Making things up; menus as inspiration
Ever since my trip to New Orleans last fall, I’ve been day-dreaming about the fabulous meal I had at The Green Goddess – and all the enticing things on their menu that I didn’t have a chance to try. One, in particular, keeps coming back to haunt me: a dish of seared tuna and diced watermelon, of all things, called Tumblin’ Dice. Now, I don’t have access to the more esoteric ingredients – fennel pollen, for instance. But the basic concept, pairing warm, barely cooked tuna with cool watermelon, sounded like a fantastic high-summer meal.
Having acquired the tuna, I hit the supermarket and picked up a small, sweet seedless watermelon. After pondering flavor combinations, I came up with this. Call it a Pacific Rim tribute to a great New Orleans restaurant.
Fresh (or shipboard-frozen and thawed) tuna loin
1/2 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
dried hot chili peppers, crushed (I used two fiery little Thai chiles)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp sesame seeds.
Seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into cubes
Tender greens of your choice (I used baby lettuce and chives from my garden)
Pickled sushi ginger
Wasabi mayonnaise (mix prepared wasabi into store-bought mayonnaise at a strength that suits your tastes).
In a large resealable bag, combine lime juice, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, chiles and black pepper. Add the tuna loin, seal bag and turn several times to coat the fish with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
When dinner time rolls around, prepare watermelon by cutting it into inch-thick slices, removing rind and cutting the slices into cubes. Place melon cubes in the fridge (or freezer!) while you prepare the fish.
Remove tuna from refrigerator and drain off marinade. Sprinkle sesame seeds in a plate, and roll the tuna loin in them to coat well.
Heat a large, heavy skillet on high until a drop of water sprinkled onto the surface sizzles and dances.
Using tongs, place the tuna in the skillet (you may want to cut it in half to make it fit) and sear each side for about a minute, if you like your fish, as I do, cooked on the outside but pink and rare-to-raw inside. Feel free to cook it longer if you prefer, although it won’t be as luscious.
When fish is cooked to your taste, transfer to a cutting board. Remove melon cubes from freezer and pile on plates. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cut inch-thick slices off the tuna, and arrange atop the melon, garnish with greens. Serve now, with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger.
Depending on the size of the fish, a whole tuna loin can easily serve 4-6 people. If you wind up with leftovers, as I do, the best bet is to wrap it in foil, pop it in a 350F oven and let it cook through (it should only take 15-20 minutes), then refrigerate. Me, I’m going to be taking fabulous tuna sandwiches and fresh watermelon cubes to work for lunch this week.