Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fresh Tuna Three Ways; Tuna and Avocado Tartare, Seared tuna with Mango Peach Salsa, and Toasted Fennel and Cumin Crusted Tuna Steak on a Bed of Spicy Summer Vegetable Quinoa

Avocado Tuna Tartare on Shredded Celery Root-2

If you are a fan of fresh tuna, you are going to love this three course tuna love fest.  The courses were inspired by the idea of using tuna as the central theme running through three preparations of increasingly cooked approaches.  The other theme that runs through the courses is seasonal fruits and vegetables.  Joining Chef Sue and I for this adventure in tunatopia were good friends Don, Beth, Richter and Meredith who contributed to the adventure by bringing wine for the second and third courses – each a beautiful choice.

Main Avenue Fish Market

Fresh tuna, the foundation for this meal is, is the critical step in ensuring success.  Fortunately, living in DC, we have the Maine Avenue fish market where fresh seafood is plentiful.  Picking up a tuna steak at your local grocery is not recommended.  Sushi restaurants use both fresh and frozen fish. With today’s freezing technology, fish can be frozen quickly to retain freshness, flavor and color. As long as it is not kept frozen a long time and goes to the market quickly the fish will have a good fresh flavor.

However, I recommend you stay away from packaged frozen fish, unless it is sold specifically as sushi grade.  When selecting your fish, look for bright fresh color and avoid off or pale colors.  Try to avoid purchasing Ahi tuna or albacore loins that have too many distinct white lines in the flesh.  This sinew is not so much of an issue for the seared tuna, but can make the preparation and enjoyment of the tartare more challenging.  Finally, the flesh should be firm, and should not smell “fishy.”

First Course:  Tuna and Avocado Tartare with Avocado Butter paired with 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Mosel Estate Bottled Riesling Kabinet.

Avocado Tuna Tartare on Shredded Celery Root-1

Along with the fresh tuna flavors, this dish features strong tartness from the avocado butter, and pleasant piquance from the Trinidad pepper sauce.  These flavors led me to select the 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Mosel Estate Bottled Riesling Kabinet balancing the tart and piquance with the mild sweetness of the Riesling.  This wine is subtle and pleasant with flavors of honeysuckle and pear.  These subtle flavors let the flavor of the tuna shine through and made for an enjoyable pairing.

2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Mosel Estate Bottled Riesling Kabinet-1

Second Course:  Seared Tuna with Mango Peach Salsa Paired with 2009 Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

Seared Tuna Over Mango Peach Salsa

I am a big fan of properly prepared seared tuna, and this pairing took it to a new level.  The deep rich flavors of the seared tuna combined with the fresh flavors of the mango and peach (with a touch of heat from the jalapenos) were elevated to a new level when enjoyed with the 2009 Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay hits you first with big buttery flavors – a wonderful butter bomb.  Next you are treated to some wonderful fruit and a delicious mouth feel.  In the words of the winemaker “On the palate, flavors of pears, peaches and melons are backed with lively acidity. A nice touch of vanilla-scented oak provides an added flavor dimension. The creamy palate has a lingering finish of melon and citrus fruit with a satisfying buttery complexity.”  The melon and peach flavors present a splendid compliment to the peach and mango salsa.  This is a wonderful wine that will be making my list of favorites.

Third Course:  Toasted Fennel and Cumin Crusted Tuna Steak on a Bed of Spicy Summer Vegetable Quinoa Paired with 2009 Takutai Nelson New Zealand Pinot Noir

Toasted Fennel Crusted Tuna on a Bed of Spicy Summer Vegetable Quinoa

Finally, our third application of heat.  The tuna for this course was prepared much like the seared tuna in the second course, but at a lower heat and longer time resulting in a beautiful piece of fish heated through while maintaining bright beautiful internal color.  The fennel and cumin crust added deep complimentary flavors that worked brilliantly with the piquance component of the summer vegetable quinoa.  In contrast to the first two courses, this dish demanded a wine with more body, and the 2009 Takutai Nelson New Zealand Pinot Noir responded perfectly.  According to the winemaker, '”The cool, stony-soiled maritime region of Nelson often delivers lighter, fragrant and taut pinot noirs. This Pinot has a lovely nose of cherry jam, mint, wood spice and toasty notes. It’s mid-weight, fairly supple, silky and smooth on the mid-palate, with fine tannin and a toasty, bitter coffee finish.”  This pairing was a pleasant surprise with the relatively deeper and richer medium bodied flavors of both the dish and the wine complimenting each other with brilliant elegance.


Please note that these recipes are based on servings for six (and a few leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!)

Tuna and Avocado Tartare with Avocado Butter
Avocado Butter

  • 2 diced ripe avocados
  • Juice from two freshly squeezed limes
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. This is a tart sauce that you can adjust by adding either more or less honey. I recommend going with the quantities listed, then adjusting to your taste. Don't be afraid of the acidic tartness, it works great with the tartare.

  • 1 grated celery root
  • 3 fresh medium tuna steaks (sushi grade tuna) finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons course mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon Trinidad pepper sauce (see my recipe for Trinidad Pepper Sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 bunches finely sliced green onion
  • 1 diced ripe avocado
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine tuna, olive oil, mustard capers, pepper sauce, cilantro, and green onion in a large bowl.
  2. Gently fold in the avocado and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Plate with a small bed of grated celery root, top with tartare then finish with a dollop of avocado butter.
Seared Tuna with Mango Peach Salsa

  • 3 fresh medium sized tuna steaks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 diced medium onions
  • 2 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 diced ripe mango
  • 1 diced ripe peach
  • Juice from 1 freshly squeezed orange
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 minced fresh seeded jalapeno peppers
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
  1. Sauté the olive oil, onions, and ginger in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the diced mango and peach, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 more minutes.
  4. Add the orange juice, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and jalapeno; cook for 10 more minutes, until orange juice is reduced, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the mint.
  6. Heat a sauté pan over high heat until very hot.
  7. Season the tuna liberally with salt and pepper.
  8. When the pan is very hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and then the tuna steaks.
  9. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the outside is browned.
  10. Slice the seared tuna about 1/4 inch thick and serve over the the salsa.
Toasted Fennel and Cumin Crusted Tuna

  • 1/3 cup whole fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup cumin seeds, toasted
  • 3 tuna steaks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Place fennel and cumin seeds in a coffee grinder and coarsely grind.
  2. Add ground seeds to a hot skillet over high heat and toast until the first signs of smoke appear. Remove from heat and spread over a large plate.
  3. Brush tuna with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat .
  5. Dredge both sides of the tuna in the toasted fennel and cumin seeds.
  6. Sauté, for 5 minutes over medium heat until golden brown, turn over and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Summer Vegetable Quinoa

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups Quinoa
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow zucchini julienned or cut into 1/4 inch rings - your choice
  • 1 green zucchini julienned or cut into 1/4 inch rings - your choice
  • 1 leek finely sliced
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Trinidad pepper sauce (see my recipe for Trinidad Pepper Sauce)
  1. Prepare quinoa according to directions or 2 cups water for one cup of quinoa. Add water to quinoa, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover for 18 minutes.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan and sauté the vegetables until just cooked through.
  3. Add the vegetables, 3 tablespoons olive oil, Trinidad pepper sauce and balsamic vinegar to the quinoa.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Plate a bed of quinoa and top with 1/2 of a tuna steak.
In vino veritas, buen provecho


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