If you happened to be in my house and heard me slurring together a long stream of loud and nasty words from the attached garage, you could correctly guess the freezer door had been left ajar and certain preciously-stored food stuffs had begun to defrost. (Or that a mouse had chewed a hole in something like my best bag of coffee.) Now I’m not dumb and my memory is intact; I always lock the freezer door after grabbing a pack of burgers or a quart of soup. I learned the hard way during Covid’s scarcity months that’s the only foolproof method to insure everything remains at 0 degrees F, which is where you need long-stored food. Somehow in the previous day or two, I had turned the key but perhaps didn’t push the door closed tightly. Luckily (phew and phew again) most things were still hard as a rock, but there were a couple of packages of –sigh– thawing meat and fish out toward the front of the middle shelf. 3 boneless heritage pork chops were tossed into the fridge for another night, but 2 good-sized tuna steaks needed nearly immediate cooking. Had I planned on fish? Did I have anything to go with it? Well, I’d better because there was going to be tuna for dinner.Jump to Recipe
Regular readers will remember our trusty source of game and occasionally fish, Lee Lehmkuhl. Now Lee hunts all kinds of things I like to cook (how about that Wild Goose Breast Salad?), but for the past couple of years has also taken to fishing vacations where he’ll haul home halibut from Alaska or pack up tuna from California. Hello, sweet fish!! My close friend Pam, his wife, has the big job of keeping track of all this bounty and distributing excess meat or fish if their freezers threaten to be overrun. I love being on the receiving end of that problem and, even more, appreciate an opportunity to cook something I might not have cooked otherwise. This particular package of tuna, along with another of similar size, had just come home with us from a wine dinner/sing along last week. I thought I had a couple of months to dream up some new recipe, but instead I had no time at all. A quick marinade from me and a fast grill by my trusty sous husband Dave had the tuna saved, cooked, and ready for our waiting tummies. A quick perusal of the kitchen fridge showed leftovers from a good-sized bowl of an orzo salad I’d made for friends Sue and Audie on Monday night as well as a nice container of olive tapenade. Well, yes, dear; it all went with lamb chops, but I thought it would also snuggle up happily to tuna — and so it did. I then sliced up a few fragrant tomatoes. (Do buy Campari tomatoes –worth the price –if your garden is out of tomatoes. I have a few measly cherry tomatoes left that might not be worth keeping or eating.) Because what doesn’t go with fresh tomatoes?? Here’s how it came together:
And what was that side dish? Ina Garten’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables is a yummy go-along I make once or twice a year, often in the summer. Special note: these leftovers keep soooo well. I double the vegetables (except the onion and garlic), adding zucchini and /or summer squash and cut down the feta, but otherwise follow the recipe fairly closely. I’ve doubled and tripled the recipe, served it with smoked turkeys to a crowd or cut the recipe in half to go with a little grilled salmon for two. Versatile plus delicious = practically perfect.
Don’t have fish fear. You can do tuna on the gas or charcoal grill outside, on an indoor grill pan, or in a heavy skillet. Just make sure whichever you use is well-oiled, the fish is seasoned, and you don’t cook it too long. If you like well-done fish, be prepared for it to look and taste like pork tenderloin, not tuna. Do have everything else ready (table, sides, wine) before you put the fish on the grill (in the pan) when you try this:
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar- or any white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 large plump garlic clove, minced
- 2 (6-ounce) tuna steaks
- Tapenade (separate recipe below)
- PREPARATION: Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Oil the grill racks with paper towels saturated with a neutral oil such as canola.
- MARINATE THE TUNA: Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a measuring cup. Place tuna steaks in a non-reactive container (glass, stainless steel, or plastic) and pour half the marinade over the fish. Flip the fish and pour the other half of the marinade on top. Let fish rest in the marinade while grill heats.
- GRILL THE TUNA: Grill the tuna directly over the heat elements, turning once, for 3-5 minutes on each side until it is seared on the outside and either rare or pink on the inside. (Cook a little longer if you like your tuna done.)
- PLATE THE TUNA: Add each fillet to a serving plate and top with 3-4 tablespoons tapenade. Serve hot.
- Cover tightly any leftovers, refrigerate quickly, and eat within a day or two
WINE: A French red Rhône…what else? Remember to pair the prep, not the protein–my own adage. But the other axiom that’s true here is an old one all wine folk love, “What grows together goes together.” In this case, tapenade is a Provençal dish…and Rhône is, of course, made in the south of France. Et voilà!
- 2 cups pitted Kalamata olives or a mixture of green and Kalamata olives
- 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, thyme or basil, minced, optional
- 2 anchovies, optional, but mighty
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, sliced
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or substitute lemon juice and white wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons your best quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper, optional
- Mince olives, parsley, rosemary, anchovies, capers and garlic. Stir together with crushed red pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Mix well, taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed. (You might need no salt at all as the olives are quite salty.) Or place all ingredients except salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse carefully until a finely chopped paste forms–you don’t want this puréed. But…Oops! You over processed? This is still quite edible if the food processor has had its own way and you have puréed tapenade.
WHADDAYADO with extra tapenade? Well, it can make a party salad like this:
…or top some simple greens like this:
..or be a star in a group of appetizers:
Tapenade (tah-pen-AHD) is lovely on salad, chicken, pork chops, on grilled bread slices, over eggs, and more. It can be made with any olive or with a mixture. A midnight snack with crackers or celery sticks might use up any last bits. It will keep two weeks in the fridge if stored in a jar with a tightly-fitted lid. Do not freeze.
Best buy for tuna — check out frozen fillets in the frozen section of your grocery, COSTCO, or Sam’s. Make sure to remove the fillets from the plastic (cryopak) packaging before thawing overnight in the fridge or more quickly in gallon freezer bags in cold water. There’s a danger of botulism if you thaw the fish in the plastic with which it’s frozen. Read up here.
LIFE GOES ON:
We had a lovely rain to boot and afterward were entertained thus:
Glad to be back in the blog saddle after a short break to re-carpet and, in the meantime, clean out my office. A few trips to Goodwill later, all’s well again, and I’m thrilled to have a neat, organized space! I then took off a couple of more days to enjoy our friends Sue and Audie’s visit. Sue, often know here as “Suzy” and I have been fast friends since 1978 and food is one of our ongoing mutual interests as she’s a fantastic cook. We’ve cooked a lot of meals together or for one another over these 44 years. All memorable. This is Sue of Suzy’s Lemon-Almond Shortbread Bars.
Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen. I hope you’re enjoying the start of your fall. Always remember,
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” ― Laurie Colwin
It’s nice to be in this together,