If there’s one thing that reminds me the most of summertime, it’s tuna. At this time of year, I’m all about embracing the season and stuffing our bellies full of local seasonal produce, like squash. However, sometimes you just want a taste of July, right? Sometimes you just desire a little freshness that isn’t so warm and cinnamon-laden, and that’s okay. Freshness, summertime, and the sea. Tuna embodies all of those things.
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Tuna is a great addition to any meal. It can be baked, broiled or grilled. This fish holds up to the flames of even the toughest outdoor grill throughout wintertime. It’s sturdy and holds its shape while being cooked to the perfect temperature, which is debatable. Temperatures between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit are best for ahi tuna, per What’s Cooking America.
If you’re getting your tuna from a reliable source and it’s sushi grade, then there’s no reason you can’t skip the cooking altogether and treat yourself to some maki rolls or sashimi — if you’ve got the knife skills. Otherwise, stick to quality brands of ahi, bluefin, yellowfin, or skipjack tuna. All boast a wonderful flavor that isn’t too fishy, for those who aren’t huge seafood lovers for that very reason. The clean taste that tuna offers makes it one of the most desired fishes of the sea.
When grilling tuna, it’s important to keep in mind that fish can dry out very easily. You’ll want it to be very moist before putting it onto the hot grates of a grill. A grilled tuna marinade is a great idea for this reason. In addition, those grates need to be heavily seasoned or oiled beforehand so that the delicate surface of the tuna won’t stick. If you’re brave enough to chow down on the skin, keep it. It will help to seal both flavor and moisture into the fish that you would lose without it. Keep the heat on medium. It needs to be hot enough to sear the flesh and cook the fish, but low enough that it doesn’t scorch it or burn the skin.
While it might seem like that crisp, crackling skin is the product of a scorched surface, tuna skin is actually much more flavorful and digestible when cooked slowly, allowing the fat under the skin to render perfectly. If you are using a charcoal grill, keep the grates high above the flames and don’t use flavored charcoal bricks. This isn’t chicken. You don’t need to add flavor to tuna this way. You can if you want to, though. However, note that a lemon or citrus flavor would blend best. You don’t want mesquite flavors or earthy woods when it comes to fish.
As previously noted, tuna can be dried out very easily. There are great marinades available online for several varieties of tune. An ahi tuna marinade is particularly enticing during the fall and winter months when our diets are usually full of starches, meats and other overly heavy and carb-loaded meals. For the base of any marinade, oil is necessary. The best oils to use for tuna are olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or coconut oil. Keep in mind that coconut oil will add a bit of a tropical flavor to the tuna, too. If you’re going to use a recipe that incorporates similar elements, such as mango or pineapple, then it might work wonderfully. However, if your recipe is more along the lines of tomato bases or saltiness, like adding capers, then you’ll want to stick to something like olive oil that has less flavor.
Try This Out
For a taste of summer that is still easy to pull off in colder months, stick with recipes that don’t involve produce that is out of season. Does that mean you need to cook your tuna with a side of pumpkin? No. There are many year-round options that compliment tuna very well. This recipe from Tyler Florence of the Food Network is a great example.
Pan-Seared Tuna with Avocado, Soy, Ginger and Lime
- A few hefty bunches of cilantro, chopped
- Two small jalapenos, thinly sliced
- 4 tsp. fresh grated ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic, grated
- The juice of 8 limes
- ½ cup of soy sauce
- 1/8 cup sugar
- Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 2 cups olive oil
- 4 blocks of sushi grade tuna (6 oz. each)
- 4 ripe avocados
Tips: Ginger is great to keep on hand year-round to give those hearty, heavy dishes a little kick. It can be purchased at the peak of freshness and stored in the freezer all year long. If you’re trying to veer toward staying healthier and avoiding soy — which is mostly derived from GMO crops in America now, per the WHO — you can opt for coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Remember, a ripe avocado is light yellow to dark green in hue inside, and dark green to brown on the outside, and it will slightly give way to pressure on the skin. A brighter green exterior that is firm means it’s not ripe yet. You can help to speed this ripening process by placing your avocados in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter for a day or two.
First, you’ll want to mix the cilantro, jalapenos, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce or coconut aminos, sugar, salt, pepper, and half (1/4 cup) of the olive oil in a bowl. Make sure the sugar is dissolved and everything is well blended. Using a skillet placed over medium-high heat, pour 2 tbsp. of olive oil into it for each tuna steak you cook. Use salt and pepper liberally to season the tuna steaks.
Lay the steaks in the hot oil. Give it a good minute on the first side to form a crisp surface, then flip and do the same on the other side. Then pour half of the marinade mixture onto the tuna, coating the fish. Spoon additional mixture from the pan onto the fish. Now it’s time to plate! Allow the fish to rest for five minutes. Then serve with the sliced avocado and remaining cilantro mixture. While the original allows for one serving, you’ll find our version of it suits a family of four. Enjoy!