Cooking Lessons: Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

I am often approached by friends asking for cooking or baking lessons.  While this sounds like a good idea in theory, I must admit, I’m a little “Type A” in the kitchen which can make relinquishing control to a new “student” a little difficult (especially if I plan on taking beautiful pictures for a future blog post!).  However, I decided to give it a shot for once.  My friend requested learning how to make something relatively simple but “healthy”.  Now those of you who follow my blog (or who have been lucky enough to sample my culinary masterpieces) may laugh at the idea of me making anything healthy, but I promise you it is possible!  This salad was inspired by the seared tuna salad at the Hillstone with some minor variations to suit my picky friend.

Below are some of the basic techniques, definitions, and tips I taught my friend in order to compose this salad:

Chopping– When food, generally vegetables/herbs, are cut into smaller uniform pieces but not as small as if it were minced (see next)

Mincing– Cutting food, such as garlic or ginger, into the tiniest pieces possible

Julienning– This refers to cutting food, generally vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, into long match-stick like pieces.  Often used to cut vegetables for a slaw. You can do this by hand (which is tedious), use a special mandolin grater, or buy a special julienning vegetable peeler.

Searing-This is when food, such as meat or fish (aka tuna) is cooked over really high heat to get a nice sear or caramelization on the outside of the meat.  

Vinaigrette- Generally this refers to a salad dressing but it can also be used as a marinade.  It is typically composed of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or acid.  I generally use citrus juice or other vinegars (balsamic, sherry, champagne) for my acid and olive oil for my oil.  In the following Asian inspired vinaigrette I also introduced soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for some acidity and sesame oil.  It is also great to balance out the flavor with some sweetness from honey.  You can use sugar too but the honey also acts as an emulsifier to bring your vinaigrette together (dijon mustard also works as an emulsifier).  Finally, you can add herbs and other flavors such as garlic, shallots, basil, cilantro etc.  Finish with salt and pepper to taste and test the final product by trying on a piece of lettuce dipped into the vinaigrette.

The below vinaigrette would be great on salmon, chicken or shrimp.  You can also add different vegetables (red pepper, snap peas) or fruit (mango, mandarin wedges) to the salad as you please.

While the lesson somewhat deteriorated into more of a demonstration while my friend watched and drank wine, overall I’d call it a success!

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

(serves 4)

Start by making the vinaigrette to the give the flavors time to marinate together.

Cilantro, Honey, Lime Vinaigrette 

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs freshly minced ginger
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk the first 5 ingredients (lime juice through honey) in a medium bowl.  Mix in the ginger and cilantro.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until thoroughly emulsified.  Taste to see if you need salt- because of the soy sauce you may find you don’t need it.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  You will likely need to re-whisk before serving.

Salad

8 oz of mixed baby lettuces (you can use anything you wish here although I’d recommend using against something with lots of flavor such as arugula, I used a mix of frisee and red lettuce but a pre-washed container of mixed lettuce or spinach would work just fine)
2 avocados, halved and sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into about 8 wedges each (can also use halved cherry tomatoes)
chopped cashews or nut of your choosing to top the salad

Toss the lettuce with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette.  Reserve the remaining to drizzle on the tune.  Divide the salad onto one half of 4 plates.  Top each with 1/4 of the avocado slices, tomato wedges and cashews.

Seared Ahi Tuna

4 5 oz fresh tuna steaks (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

Generously salt and pepper each side of the tuna.  Heat both oils in a 12 inch skillet on high heat until a drop of water sizzles.  Add the tuna steaks and cook until browned on each side about 1-2 minutes, so that it is still raw on the inside.

Let it rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes.  Slice AGAINST THE GRAIN (or else it will fall apart) and place next to the salad.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Bon appetit!

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