serves: 4 servings
When traveling through Sicily, you will often encounter tuna or swordfish rollatini-or involtini as they call them. It is a traditional dish. What makes the dish particularly delicious and interesting is that they roll the rollatini in seasoned bread crumbs before grilling. The way I prepare the rollatini, they get a marvelous range of flavors by marinating before grilling in garlic, olive oil, and fresh thyme; then I smother them with a fresh tomato and lemon salsa after they've cooked (and try not to eat them for a couple of hours). The longer they sit-before and after grilling-the more flavorful they become.
For the Garlic-Infused Oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Flavored Bread Crumbs
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Lemon zest, grated
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon peperoncino, chopped into little bits
2 tablespoons toasted pignoli (pine nuts), finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil
For Grilling and Marinating the Rollatini
1½ pounds fresh tuna loin, in one piece
½ teaspoon salt
6 fresh thyme branches
2 cups Fresh Tomato-Lemon Salsa
Preparing the Garlic and Oil Crumbs
Stir the garlic slices and salt into olive oil. Allow to infuse for at least 1/2 hour, preferably an hour or more.
Mix all the seasonings with the bread crumbs, and then stir in the garlic oil. Rub the crumbs with your fingers so they're evenly moistened.
Slice the tuna into 3 ounce scallops; flatten and spread them (if necessary) to 1/4-inch thickness with a meat mallet.
Sprinkle each scallop with a couple of pinches of salt, and then cover with a thin layer, about 1-1/2 teaspoons, of the seasoned bread crumbs.
Roll up and secure the rollatini with toothpicks and place them all in a baking dish, close together in one layer. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, scatter a spoonful of the oily garlic slices, drop in the thyme branches and turn the rollatini to coat with oil on all sides. Let them marinate for at least an hour, preferably a couple of hours or overnight (refrigerated).
Heat the clean grill rack over medium heat, using gas or charcoal. Take the rollatini out of the marinating dish and roll them in the bread crumbs. Press a bit so a light coating of crumbs adheres to the rolls on all sides.
When the grill is ready, lay the rollatini at right angles to the grill bars and let them sear without moving for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes, until they've been branded with nice gold marks on the bottom. The crumbs should be toasted but not burnt. If the fish and crumbs are darkening much faster, lower the heat, raise the rack or spread the coals out.
Using tongs, rotate the rollatini 180 degrees, so the first marks are on top; grill and mark the opposite side for about 2 minutes. Turn 90 degrees and grill about 1-1/2 minutes on a third side. Finally, rotate them all top to bottom again so the remaining unmarked side of each roll is on the grill. This should need only a minute or so to mark. Drizzle garlic oil in tiny amounts on the rollatini, if you wish, after each turn.
After grilling on all sides, about 6 to 7 minutes total, the rollatini should be cooked through but moist in the middle (you can cut one open if you are concerned about doneness). Immediately remove them to a clean baking dish (I usually just wash and dry the one in which they marinated in garlic oil). Pull out the toothpicks.
Serve the hot grilled rollatini. For the most flavor, spread the tomato-lemon marinade over the top of the rollatini and marinate for 2 to 3 hours, until the rolls have cooled and been infused with the sauce. For instructions on how to prepare this marinade, see the recipe for Fresh Tomato-Lemon Salsa. Serve at room temperature, 1 or 2 per person, with sauce on top. For longer marinating, refrigerate the sauced rollatini after 3 hours and serve the next day-leftovers will keep and taste fine for about 4 days, properly sealed.