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Vitello Tonnato with Tomatoes, Olives, and Basil Oil

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Serves 6 to 8

  • by from A Year in My Kitchen

Vitello tonnato is a classic Italian dish--perfect on a summer menu. It works equally well as a simple one-course lunch or as part of a buffet. Its beauty lies in the contrast of the sweet, delicate veal agains the creamy intense sauce. I've seen other meats used in place of veal, but I don't think anything else works as well. The meat is poached rather than roasted, to keep it moist and tender.

For the poached veal
  • 3 lb. veal top round
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • small bunch of Italian parsley
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
For the tuna mayonnaise
  • generous 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • 1 (7-ounce) can fine-quality tuna, drained
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. capers (packed in salt), well rinsed and drained
  • 3 fine-quality canned anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • freshly ground black pepper
To assemble
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls of arugula leaves
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • 2 tbsp little black olives (ideally, Niçoise or Ligurian)
  • 1 Tbs. capers, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs. basil oil
Poach the veal

Half-fill a cooking pot or heavy pan (large enough to hold the veal) with water. Add the onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, and peppercorns (but no salt). Bring the water to a boil, then add the veal. There should be sufficient water to cover the meat-if not, add enough to do so. Turn down the heat to a steady, gentle simmer and cook for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the heat and let the veal cool completely in the stock (this helps keep it moist).

Make the tuna mayonnaise

Put the tuna into a food processor along with the lemon juice, capers, and anchovy fillets. Add the mayonnaise and process until you have a smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning-the sauce will benefit from a grinding or two of black pepper, but is unlikely to need any salt (as anchovies and capers are both salty). Set aside.

To serve

Lift the meat out of the cold stock and place it on a cutting board. Snip off any string and slice the meat with a sharp knife as finely as possible. Cut the tomatoes into big, uneven chunks. Dress the arugula with a squeeze of lemon juice and a few drops of olive oil.

Layer the veal slices on a platter with the tomatoes and arugula. Spoon the tuna mayonnaise on top of the veal, scatter over the olives and capers, and drizzle over the basil oil. Serve at once, with some good bread.

Photo: Jason Lowe © 2011

Reprinted with permission from A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc."

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