When I require a firm fish for creating recipes, I prefer ahi tuna over halibut, as the later tends to be drier. I discovered in Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, that the excellence of tuna steaks is enhanced by both eggplant and black beans; lemon and garlic also compliment ahi. It took courage for me to experiment with blending all the above together in a dish needed for a special occasion, during which I honored the Lomilos from Uganda. 1
Cooking takes risks, as life does; nothing comes automatically. A patient, pressing-in is required to foster creative mastery.
I learned an important lesson in my early thirties when I moved to Portland, for then I was struggling to overcome an addiction to alcohol. In the process of sobering up, I was taught to trust in the history of old-timers in areas that I didn’t yet have enough victory of my own. As a result, I listened carefully to my elders’ testimonies, holding fast to their professed truths. The pay-off was great, for I haven’t had a drink since 02/06/86.
In like manner, I have reached out to experts in the culinary field over the years; thus, amplifying my own inherent strengths. The outcome is an acquired proficiency in successfully combining foods, as exemplified here.
I see parallels between skills gained in cooking and those procured in living. Continuing with these teachings in my blog holds promise that ability, in both these areas, will be attained.
I can’t stress enough that patience and trust are essential elements, as we walk in the light each of us has, taking baby steps of courage to rise to our next level.
True to form, I sought help from experts in writing this recipe and its history. For instance, I needed to know more about not overcooking tuna. Harold McGee teaches about the meat-red-color of certain tunas in On Food and Cooking; it is caused by the oxygen-storing pigment myoglobin, which is needed for this fish’s nonstop, high-velocity life. This deep red color is lost, if this fish is not frozen well below minus 22 degrees F, which helps explain the brownish color of some frozen tunas. When cooked, it looses this blood red color at about the same temperature that beef does, between 140-160 degrees F. 2
It is best to under cook this food, or dryness will result. If you like your meat rare, you will probably also like rare tuna; thus, be careful to check for color during its preparation.
Let’s humbly learn from the masters, purposing to keep all seeds of knowledge protected in fertile soil.
Eat hearty, this is a delicious fish!
- Andrew Dorenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 187, 273.
- Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 194.
Ahi Tuna with Black Beans and Eggplant Dish Yields: 4 servings. Total active prep time: 1 1/4 hr.
6 tbsp oil (Avocado oil is best, coconut oil will do; olive oil produces carcinogens when heated to high temperatures.)
1 med yellow onion, halved and cut in 1/8 inch slices
1 lb eggplant
1/4 c water
3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed (2 small lemons needed.)
4 tsp salt, or to taste (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)
2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste
5 lg cloves of garlic, minced (3 frozen cubes of garlic from Trader Joe’s makes preparation easier.)
1-15 oz can of black beans (Organic is best; Simple Truth brand at our local Fred Meyer’s is very economical.)
2 tsp crushed dried red pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried ginger
2 tsp dried oregano (Organic is available for $1.99 at Trader’s!)
4 ahi tuna steaks, or about 1 1/3 lb
1 tsp sesame oil
For caramelizing onions, halve onion and cut into even 1/8″ slices. Heat 1/2 tsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; place a small piece of onion in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of onion and turn heat down to med/low (do not crowd your pan with too many onions, or they will steam, producing water, and it will take longer to cook them). Cook, stirring about every two minutes, until color begins to change. At this point, stir every minute, until dark brown in color. Onions should cook long enough to stick to the pan, in order to brown, but not be left so long that they burn; you may have to lower temperature and add a little more oil. When cooking is complete, deglaze pan with a little water, stock, wine, or vinegar. Meanwhile go to next step.
- Cut eggplant in small 1″ cubes, set aside.
- Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with your hand to loosen juices. Juice lemon and set aside 3 tbsp.
- If using fresh garlic, mince now.
- In another large pan, heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in pan; place piece of eggplant in oil; when it sizzles, add rest of eggplant. Cook until soft, stirring frequently; then, add 1/4 cup of water and deglaze pan (scrape bottom with a wooden or heat resistance plastic spatula to loosen cooked on fond, see photo). Cook until water is evaporated; this vegetable will be rather mushy.
- Stir in onions, lemon juice, and garlic; salt and pepper to taste. If garlic is fresh, cook only until you can smell it; see Tomato/Feta Chicken-2016/07/25-for tips on cooking with garlic. If using the frozen cubes, cook just until melted and blended in well.
- Gently stir in the can of black beans, which has been drained; do not over-stir, as this breaks down beans. Adjust seasonings. May set aside to finish just before serving. If serving immediately, proceed to step 8, in which case turn down heat to med/low under eggplant (see photo at top of recipe for finished product).
- If finishing later, began this step 15 minutes before serving time, otherwise proceed now. Blend together 4 tsp salt, 2 tsp fresh ground pepper, dried red pepper, garlic powder, ginger, and oregano; rub seasoning into tuna steaks. (If bean mixture is cold, begin reheating it for 8-10 minutes over medium heat before sautéing tuna, stirring occasionally.)
- Melt 4 tbsp oil and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large sauté pan over med/high heat (this must be a heavy-bottom pan). When oil is sizzling hot, sear steaks 2 minutes per side for med/rare, give or take 1/2 minute for rare or medium. The time may need adjusting as thickness of steaks varies; you can check the color of tuna, by piercing thickest part of fish with a sharp knife to check for doneness (it should be somewhat red for med/rare). The color will also show on the sides of the steak. Do not overcook tuna.
- Serve with caramelized onions and carrots (next week’s post). Enjoy!