Who among us enjoys using a 400°F oven during the summer? That would be: Nobody. Ever. For me, summer is synonymous with barbecuing, which is first cousin to steak, hamburgers, chicken and grilled veggies.
Recently introduced to tuna steaks, I’ve now gone over to the light side. On a recent trip to Victoria, good friends had us over for dinner and served one of the best meals we’ve eaten in years. While most of the component parts were healthy, some were deliciously questionable, in terms of caloric heft (see lemon mousse below). The star of the meal, by a long shot, however, was the marinated tuna steak, grilled on the barbecue. Even though it was more well done than I prefer, it was still juicy, incredibly flavourful and tender. I like my tuna steak with grill marks on the outside and pink rareness on the inside. Most good fish restaurants serve it like that. Despite the variance in preferences, our friend cooked it to perfection. As with all good things, I like to share my enjoyment with others. So, you’re welcome.
You can buy frozen tuna steaks at lots of stores. Fresh is even better, but not always available. For your culinary edification, did you know that Pacific bluefin tuna are approximately five feet long and weigh about 130 pounds? (Think: that’s bigger than me!) Apparently, the world record for the largest bluefin tuna caught was set in Nova Scotia in 1979. It weighed in at a whopping 1,496 pounds. How do you even land something like that? It’s like the Tuna That Ate New York. The tuna we had was cut into petite steaks of about five inches by three inches, and was one-inch-thick perfection.
MARINATED TUNA STEAKS
4 4-ounce tuna steaks
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
salt to taste
In a large non-reactive dish (does this mean it’s even-tempered?), mix together the orange juice, soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, oregano and pepper. Place the tuna steaks in the marinade and turn it over to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Bring to room temperature before grilling/frying. Preheat grill at high heat, or pan sear on high in a frying pan.
Lightly oil grill grate or frying pan. Cook the tuna steaks for approximately five minutes, then turn and baste with the marinade. Cook for an additional five minutes, or to desired doneness. I’ve read recipes that call for as little as a 45-second-per-side cooking time, so, use your own discretion. Discard any remaining marinade.
Serve it up with a side of guacamango salad (see below), and you’re sure to get a thank you note. Add some tri-coloured baby new potatoes and, voila, just like that, your guests/partner/pets will think you’re Julia Child!
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I can cook and not give people E. coli. I have been known to give my husband and I food poisoning from bad lamb. In my defence, it was a full moon and I was unsupervised. I’ve also been known to accidentally coat snapper in icing sugar instead of flour. Because Harvey and I were in our “courting” phase, he ate it nonetheless. I went out for takeout sushi. This is one of Harvey’s favourite stories. Mostly, I just cook stuff that it’s humanly impossible to screw up. Or, I let Harvey cook and, since he thinks that cooking is like doing a chemistry experiment, I say, knock yourself out Science Guy.
Never heard of my newly created gaucamango salad? Feast your tastebuds.
SHELLEY’S GUACAMANGO SALAD
2 large, ripe Ataulfo mangoes, diced
2 large, ripe avocados, diced
lime juice, to taste
fresh mint, chopped roughly
Mix all the ingredients together and tell me this isn’t the freshest-tasting summer salad you’ve ever eaten. Just try me.
As I’ve told you before, this accidental balabusta puts a premium on fast, easy meals, especially during the summer months. And, preferably, recipes that call for fewer than six ingredients, including spices. However, I made an exception for the lemon mousse, which breaches my boundaries for both patience and level of patchkerey. But, man, is it worth it! I usually never try recipes that involve separating eggs, because, well … it’s just dicey. Add in the double boiler element and we’re moving precariously into Ina Garten territory. But my friend’s rendition of this was just so darn good, I couldn’t not try it. If you’re a lemon lover, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re a sourpuss, you also won’t be disappointed.
LEMON MOUSSE DESSERT
1 pouch gelatin powder
4 eggs (separated)
60 grams (or 4 3/4 tbsp) sugar
1 pinch of salt
250 grams (or 1 cup) whipping cream
Wash the lemons. Zest the peel of one lemon and set it aside. Squeeze the juice of both lemons and set it aside.
Separate the eggs. Whisk sugar into the egg yolks.
In a double boiler, heat the egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk continuously until very hot (but not boiling). If you’re like me and don’t own a double boiler, just set a bowl on top of a pot of hot water instead.
Slowly whisk in the gelatin powder, then add the lemon juice and zest. Put mixture into the fridge to cool, whisking occasionally.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm. Beat the whipping cream.
Once egg yolk/lemon mixture is cooled, gently mix in the egg whites and whipping cream until just combined. Pour into a glass serving bowl for a pretty presentation. Chill in the fridge for a few hours and then garnish with raspberries on top.
This dessert is both fluffy and light, despite all the whipping cream. And the lemon zest gives the richness a welcome bit of texture and zhuzh. This lemon mousse is a spectacular, tart addition to any meal, plus it looks über impressive. Go ahead, boldly go where no accidental balabusta has gone before. Until now. B’tayavon!
Shelley Civkin, aka the Accidental Balabusta, is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.