Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tuna Salad (Not your Grandmother's) with Asian Dressing or How Not to be Afraid of Cooking Fish for YOU

Cook your tuna as you like...I like it fairly rare.

A piece of fish or two is a delicious, smart, economical, and healthy buy for the solo cook.  To begin with, you can buy fish by the piece.  You  not only get exactly the amount you need, but you get to pick your fish and talk to the fishmonger.   You might even get to talk to other people in line.  What are they buying?  How are they cooking it?  Ask them.  Soon they'll be asking you.

Fish inspires fear in many cooks:
  • Is it fresh? (It should smell good if it's fresh.) 
  • How do you cook it?  (If in doubt, drizzle with olive oil/salt/pepper,  saute/grill ten minutes per inch -5 if in sauce- and squeeze a bit of lemon on top at the table.  Some folks like salmon or tuna medium or rare.)  Unsure?  Cut it and look.  Is it opaque and or flakey (if a white fish)?  Then it's done. 
  • Will it have bones?  (Make sure you have a good fillet, but still be careful.) 
  • I don't know that kind of fish.  (So ask.)  Start with salmon and tuna.  They're bigger and more forgiving than skinny sole fillets..which are actually about the fastest thing in the world to cook.
To see some helpful videos about cooking fish, click here. (Free 7-day trial available.)
    Shopping tip:  If you use the same place each time you buy fish, you'll come to trust them and they'll come to know you.

    For the solo cook, I recommend buying two pieces of fish.  Cook them both at the same time and use the second piece for a salad or sandwich or snack the next day.  Cooked salmon is great stirred into almost done scrambled eggs; it also makes a great spread/dip.  (Mix into softened cream cheese, dill, onion, etc. and serve with bread or crackers.)  Leftovers create the need for invention and  the practice of invention makes a good cook.  When I made this salad, my husband liked it better than the original meal and said he'd eat it every week.  Interesting?

    Here's the meal my tuna salad came from. I made an extra tuna steak and had enough salad for two, in fact.

    I ran out of asparagus or would have used that in the salad.  Instead, I cooked a few green beans in the microwave.

    Wine?  Dry riesling.  The Washington state ones might be more available than the German ones, but you can always ask.  If you can't find dry (above 10% alcohol), try any riesling and see what you think.

    Tuna Salad with Asian Dressing  serves 1-2

    1 tuna steak, cooked (See below* for cooking directions if yours is raw.) and sliced thinly
    2-3 cups spinach
    1/4 c fresh basil leaves, optional
    1T chopped mint or cilantro, optional
    1/2-1 c cooked green beans or other green vegetable like asparagus
    1/2 c cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
    1 egg "boiled" in the microwave**
    Squeeze of fresh lemon
    Salt and pepper

       1.Whisk together:  1/2 t minced garlic; 1/2t Dijon-style mustard; 1/4 t honey;  1 t white wine vinegar; a pinch each: crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt and freshly ground pepper
      2. Whisk in 2t Soy Sauce; a drop or two of hot sauce and a few drops of Sesame oil (optional)
      3. Drizzle in,  whisking until smooth and shiny (emulsified), 1T olive oil.
      4. Taste by dipping in a piece of spinach. Adjust seasonings as desired.

    Note:  If you don't have all these things, the dressing will still work--try it out and keep tasting until you have something you like.  The dressing must be quite high in flavor, saltiness and acidity to stand up to such a good-sized salad.   You might also like a bit of grated fresh ginger.

    Place greens on a dinner plate (including basil, mint or cilantro, if using) and create a well at the center.  Spread out the sliced tuna in the well.  Add green beans, tomatoes and egg to the surrounding greens.  Arrange it as artfully as you can.  We eat with the eyes first.  Squeeze fresh lemon over all and dust everything with a bit of salt and pepper.  Drizzle with dressing/sauce.  Eat cold, at room temperature, or hot.

    *To cook medium- rare tuna, heat saute pan or grill pan (or grill) to high.  Brush tuna with canola oil and dust well with salt and pepper.  Cook two minutes on one side (3 for medium), turn over and cook for two on the other side.  Remove to another plate and let rest two minutes or so before slicing.

    **To "boil" an egg in the microwave:
    1. Spray a microwave-safe bowl well and all over with Pam (or equivalent). (Or butter it.)
    2. Break egg into bowl and pierce yolk and white by pricking both with fork; the yolk needs once only.
    3. Salt and pepper, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and cook for 1 minute.  This is a musical experience...quite percussive.  ( Careful:  Can explode if not well-wrapped.  This would be a big mess for you to clean up.  Not fun.)  
    4. Remove carefully using mitts from microwave; it's very hot. Let it sit a minute or two before removing wrap.      
    5. Chop or slice.
    **To boil and egg on the stove:  Place an egg in a 1 qt sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When it's just come to a boil, cover and shut the heat off.  Let it sit about 13 minutes (if I have 4-6 eggs, I let them sit 15 minutes.) before pouring off the hot water and adding cold water to the pot.  I even put some ice in sometimes to speed things up.  Gently tap the shell (all over it) on the sink wall.  Turn the cold water on and peel the egg under the cold water, trying to find the sweet spot with your fingers where  the cooked egg will separate from the shell without too much egg white remaining on the shell.  Note:  Some people say fresh eggs don't peel well.  I haven't had that experience.

     Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

    Photos by Alyce Morgan; please ask for permission to use:

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