Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Abundant and economical, tuna has a flavor for your every craving

It’s been tuna week at my house, which isn’t a bad thing.

Fresh tuna is abundant here in Mazatlán, either from the seafood markets in Playa Norte, vendors in the central mercado or, my newest happy discovery, at a small shop that sells flash-frozen fish, shrimp and other seafood. I can get tuna medallions weighing about a third of a pound for 35 to 40 pesos (under US $2). What’s not to love?

Tuna fishing season in the Pacific is from January to November; and while frozen tuna isn’t the same as fresh, it’s still OK in my book.

And what kind of tuna would we be eating? Well, most likely it’s Yellowfin tuna (ahi) or maybe Bluefin, both of which are caught and farmed in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Flavorful and fatty, they’re the tunas of choice for sushi, searing and grilling.

Bluefin, with their aerodynamic, bullet-shaped bodies and ability to swim up to 40 mph, grow and mature slowly and are therefore not as commonly found. Some Bluefin species can weigh 2,000 pounds and reach 10 feet in length.

You'll find yourself quickly addicted to these tuna burgers.
You’ll find yourself quickly addicted to these tuna burgers.

Albacore and Skipjack tuna are milder in flavor, with lighter flesh — not those thick, red steaks — and are what’s used for canning.

Skipjack, the most abundant species of tuna, is often called “light chunk tuna” and is also known as Arctic Bonito. Some of you may be familiar with dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi), widely used in Japanese cuisine.

 When cooking tuna, a quick sear or grilling is all that’s needed; more than a few minutes and the meat will dry out. Best to leave the middle rare or raw.

 Fresh Tuna Burgers with Grilled Pineapple

Also delicious served as patties!

  • 1 tuna medallion, about 1-inch think, approx. 4 inches square, diced fine
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. mayo, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp. yogurt
  • ¼ -inch chunk fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp. canned jalapenos, minced
  • 1-2 tsp. sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup-plus panko crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sesame, coconut or olive oil for frying
  • ½ cup fresh pineapple, cut in small chunks
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, whole
  • Slivered red onions
  • Ciabatta rolls or burger buns

Mix soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. mayo, yogurt, ginger, jalapenos, 1–2 tsp. sesame seeds, panko, salt and pepper.

Add more panko until mixture sticks together but is still gooey. Cover; let sit for 15 minutes.

Heat oil, make into two patties and fry on medium-high heat, turning once, until outside is crispy and browned. (It’s OK if tuna is a little pink inside.)

After frying both burgers, remove from pan and in same pan, sauté diced pineapple quickly until lightly browned.

Toast Ciabatta rolls or buns, spread with mayo. Place burger on bread, top with cilantro leaves, slivered red onion, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and pineapple.

Makes 2 thick or 3 thinner burgers.

When cooking tuna, it's best to leave the middle rare or raw.
When cooking tuna, it’s best to leave the middle rare or raw.

Honey-Lime Glazed Tuna Steaks

Halve this recipe for two servings.

  • 4 (6-ounce) tuna fillets
  • 2-3 limes, juiced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together lime juice, oil, vinegar, garlic and ginger. Lay fillets on a plate, season with salt and pepper and spoon half the glaze over them, turning to coat evenly. Refrigerate and marinate 30 minutes. Mix honey into remaining half of the glaze. Heat a grill or heavy skillet over high heat.

Cook tuna about 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare to medium. Brush glaze over the cooked side, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Hawaiian Poke (POH-keh)

No need to spend lots of money ordering this at a restaurant — as long as you have super-fresh tuna, you can easily make it yourself.

  • 1 lb. fresh tuna steaks, cut into bite-size cubes
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions, tops included
  • ¼ cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: 2 tsp. finely chopped macadamia nuts or roasted peanuts, sliced avocado, bean sprouts, shelled edamame, shaved radish

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. (Save nuts for garnish.) Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. — Hawaii Magazine

Seared Tuna with Peppercorns

  • 2 (5 oz.) tuna medallions, about 1-inch thick
  • ½ Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • Salt

Melt butter with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppercorns and cook until they soften and pop, about 5 minutes. Gently place tuna in the skillet and cook about 1½ minutes per side. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Bet you can't eat just one of these sliders.
Bet you can’t eat just one of these sliders.

Nicoise Salad

  • ½ lb. fresh tuna steaks
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 tsp. zest + 1 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemons
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, oregano or cilantro leaves
  • 2 tsp. mayonnaise
  • ¼ tsp. honey
  • 2 medium potatoes, cooked and cooled, cut in bite-size chunks
  • 6 Tbsp. blanched, cooled string beans, cut in ½ -inch lengths
  • ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped Niçoise or Kalamata olives
  • 3 Tbsp. slivered red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • Optional: 6 marinated anchovies
  • 8 leaves red leaf, romaine or bibb lettuce

Rub tuna with 1½ tsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tsp. oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; sear tuna for 45 seconds each side, then rub hot fish with cut side of garlic. Cool. Cut into ½ inch cubes or slices.

Whisk remaining ¼ cup oil, lemon zest and juice, fresh herbs, mayonnaise and honey; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl or platter, gently toss or arrange tuna, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, olives, onions, capers and anchovies, if using, with dressing. Serve atop lettuce leaves.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. A retired journalist, she has lived in Mexico since 2006.

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