Seared Tuna Salad & Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

Friday, May 31, 2019

My body is craving lighter meals this week after overdosing on barbecued meats for the last couple weekends. It's tough finding fresh seafood around this area, but yesterday I finally had time to make the drive out to Wegmans. I can always trust the quality of the seafood counter there. After treating myself to a salmon poke salad bowl for lunch, I still had a taste for fish so I picked up a tuna steak. My five-year-old daughter Raven was almost as excited as I was, having tasted my poke bowl and declaring that she too, wanted a "sushi salad." So, a seared tuna salad was in order for both of us, inspired by the ingredients from yesterday's poke salad bowl at Wegmans.

Before we even get to the tuna, what I liked about this salad was that it hit all the texture notes - crisp greens, cucumbers and radishes, soft edamame, creamy avocado, crunchy cashews. As I was editing photos, I realized I forgot to sprinkle with sesame seeds, but I didn't miss anything at all when I ate it! The dressing is sweet, tangy and a little spicy, made with The Essential Table's Thai Chili Tequila Jam. I love the versatility of this jam! As some of you may remember, I used it previously for a chicken stir fry sauce. I've included substitution notes with the ingredient list, but if you can, pick up a jar and support another woman-owned business here in Virginia.

I used my lemon pepper blend to season the fish, because cracked pepper always works nicely for seared tuna. It's one of those dishes that looks much fancier than it is difficult to cook. It is definitely a splurge, because of the cost of fresh tuna, but it's not one that you'll have to worry about ruining. Always make sure you're buying fresh fish from a reputable source. If it looks funky, old, or otherwise unappealing, it's not going to get better by searing it for thirty seconds, so wait until you can find a tuna steak that is worth the money. (By the way, if you don't appreciate the texture of rare tuna, don't bother - you'd be better off buying some good imported canned tuna, which is still a bit of a splurge but obviously not nearly as much as fresh fish.)

All in all, this was an easy lunch to pull off but tasted like something I'd order in a restaurant, so that's always a win in my book. Raven enjoyed her kid-sized salad as well!

Seared Tuna Salad & Sweet Chili Vinaigrette

12 oz fresh tuna steak
1 tsp Kosher salt, more as needed
2 tsp lemon pepper blend*
1 tbsp Thai Chili Tequila Jam**
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp neutral cooking oil, plus more for the skillet (canola, grapeseed or safflower will work)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
2 cups watercress 
1/2 cup steamed and cooled edamame soybeans
1/2 avocado
2 radishes, thin sliced
1/3 English seedless cucumber, thin sliced
1/4 cup roasted cashews, chopped
2 scallions, sliced

Ingredient Notes:
*Any cracked pepper blend can be used here, or use freshly ground black peppercorns
**If you don't have this particular jam, use a couple teaspoons of honey plus a dollop of your favorite hot chile sauce, such as a Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, Sriracha or Sambal Oelek.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 2
Special Equipment: heavy skillet, tongs

Before you get started, season your tuna so that the salt has a little time to penetrate. Rub all sides with one teaspoon of Kosher salt and a generous coating of lemon pepper. Set aside while you gather your salad ingredients.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the Thai Chili Jam, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, cooking oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce. As with any dressing, you can adjust the sweetness and acidity to taste. Add a pinch of salt if necessary too. Set the dressing aside; you'll need to whisk again before using if the oil separates.

Make sure your remaining salad ingredients are completely prepped before cooking the tuna. 

When you're ready, preheat your heavy skillet over high heat until it's just shy of smoking. Add a splash of oil to the skillet. When shimmering, place the tuna steak down in the center of the skillet. Sear for approximately 20 seconds and then flip to sear the other side. You should see the surface of the tuna change to opaque and gradually cook towards the center; the idea is just to sear the surface on all sides. Once the top and bottom are seared, use your tongs to hold the tuna up to sear remaining raw sides as well.

Transfer the tuna to a plate and place it in the freezer. This will stop the tuna from cooking further and help firm it up before slicing.

I plated my other salad ingredients first, while the tuna was cooling. Start with a handful of watercress on each plate and then divide the other veggies. Arrange the edamame around the edges of the plate and finish with a sprinkling of cashews. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.

Once the salads were plated, slice the tuna. Cut perpendicular to the grain, which are the ridges running across the tuna steak.

Divide the tuna slices between your salad plates, drizzle with more vinaigrette, and serve!

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