Sometimes it takes me a while to come around to certain foods. For years I could not understand the logic behind combining sweet and savory foods, and then one day I ate a salad packed with huge chunks of watermelon tossed with deliciously salty squares of feta cheese and, oh, my lord, life had never been better.
Meats, however, are still a tough sell for me. I’ve mentioned this before, but I just can’t get behind most meats, and, if I do decide to go near them, I am frequently struck with the terrible notion to instruct whoever is serving me said meat to just burn it, char it—do whatever is needed to make it seem less meaty and tendon-filled. But then I’ll virtually inhale a plate of sushi and not flinch, which, I know, does not make any sense at all.
But to me, it sort of does. Whereas rare meat seems, to me, utterly and unmistakably meaty, fish is so much less fishy when eaten either rare or simply raw. Thus, I have arrived at the logic that, hey, if you just barely cook your fish at all, it’s somehow less meaty and weird. At least, that’s where I arrive when I approach the cooking of a piece of fish, and, I admit, it’s an end point I’ve reached only after years of eating dry, hardened fish that I either purposely cooked until inedible or instructed others to do for me. Over a decade ago, in a terrible fit of fear and squeamishness, I actually begged a friend of mine—who is a professional chef, I might add—to please, please char the daylights out of a tuna steak for me, as I was not feeling up to the task of tackling a meat that was left pink and soft. To her credit, she complied with my request, and, boy, did I ruin that meal for myself.
But years have passed, lessons have been learned, and now, aware of the myriad of ways I have managed to ruin countless meals for both myself and others, I have come around to the very wise notion that, when it comes to cooking fish, less is more. Tuna steaks, in particular, can go from transcendent to terrible in just a matter of a minute or two, but when done right, the outside perfectly seared and the inside lustrous and bright, it’s tough to understand why anyone would ever want to subject their meal—and themselves—to a fate made deliberately less delicious. Having become fully aware of this, I have now vowed to conquer a medium-rare steak. (Confession: I am not actually going to do that.)
Seared Tuna Steaks with Salsa Verde
4 tuna steaks, rinsed then patted dry
olive oil, for brushing
freshly ground black pepper
Very lightly brush each tuna steak with olive oil, then generously salt and pepper both sides. On a well-oiled, very hot grill or grill pan, sear tuna steaks for about 1 minute on each side. Grill should be hot enough to make an audible sizzling noise when tuna steaks are laid on the hot grill. If you desire a more heavily cooked tuna steak, sear it for up to 1 ½ minutes, but be cautious to not overcook your fish. It gets dry and rubbery very quickly.
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (about 2 ½ large handfuls of whole herbs—I used basil, parsley, and mint)
¼ cup pitted chopped green olives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
To make salsa, combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and toss to combine. If your olives are particularly salty, you will not need to add much, if any, additional salt to the mix.
To serve tuna, cut each steak, against the grain of the meat, into thin slices. Top with salsa verde.