To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
~François de La Rochefoucauld

Yes, I have written about tuna more extensively in a post entitled Ahi “Nicoise” dated May 13, 2010 — look at the search box.  But, please abstain in devouring blue fin tuna as it appears low in numbers.

Then again, earlier (February 7, 2009) there existed here a post about ubiquitous steak tartare — although sublime, but with the firm texture of this finfish, tuna tartare is sapid, damn near nympholeptic.  This does not imply that steak tartare is equally divine, as both are toe curlers.  But, it is a cooling, light, dainty often app repast with tuna diced into chunks and fluidly soothed by Asian flavors (as below) in a chilled vessel, a dish which really did not emerge until recently about 3-4 or so decades ago…perhaps in Paris by a Japanese born, yet French trained, chef by the name of Tachibe — who knows?

A chilled dry white (preferably one that is French oriented or sauvignon blanc) or rosé is essential as quaff.

1/4 C canola oil
2 t grated fresh ginger, with some small chunks retained

1 – 1 1/3 lb sashimi (perhaps sushi) grade tuna, diced into 1/4″ pieces

1 t jalapeño, minced with seeds and veins removed
1 1/2 t wasabi powder
1/2 t mirin
1/2 t saké
1 t sesame seeds
1 T scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 T lime juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Non-pareil capers, rinsed
Caviar

In a bowl, add the ginger and chunks for a few hours to allow to marinate some in the frig.

In a large glass chilled bowl, add tuna to ginger oil as well as small ginger chunks, the cilantro, jalapeño, wasabi, mirin, saké, sesame seeds, scallions, lime juice, then mix well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Using fingers, very slightly strew over the tuna tartare with capers and then caviar.

Serve on chilled shallow glass salad bowl(s) over some flared avocado slices or cilantro or watercress, something like that or those kith and kin.

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Omakase (お任せ?) is a phrase that means “I will leave it to you” (from the Japanese, to entrust). When you indulge in that luxury of allowing a fine sushi chef to make the gastronomic calls — the aesthetics, the architecture, the inspiration, the dynamics, the visuals, the sensuous flavors, the enticing aromas, the intriguing textures — all rising to or sometimes transcending the level of theater. Plated delectation.

Young and old, exacting sushi chefs try to emulate masters like Morimoto, Jiro and Nobu. They bless and coddle your palate with riveting morceaux adroitly shaped with dazzling blade work and raw ingenuity. The genuine article shortly followed by those hushed tones of pure contentment.

So, I will leave it to you or them.

TUNA & AVOCADO CEVICHE

1 lb tuna (sushi/sashimi grade only), sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 small red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 T shoyu
1 T capers, rinsed and drained
Freshly ground black pepper

1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/4″ dice
3/4 C fresh lime juice
Small jalapeño chile pepper, stemmed, seeded and very thinly sliced
1/4 C cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Sea salt

Cilantro leaves, whole

Line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with plastic wrap. Arrange the tuna slices in a single layer, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm but not frozen, about 10-15 minutes.

Stack the tuna slices on a cutting board and using a supremely sharp chef’s knife, cut the tuna into 1/4″ cubes. Transfer the diced tuna to a medium glass or bowl and stir in the red onion, shoyu, capers and a pinch of black pepper. Cover both the tuna and the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about a half hour, stirring occasionally.

Just before serving, gently fold in the diced avocado, lime juice, jalapeño, and chopped cilantro and season very lightly with salt.

Transfer the ceviche to a chilled bowl or glasses. Garnish with whole cilantro leaves.

Ahi “Niçoise”

May 13, 2010

Sorry, Charlie…Starkist doesn’t want tuna with good taste, Starkist wants tuna that tastes good.
~StarKist, Chicken of the Sea

A highly migratory, fish found in many oceans, tuna are from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. They are swift swimmers, with some species capable of speeds of over 50 mph. Unlike most flat fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red hues. The coloration derives from high quantities of myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule.

Tuna have a remarkable ability to maintain body core temperatures above that of ambient seawater which enhances their superior swimming speeds while running at reduced energy rates. This endothermy is achieved by conserving the heat generated through normal body metabolism via the action of an intertwined meshwork of veins and arteries, known as the rete mirable (“wonderful net”), located in the body’s periphery.

