1 to 1 ½
pounds tuna fillets, in 2-inch-thick slices
teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
teaspoon dried fennel pollen (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil
small to medium red onion
cups cooked cannellini or other white beans
tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
teaspoon lemon zest
garlic cloves, pressed or minced to a paste
teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
smooth, pale green medium fennel bulbs
tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
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Season tuna generously on both sides with salt, then sprinkle with the black pepper, fennel seed and pollen (if using). Drizzle very lightly with olive oil and rub the seasoning into the fillets with your hands. Set aside at room temperature.
Peel and dice the onion and soak in ice water for 10 minutes (this will tame its bite). Drain the beans and put in a bowl. Add a generous sprinkling of salt and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and stir. Drain onions and add to beans. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and set aside at room temperature.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the lemon zest, garlic, a pinch of salt, crushed red pepper and 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Place a wide cast iron pan over high heat. When it is hot, add tuna. Cook for about 2 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms, then flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Take care not to let the spices scorch; reduce the heat if necessary. The exterior of the fish will be cooked, but the interior will be quite rare. For medium-rare, cook an additional 2 minutes on the second side. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board to cool.
Using a very sharp knife or mandoline, slice fennel crosswise into very thin slices. Salt lightly and toss with dressing. Arrange dressed fennel around the edge of the platter, surrounding the beans.
Cut the tuna in ½-inch slices and arrange over beans. Sprinkle with parsley and fennel fronds and serve at room temperature.
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