It has been some couple of weeks – as in, chock full o’ unfamiliar happenings. Since Clayton and I are nothing if not creatures of habit, said happenings have really thrown us into disarray. But my arm has healed and is fully functional again, the particular challenges of study card week (my Harvard peeps feel me) are over, and Clayton is home from his knee surgery – convalescing on the couch, but home, and happy, and hungry for my cooking. A proper shout out to the folks at New England Baptist Hospital is due: thanks for taking such excellent care of my man! He has done nothing but rave about your care, your kindness, and your customer service, and he’s an easier patient now as a result. Danke, dear friends, danke…
But while Clayton is strapped to the sofa and drugged up on dilaudid, my dinners are going to need to be lighter to compensate for his inactivity and loss of appetite. So it’s salads or soups, one bowl meals or single skillet suppers, tinier portions and fatter-freer flavors. Hence tonight’s supper: tiles of tender tuna steeped in classic Asian flavors like soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame, all sweetened with honey and reduced to a rich glaze, atop a bed of gingered greens, and accompanied with a seared slice of gamey goat cheese. Punchy and piquant; the perfect balance of raw and roasted; a harmony of salad and sea and cream.
Sweet ‘N Soy Seared Tuna with Broiled Cana de Cabra and Ginger Dressed Greens
3/4 fresh yellowfin tuna, at least 1″ thick
1 1″ knob ginger, peeled and grated – about 2 tbs
2 gloves garlic, peeled and grated – about 2 tbs
1 stalk lemongrass, tenderized and chopped finely – about 1 tbs
5-6 leaves fresh mint
1 small bunch scallions, chopped
1 Meyer lemon, juiced
fresh spring lettuce mix
1 bunch radishes
2 1″ thick slices of cana de cabra
sea salt, cracked black pepper, EVOO, white vinegar
I should really work with lemongrass more often – it’s yummy. But its tough fibers and woody stalks are a little intimidating, until I beat the crap out of it with the flat edge of my chef’s knife to separate the sweet pith from the spitting pffflat! A quick, vigorous chop up the length of the spine and the gentle flavor of this hard grass is deposited on the surface of my board like the shorn shreddings of an already short beard.
I’ve trimmed my lovely loin of tuna into one perfect rectangle, and one sort of weird shaped piece. The first I’ll use for my main presentation – since presentation is half the enjoyment – the scrap for filler. I place my fishes into my marinade, spoon the deliciousness over every surface, then toss everything in 1/2 of my lemongrass before setting the bowl aside so it can all soak in. I let this stew for 15-20 minutes, while I prepare everything else.
I love radishes. Clayton didn’t like them when we first met, but when I first prepared this perfect simple radish salad for him, he was converted. I slice them very very thinly, using my mandoline, then toss them in 1/2 EVOO, 1/2 super-cold water, 1 tsp white vinegar, a *very*generous* serving of sea salt and a hearty pinch or two of cracked black pepper. As this marinates – the radishes will soften and mellow, while the dressing absorbs the sharp from the radish, and the salt peppers it all up right. 8-10 minutes sitting in the fridge and this sliced beautiful is ready to enjoy.
In a large bowl, I toss my spring greens with a handful of washed, rinsed, and roughly torn mint leaves. With the rest of my soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass – plus a few splashes of water and the juice from 1/2 my lemon, I whisk together the salad dressing, which I then toss with my greans.
This nubbin’ of lovin’ is cana de cabra, a goat (“cabra”) milk cheese log (“cana”) with a striated bloomy ring ripening inwards through two more textures of cream. It’s all the best of a chevre, a double creme brie, and a weird cheese wafer, in one cylindrical package.
Lolita’s crappy oven doesn’t have a bottom broiler, so getting what I want to sear close enough to the top coils to truly broil requires some jerry-rigging. I’ve learned that turning over a typical Pyrex loaf pan (or any other 2″ deep pan) allows me to raise my cook surface high enough off my top rack to transform it into the salamander I want it to be. I line my pan with foil, which I sort of fold upwards around the edge to make a bit of a catch pan (since my cheese might melt and slump), and set it with my oven, set to broil.
… on each side, including the narrow edges — all the way ’round. I want a cold, raw center, but perfectly seared edges cooked to at least 1/4 way in. The marinade on the tuna caramelizes and crisps — this is good. It’s flavah, baby!
After my tuna is cooked to my whims and desires (about 8 minutes all together), I remove it to my cutting board to settle for a few minutes, while I add the marinade to my hot pan to reduce. With a swirl every every few moments, it does so quite nicely, making the perfect glaze to finish my plate.
A full-flavored nest of ginger-soy dressed tender greens, a tight mound of mellowed radish, red-bellied, totally tanned savory seared tuna, and a creamy, melty, goaty puck of cheese, drizzled with a rich glaze. Light–fresh–sweet–nutty–milky–and straight from the sea. With his leg outstretched on the couch, and his plate on his lap, Clayton dove into this delight with more gusto than a man 72 hours after surgery should have – which makes me happy. Now he’s happy inside, and healing outside, and I got to enjoy a damn delicious dinner, too! Lolita’s lighter side is gets to enjoy the sun for a few weeks. While my husband gets better, so shall I.