Friday, September 2, 2011

Fresh Ahi Tuna

Pan Seared Ahi Tuna

I love serving seared raw ahi tuna as an appetizer. Known for its buttery texture, mild flavor and rich color, ahi (or yellowfin) tuna is seared to surround its raw center with a tasty caramelized crust and is served with some interesting side to dish to contrast its mild flavor. At lunch today with my scrabble / bridge / mah jong group, I served it along with the three side dishes mentioned below and asked them which one I should include in this week’s column.  They all said all of them – so here they are! (My favorite is the mango-avocado salsa!)
Buying Ahi Tuna
To make seared ahi, you need to start with very fresh, sushi-grade ahi, as you will only be lightly searing the outside, leaving the inside raw. Not even rare, but raw. The freshness and the quality of the fish make a huge difference with this dish, so don't even attempt it with a lower grade of fish. Purchase fresh, sushi-or sashimi grade ahi. Look for firm, ruby red flesh with a clean smell of the sea. There should not be a "fishy" odor.  One tuna steak is enough for rwo people. We were seven and I served three steaks- nothing was left over!

Searing Ahi Tuna
Sprinkle salt and fresh ground pepper onto both sides of the tuna steak (optional: soak for about 10 minutes in a marinade such as a mixture of orange juice, teriyaki sauce, and sesame seeds.). Heat a non-stick heavy-bottomed skillet (frying pan). Use high heat if searing a steak 1/2-inch thick or less and medium-high for thicker pieces. Add 1½ teaspoons of olive oil (or sesame oil for more flavor) to the pan. (Using too much will lead to a greasy tuna steak).  Place the fish in the pan once the oil begins to smoke. Turn the fish after about 1 – 2 minutes and sear for another minute on the other side. It will be cooked only on the outside but remain beautifully raw on the inside. Remove from heat.

Serving Ahi Tuna
Slice and serve with any or all of the following accompaniments.

Israeli or Pearl Couscous
Cook as per package instructions. Allow to cool and then mix in minced garlic, cranberries and chopped basil.

Shaved Fennel Salad Recipe (serves 5-6)
Slice two fennel bulbs paper thin (use a mandolin if you have one)  and combine in a bowl with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, ¼ Tspn of chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1 Tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley and 2 Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese.

Mango-Avocado Salsa
Dice into small cubes:
·         2 ripe avocados (skinned and pitted)
·         6 Komatsu or 12 Cherry or grape tomatoes.
·         1½ large ripe mangos
Toss gently in a bowl with
·         1/4 cup diced red or Vidalia onion
·         3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
·         salt and freshly ground black pepper


The challenge in selecting a wine for this recipe is that the wine needs to go well with the delicate flesh of the tuna and yet resist to the festival of flavors of the salsa  and other side dishes. So I would recommend a Riesling or a white Bordeaux. Trimbach Riesling 2008 – There’s a pleasant salty tanginess to this wine, underscoring flavors of Gala apple, grapefruit and stone, with a hint of petrol. Clean and well-defined by the firm acidity, yet well-meshed and elegant overall, with a mouthwatering finish. 90 points Wine Spectator - $15.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor. Chateau Tanesse Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2009 – When you get a “Great” winemaker like Denis De Bourdieu to make the wine, the bells and whistles immediately sound ! This deftly crafted white is a blend of 65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Semillon. Hints of melon and honey in the nose, it’s crisp, lively, and surprising depth and length of flavor, along with good acidity make this enjoyable from first to last swallow. $13.99 at Arlington Wine & Liquor.

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