Whenever your love life has gone south, rethink those urgings from friends that “there are plenty of fish in the sea,” as 90% of the big fish in the world are already gone; and if global fishing trends continue, there will be even fewer wild fish left by mid-century. Love the one you’re with?

Across the seas, tuna fisheries face a number of urgent problems that threaten their continued existence and endanger wider marine ecosystems. There have been alarming tuna stock declines and unfortunately poor conservation strategies have been in the making. Troll and long line tuna fishing techniques have resulted in large bycatch, including threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and seabirds.

So, make a sustainable catch at the market and buy tuna nabbed with troll or pole & line gear to avoid the evils of indiscriminate bycatch. Above all, please make tuna a rare treat until populations have had a chance to reload.

SEARED TUNA “NICOISE” WITH TWO VINAIGRETTES & FRISEE

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
Pinch of herbes de provence
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisking gently in a bowl, combine sherry and red wine vinegars, mustard, herbes de provence, salt and pepper. Then, whisking more vigorously, slowly add olive oil in a narrow steady stream to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. May be made a day or two ahead and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Tapenade Vinaigrette
4 T tapenade*
2 t Dijon mustard
2 fresh plump garlics, peeled and crushed gently
1 t sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
2 T sherry vinegar
1-1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Gently whisk together tapenade, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar. Whisking further and much more robustly, slowly add olive oil in a narrow steady stream to form an emulsion. Discard garlic cloves. May be made a day or two ahead and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.

1 lb haricots verts, ends trimmed
3 T spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced

1 lb fingerling potatoes
Cold water
Sea salt

2 fresh ahi or yellowfin tuna fillets, thickly cut 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped

3 T capers, rinsed and dried
1 C cherry tomatoes, halved
1 C yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 heads frisée, cleaned, cored and torn into bite sized pieces

Put green beans in large pot of boiling salted water. and blanch until just tender and crisp, 3-4 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge into ice cold water to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain on cloth or paper towel—otherwise, the beans will become soggy. Then, in a bowl toss with the sliced spring onions or scallions and some sherry vinaigrette. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add liberal amounts of salt. Add potoatoes and cook until fork tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove from the pot and let stand until room temperature. Once cooled, slice and set aside.

Heat a large heavy nonstick sauté skillet over high heat. Brush each tuna liberally with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and lightly with thyme. Add tuna to pan and sear briefly until rare in the center, about 2 minutes per side depending on thickness. Take care just to sear quickly and not overcook, and do not turn the tuna over repeatedly—just once. When done, it should be rare in the center but not cold. Remove from pan and lightly brush one side with olive oil, and lightly season one side again with salt and pepper. Slice tuna across the grain and on the bias.

Toss the green beans, spring onions, potatoes, capers, cherry tomatoes and frisée with sherry vinaigrette. Arrange the green beans, spring onions, potatoes, capers, cherry tomatoes and frisée in a colorful array on each plate and top with tuna slices. Lightly drizzle some tapenade vinaigrette over the tuna.

*Tapenade
2 C Niçoise olives, pitted
3 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
3 T capers, drained and rinsed
2 high quality anchovy fillets
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t Dijon mustard
Dash of brandy or cognac
6 T olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olives, garlic, capers, anchovies, thyme, lemon juice, mustard, and cognac. Process in bursts to form a thick paste.

With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it is thoroughly incorporated into a paste. Season with pepper, then allow the tapenade to stand for an hour or so to allow the flavors to marry.

Pourboire:  apparently, a Dutch study has found that swordfish exude body grease which allows them to swim so rapidly.  While swordfish are the sole members of their family, Xiphidae, and are solitary swimmers, one wonders if the same performance enhancement oil holds true for tuna.

Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods. They stay in bed all day and night. They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers, and wait for their meals to come to them.
~Hector Bolitho

Another instance of less can really be more. Sort of in a quiet mollusk mode this evening, letting the water course over. Going for the basics from the bounty without much fanfare or meandering seemed the right direction. A simple concept, fruits de mer is translated (Fr–>Eng) as “fruits of the sea.” Traditionally, it is served cold on a broad platter and composed of both raw and cooked aquatic invertebrates, including such delights as oysters, shrimp, crab, mussels, scallops and clams. This fruits de mer tartare is purely au naturel and does irreverently include a flat swimmer in the yellowfin tuna.

