People often ask when I am going to open a restaurant. I guess, in many ways, it’s the logical next step for where I am in my career. I won’t dismiss the idea of ever doing such a thing, but I have to say that right now the prospect of it is rather off-putting. Restaurant success is, in large part, predicated on consistency of quality and of product. It’s very difficult to gain a solid client base if every couple of weeks you are changing the style of food you are offering from café sandwiches to Japanese-inspired Canadian to Thai. But that’s the way I like to cook. I can’t imagine sticking to one style of food. Last year alone, I was able to work on a wide range of projects in Singapore, Canada, China, France and Japan.
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It was in Japan, during a pop-up dinner in February, that I came up with this dish. There are a lot of components, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Almost everything can be prepared a week in advance, and then it’s just a matter of five minutes of assembly. You’ll be left with extra anchovy cream, which can be used on sandwiches or as a dip for raw veggies. And while the dish pictured here has some parsley oil on it, it’s an unnecessary headache so I’ve left it out of this recipe.
1 lemon, sliced as thinly as possible, seeds removed
2 tablespoons sugar
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 medium floury potato
1 5-ounce can tuna, drained
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
2 slices dense Scandinavian rye bread (or good sourdough)
5 to 6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 to 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
12 broccolini, bottoms trimmed
4 medjool dates, thinly sliced
In a suitably sized re-sealable bag, massage all the ingredients together. Seal the bag, making sure it holds as little air in as possible. Put in the freezer. When frozen solid, remove from freezer and let thaw at room temperature. Repeat this process two more times. It will take 2-3 days. When lemons are cured, cut the slices into quarters and store in their juices.
In a small pot, lightly simmer the potato whole in water until fork tender. While it is hot, peel it and place 4 heaping tablespoons of the flesh into a food processor. Discard any remaining potato, or save for use in another dish. Add all other ingredients except for the oil and blend until a smooth paste. Continue to process slowly adding the oil as a drizzle until the mixture has achieved a light, creamy consistency. If it is too dense, or you are having trouble blending it, add a few tablespoons of hot water.
Either in a food processor or with a knife, cut the bread until it is pea-sized. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the bread and slowly toast it, stirring constantly, until it is very crispy but not burnt. Drain on paper towel. Clean pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and lightly toast sunflower seeds. Drain on paper towel. Add remaining butter and fry capers until moisture is gone and they are brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel. Mix bread, capers and sunflower seeds together and store in an airtight container.
Broccolini and assembly
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat. Add the oil. When it is smoking, sear the broccolini until it is wilted but still has significant bite.
On four separate plates, add a hefty tablespoon of anchovy cream to the middle. Arrange the vegetables around the cream. Layer on 4 to 5 pieces of lemon. Sprinkle over the crumble and the dates.