Today’s Recipes: Ginger-Soy Marinated Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Aioli, Cold Sesame Noodles, and Chili-Soy Vinaigrette
Ahi is one of The Artist’s favorite foods. Ranging from a deep crimson color to medium pink, it is considered a delicacy in much of the world. It is widely used in raw fish dishes, especially sashimi, and is also showing up often in ceviche. I am more of a teriyaki fan so I usually leave the sushi for him to enjoy.
Ahi is the Hawaiian name commonly used for Yellowfin tuna and occasionally Bigeye tuna. Extremely high in protein (92%) and naturally low in total fat as well as saturated fats, sodium, carbohydrates and dietary fiber, it is a nearly perfect protein source. It is also high in energy producing B-complex vitamins and selenium, which assists the body in the creation of antioxidants. In addition to fueling your body, the protein in Ahi supports your immune system and helps promote lean muscle development.
You definitely want to buy sushi-grade tuna from a reputable fishmonger. Any lower quality and I would be concerned about the safety of serving it rare or raw. The main muscle of the fish is triangular-shaped with rounded corners. Any shape other than that has most likely been trimmed or comes from another part of the fish.
It is always important to know where your fish comes from and how it was caught. In the case of Yellowfin tuna, you want to make sure it was caught in the U.S. Atlantic or Pacific by troll or pole-and-line fishing techniques. This is important for the long-term health of the oceans and the longevity of the tuna. If you want to learn more about these techniques, click Here for information from Seafood Watch, an incredible organization affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium here in California.
When you are cooking Ahi tuna (not to be confused with commonly canned “tuna” which is albacore) you must be careful not to overcook it. Either plan on serving it raw or give it just a quick sear on the outside, leaving the center uncooked. Cook it too long and it becomes tough, dry, and rather unappealing.
My favorite method to cook Ahi is a quick sear on a hot grill. I love the flavor you get from the smoke of a live fire. But if the weather is bad or you just want the convenience of cooking inside, use a stovetop grill pan for almost the same results. Make sure that both the barbecue and indoor grills are smoking hot before you start cooking the fish. A quick blast of heat will cook the exterior, leaving you with the results you want.
Ahi definitely benefits from strong seasonings, particularly wasabi, a form of horseradish. The most common way we see wasabi is ground into a vibrant green paste that we blend with soy sauce for a sushi dipping sauce. Wasabi root is difficult to find but thankfully you can now buy powdered wasabi in tiny cans that have a long shelf life and give us instant access to the delightful flavors and heat of wasabi.
I like incorporating wasabi in both the marinade, which infuses the flavor into the center of the fish, and as a condiment. The wasabi aioli is a little like a spicy tartar sauce. I always use low fat mayonnaise to make mine, and I never miss the extra calories. If you are watching your weight and want to reduce the fat calories even more, you can also mix some of the wasabi paste into soy sauce and use it instead for a dipping sauce.
Make friends with your local fishmonger and have him tell you when they are expecting their next delivery of fresh Ahi. Then you can plan on serving this when it is at its freshest.
I have also included recipes for a sesame noodle salad and an Asian vinaigrette for a mixed green salad. The three recipes together make one of my favorite meals, well balanced, healthy and beautiful on the plate. As my mother always said, a “pretty” plate is a healthy plate!
Happy Festive Friday – have a wonderful weekend everyone!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When cooking you always want to have all of your ingredients prepared ahead of time, ready to use when you need them. This is called mise en place (meez-en-plahss), a French culinary phrase that means everything in place. All ingredients are measured out and cut, if anything needs to be partially cooked ahead of final cooking that is done, all equipment you will need is out on the counter, the oven is heated if needed, etc. This allows you to cook your dish without stopping to gather or measure anything, greatly increasing your efficiency. This is especially important in Asian cooking where you are often stir-frying ingredients that only need a minute or two before adding the next items.
Kitchen Skill: Cutting Julienned Vegetable
Julienne is a type of knife cut where foods are cut into thin strips. Sometimes called matchsticks or shoestrings. Cut your ingredient to the desired length and then trim so that the sides are flat, creating thick rectangular slices. Stack these slices and cut lengthwise into equally sized thin strips.
Ginger-Soy Marinated Ahi Tuna with Wasabi Aioli
Jane Evans Bonacci – The Heritage Cook © 2011
Yield: 4 servings
3 tbsp soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten-free)
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1/4 tsp wasabi powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Asian garlic-chili sauce
2 to 4 sushi-grade Ahi tuna steaks
Organic olive oil
White sesame seeds
2 scallions, tough ends discarded, remainder cut into 2-inch pieces and julienned
1 carrot, julienned, optional
Fresh lemon and lime wedges
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 to 3 tsp water, as needed
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise or homemade mayonnaise
1 tbsp very finely grated fresh garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce (use Tamari for gluten-free)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Pinch sugar, optional
Make Marinade: Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Marinate Fish: Place tuna steaks in a resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press out most of the air and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turn the bag over and continue marinating for another 30 minutes.
Prepare Aioli: While fish is marinating, make the Wasabi Aioli. In a small bowl combine the wasabi powder and water. Use enough water to make a fairly thin paste. Combine the wasabi paste with the remaining aioli ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Prepare Fish: Heat an outdoor barbecue or indoor grill pan until very hot. Remove fish from marinade and wipe off excess; discard marinade. Rub the grill grates with a light coating of oil and cook fish quickly until just seared on the outside. Depending on how hot your grill is this will take about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat. The tuna will have grill marks but will still be raw in the center.
To Serve: Transfer fish to serving plates, sprinkle with sesame seeds, place a dollop of the wasabi aioli next to the fish and garnish with the julienned scallions, carrots and citrus wedges. You can also pre-slice the tuna and serve fanned out on the plate to make smaller portions look more substantial.
This is delicious served with a sesame noodle salad and a green salad tossed with Asian vinaigrette. You can also go more casual and serve it like you would a hamburger on a bun with sliced onions, tomato and lettuce.
Cold Sesame Noodles
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Feel free to adjust the sauce according to your own taste, increasing or reducing the amount of sugar and hot chili oil if desired.
1 cup mung bean sprouts
12 oz egg noodles
4-1/2 tbsp sesame oil, divided
1 cucumber, peeled
3 tbsp red rice wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or balsamic
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp hot chili oil
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Blanch the mung bean sprouts in boiling water and drain thoroughly. Transfer to a large bowl.
Cook the noodles until al dented, using the package directions as a guide. (I usually cook them about 1 minute less than the lowest time.) Drain the noodles thoroughly, add to the bowl with the bean sprouts, and toss with 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp sesame oil.
Peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a spoon, and cut into matchsticks. Add to the noodles and bean sprouts
To prepare the sauce: Combine the remaining sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and hot chili oil.
To serve: Add the sauce to the noodle mixture and toss well to coat evenly. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.
Jane Evans Bonacci – The Heritage Cook © 2011
Yield: about 1/4 cup
1-1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce, to taste
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake until emulsified. Store in the refrigerator.
You can use this delicious dressing with a tossed green salad, for an Asian slaw, or as a marinade. Transfer leftover marinade to a saucepan and bring to a full boil. Cook for 1 minute. Brush on marinated chicken or fish as it cooks. You can also cook it down further until slightly thickened and use a sauce.
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