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Say aloha to ahi tuna

By Maggie Blackwell
For The Salisbury Post
I ran across some gorgeous Ahi tuna steaks in Costco last week and bought them knowing that I didn’t know a thing about how to cook them. This impulsive act resulted in one of the best meals our household has ever had.
Ahi tuna is the same thing as yellowfin tuna, aptly named because they have two sets of fins that are yellow. Their bodies are steely blue. The name “Ahi” is Hawaiian for smoke. When fishermen would pull these fish in, the ropes would rub so hard on the edge of the boat that they would heat and create smoke.
Yellowfin is quite popular in restaurants nowadays. Presented in much the same fashion as fine red meat, it is often seared to rare to medium-rare. I was glad to learn its popularity stems in part from the fact that it is not endangered and its harvesting presents no conservational threat.
I cruised my collection of cookbooks as well as the Internet to find out how to prepare it, and wound up marrying several of the recipes I found to come up with my own concoction.
As an appetizer, I prepared Winter Greens Salad with Goat Cheese and Champagne Vinaigrette from the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Although I rarely buy anything from them, reading their catalog brings me great pleasure, and I invariably find a new recipe. If they cut me off from their mailing list, and they have before, I will go online and order something so I will get the catalog again.
I served the Seared Ahi with Roasted Asparagus and Lyonnaise-ish potatoes, again my own recipe. A dear friend gave me her recipe for Lyonnaise potatoes about 30 years ago, but over the years I have developed my own method for preparing them. I couldn’t come up with an original name for them, so I just call them Lyonnaise-ish.
The recipe for Roasted Asparagus came from a delightful website called “Cooking for Engineers.” Check it out at www.cookingforengineers.com.
This Web site tells you virtually everything you need to know to make the given dish. How to prepare it. What kind of pan to use. Where to put it in the oven. What happens if you cook it longer than recommended. How to arrange pans in the oven if you need to use more than one pan. It truly does “engineer” the food and leaves no room for error. Please don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe; it is so simple to make but answers every question you never thought to ask.
One of the recipes for Seared Ahi Tuna called for Italian breadcrumbs. Lacking these, I used crushed cornflakes. I tend to get a box of cornflakes and put it in the blender while I put away the groceries, then put the crumbs in a ziplock and keep it in the freezer. When I make salmon loaf, voila, there they are. I believe the Italian breadcrumbs would be a bit herbier, but I did mix in some fresh parsley from the herb garden.
Because the veggies take a while to cook and the tuna is so quick, you can prepare the marinade, put the tuna in, cook your veggies, then take the tuna out of the marinade and cook it. Enjoy!
Winter Greens Salad with Oranges & Goat Cheese
From the Williams-Sonoma KitchenFor the vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. champagne or white wine vinegar
Zest of 1/2 orange
1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 C. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the salad:
8-ounce log of goat cheese
1 C. finely chopped toasted pecans
1 head frisee, leaves torn
1/2 head radicchio, thinly sliced
4 Belgian endive, thinly sliced
4 oranges, peeled and segmented
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the vinaigrette, in the cruet of a Salad Chef, combine the vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, mustard, mayonnaise, olive oil, salt and pepper and blend according to the manufacturer’s instructions until emulsified. Alternatively, in a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients until emulsified. Set aside.
Cut the goat cheese into 1-ounce rounds. Using your fingers, carefully reshape any uneven rounds. Put the pecans in a breading pan or small bowl. Roll the goat cheese rounds in the pecans, pressing lightly so they adhere, then transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until the cheese is just soft and warm, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine the frisee, radicchio and endive. (Mixed greens work fine if you can’t find these ingredients.) Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat the greens evenly. Divide among 8 salad bowls or plates. Using a metal spatula, transfer 1 goat cheese round to each salad and garnish with the orange segments. Serve immediately. Serves 8.
Seared Ahi Tuna Steaks
1/2 C. olive oil
1/4 C. tamari or good quality soy
1-2 crushed garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Crushed corn flakes
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix oil, tamari, garlic and lemon juice in a shallow glass dish. Cut ahi steaks into strips and marinate in the pan, covered, for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Flip once.
Meanwhile, add parsley to about a cup of crushed corn flakes.
Make 2 rounds of olive oil in the largest iron skillet you have. Heat the oil as hot as you can without smoking. On my stove this is just on the high side of medium heat. Take out the ahi tuna, sprinkle with kosher salt and coarse freshly-ground pepper, dip in the corn flakes, and drop in hot skillet. Sear it on one side, flip and sear on the other. Total time per side is about 3 minutes.
Lyonnaise-ish Potatoes
5 large white potatoes
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Wash but do not peel potatoes. Thinly slice them, sprinkle kosher salt, run them under the broiler for about 10 minutes to crisp them up a bit.
Layer potatoes in a baking dish, grind pepper over them, and layer with freshly-grated parmesan cheese.
Note: I have tried using the “fresh” parmesan in the little tubs from the dairy section of the grocery, but this did not give the best results. I use a micro-plane grater and grate the cheese directly into the dish.
Layer potatoes, cheese, potatoes, cheese.
Put it in a 350-degree oven with the lid on, while the asparagus cooks in the same oven, about 15 minutes. The parmesan will be a lacy delight and potatoes will be soft, done, with a touch of brown on the edges, but not dry.
Roasted Asparagus
1 pound fresh asparagus
Olive oil
Kosher salt
First, place a rack into the center of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.
While the oven is warming up, wash the asparagus to remove any dirt particles that may be lodged in the tips or stuck to the stalks.
Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus stalks. The bottom of the stalk is fibrous and not very pleasant to eat, so just grab the bottom and bend until it snaps.
Let the stalk snap at a natural breaking point as close to the cut end as possible. This position will be different for each stalk, but will very nearly guarantee that all your asparagus stalks will be tender.
(Cutting off the bottoms doesn’t work too well since you have to guess where the stalk stops being tender.)
Pour about 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil per pound of asparagus onto a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.
Using your hands, roll the asparagus through the oil and rub them against each other until the oil coats them all. Spread the asparagus out in the sheet pan to form a single layer. Apply freshly ground black pepper and salt to the oiled asparagus.
Place the asparagus laden sheet pan into the oven and allow it to roast for 10 to 15 minutes.
Roasting the asparagus until it just changes color from a medium green to a dark green will result in tender but still somewhat crisp texture.
Continuing to roast until some light browning appears will provide a mushy and somewhat limp texture with a heightened flavor. Continuing to roast will dehydrate the asparagus and result in a fibrous mass in the shape of blackened asparagus.
This recipe can be doubled or quadrupled without adding additional roasting time. If you need to use more than one sheet pan, then set two racks near the ? and ? positions in the oven.
After about 6 or 7 minutes or roasting, rotate the pans and finish.
 

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