (I've also made this with a hand blender and carafe, with good success).
Zest the lime, then add the juice to the garlic/anchovy mixture. Add half of the zest, and reserve the remainder for later. Add the tuna and mayo, drizzling in a little of the reserved olive oil, and blend until smooth and creamy. Stir in the remaining lime zest, taste, and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
Cut your avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop them from their shells with a spoon. Cut each half into half again; you should end up with eight wedges total. If using, arrange the lettuce leaves on plates or one big platter. Place the avocado wedges on the plate(s), then drizzle the tonnato sauce over the wedges and all around (you will have sauce left, which you can store in a jar in the fridge for a few days). Scatter the capers on top. Run a knife through the celery leaves 2-3 times just to roughly chop, then scatter them all around.