Oysters, with their reputed aphrodisiac potency, have been a favorite of both lovers and food lovers over time, with Roman emperors paying for them by their weight in gold. Romans were so enthralled by these marvelous mollusks that they sent droves of slaves to the shores of the English Channel to do their dirty work and gather them.

It goes without saying that the freshness of your seafood is absolutely paramount when served naked. The usual caveat applies—know thy fishmonger intimately.

FRUITS DE MER TARTARE WITH GINGER & AVOCADO

12 oysters
10 diver sea scallops
2 oz fresh yellowfin tuna fillet

2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 T chives, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Sliced fresh avocado
2-3 T champagne vinaigrette

Shuck oysters and place in medium bowl with their liquor. Rinse and dry scallops. Coarsely chop oysters, scallops and tuna, mix all together in the bowl and refrigerate for a few hours. Mix tartare with minced chives, chopped ginger, lemon and lime juice. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil.

Serve over fanned out carefully sliced avocado which has been kindly doused with champagne vinaigrette.

A man taking basil from a woman will love her always.
~Sir Thomas Moore

This is admittedly not in keeping with the Tour, but it is a seasonal offering. Tomorrow is the next to last stage with the critical climb up Mont Ventoux, so I will return to France—always the migratory instinct. Oh, to be a tern.

GRILLED AHI TUNA WITH TOMATO, MINT & BASIL VINAIGRETTE

Fresh ahi tuna fillets, thickly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper and white pepper
4 T fresh basil leaves, chopped
8 T fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

3 ripe medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
4 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T sherry vinegar
1 T minced fresh parsley
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely minced
Sea salt

Basil sprigs and nicoise olives, to garnish

Season the tuna fillets all over with black and white pepper. In a shallow dish, stir together 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons each of the mint and basil. Coat the tuna pieces in the oil and herbs to coat them. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours.

In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes and garlic with the remaining mint and basil, lime juice, sherry vinegar, parsley, and shallots. Drizzle in remaining olive oil, whisking vigorously, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so the flavors coalesce.

Preheat the barbeque grill to medium high. Retrieve the tuna and the tomato mixture from the refrigerator and allow them to rest at room temperature until the grill is ready for cooking.

Lightly sprinkle the tuna pieces all over with salt. Grill the tuna about 2-4 minutes per side until seared on the outside and still rare in the center.

To serve, spoon a layer of the tomato mint mixture onto the centers of the serving plates. Slice the tuna filets and fan them over the vinaigrette. Garnish with basil sprigs and olives.

Salade Niçoise

April 3, 2009

The whole Mediterranean, the sculpture, the palm, the gold beads, the bearded heroes, the wine, the ideas, the ships, the moonlight, the winged gorgons, the bronze men, the philosophers—all of it seems to rise in the sour, pungent taste of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.
~Lawrence Durrell

While in mind, has anyone relished Durrell’s acclaimed tetralogy of novels entitled The Alexandria Quartet: Justin, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea? At least savor one, as he so fervently describes the people, lands and mystery of the Mediterranean basin.

Salade niçoise is a classic Provençal one plate meal brimming with valuable nutrients—the tuna and anchovies provide protein and are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids; the olives and olive oil supply monounsaturated fat; the eggs provide protein and vitamins; the potatoes provide energy rich carbohydrates, along with potassium and fiber; and the remaining vegetables add more fiber and a healthy dose of phytochemicals and antioxidants.

To me, the summertime flavors far exceed any health value. But, to each his own.

Salade Niçoise

2 T sherry vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1-1 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste

1 large head Boston lettuce leaves, washed and dried
1 lb green beans (preferably haricots verts)
1 1/2 shallots, peeled and minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ripe red tomatoes (preferably heirloom), cut into wedges
1 lb red new potatoes potatoes, scrubbed

2-3 fresh tuna fillets, thickly cut
Extra virgin olive oil
Several rosemary sprigs

6 organic, free range eggs, hard boiled, peeled and quartered
4 anchovy fillets, packed in extra virgin olive oil
1 C Niçoise olives
3 T capers
3 T minced fresh parsley and chervil

Whisking gently, combine sherry and red wine vinegars, mustard and salt in a bowl. Whisking more vigorously, slowly add olive oil to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning with a lettuce leaf.

Prepare grill to medium high and lay the rosemary sprigs on top of coals. Brush the tuna with olive oil, and place on the grill, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, to rare to medium rare. Transfer to a platter, season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature. Slice and lightly brush with vinaigrette.

Put green beans in large pot of boiling salted water. and cook until just tender and crisp, 3-4 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge into ice cold water to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain on cloth or paper towel—otherwise, the beans will become soggy. Toss with the sliced shallots and some of the vinaigrette. Set aside.

Bring a medium-sized pot of salted water to a boil, and add the potatoes. Cook just until they are tender, about 15 minutes, drain and let cool. Cut into quarters and toss with some of the vinagrette.

Drain the anchovies of oil and pat dry.

Toss the lettuce leaves with a minimal amount of vinaigrette and arrange them in a large salad bowl. Toss the tomatoes with some vinaigrette. Place the potatoes in the center of the platter and arrange a mound of beans at either end. Arrange the tomatoes and tuna on the salad to please the eye. Ring the platter with the hard boiled eggs, and curl an anchovy on top of each. Scatter on olives, capers, parsley and chervil, lightly drizzle more vinaigrette over the dish and serve.

Oh, and lest we not forget — a glass of chilled, crisp white, such as a burgundy or sauvingnon blanc.

Pourboire: A briefer version would entail the use of high quality canned tuna, packed in olive oil.

Seared Tuna

January 28, 2009

Ruling a large kingdom, is like cooking a small fish…handle gently and never overdo.
~Lao-tse

The two crucial issues that I wanted to wag on about—buying fish & sustainable seafood—will need be addressed in a later post. With this now public affirmation there is little choice but to revisit those topics soon.

Apparently deferring thought is one of the blissful liberties associated with this laisser-aller format. Wouldn’t the unrestrained, self conscious 18th Century authors/essayists, Laurence Sterne and Samuel Johnson, have been the stylistic masters of the English speaking blogging universe? Sterne called his spontaneous writings “progressive digressions,” which seems an apt description for a blog. Then again, imagine a Samuel Beckett blog with his playful, pestilent, multilingual pennings.

SEARED TUNA WITH WASABI & SESAME SEEDS

2-3 T wasabi powder
1/3 C soy sauce
3 T peanut or canola oil
1 T dry sherry
2 t sesame oil
2 t peeled, minced fresh ginger
Pinch of dried pepper flakes
1 T rice wine vinegar
4 green onions, thinly sliced

4 6-oz ahi tuna steaks (Hawaii or U.S. Atlantic)—each about 2 inches thick
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Sesame seeds—white and black

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

In medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together wasabi powder, soy sauce, 2 tablespoons peanut oil, sherry, sesame oil, ginger, dried pepper flakes and rice wine vinegar. Taste and then vary quantities to suit your palate. Stir in green onions. Set aside.

Season tuna with salt and pepper and then coat liberally with sesame seeds. Firmly press seeds into the flesh with the palm of your hand. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add tuna and sear briefly until rare but slightly translucent in the center, about 1-2 minutes per side. Take care just to sear quickly and not overcook, but do not turn the tuna over repeatedly—just one turn. Slice tuna across the grain on the bias.

Serve sliced tuna around a molded cup of white rice tossed with roasted almond slices and green onions; then arrange the roasted asparagus spears to your artisitic liking on the plate. Strew jalapenos here and there over the tuna, then drizzle wasabi sauce over.

Pourboire: The tuna can also be served over a variety of greens, such as arugula, frisée, etc.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS

2 1/2 pound medium asparagus, trimmed
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400

Roast asparagus are best with spears that are a touch on the thicker side…more rubenesque. Snap a single spear toward the end so it breaks off naturally. Cut the remaining spears to match so they are of uniform length.

Toss asparagus with oil, salt, and pepper in a large shallow baking pan and arrange in 1 layer. Roast in bottom third of oven, shaking pan once about halfway through roasting, until asparagus is just tender when pierced with a fork, 8 to 12 minutes total.