Good news! According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, when properly fished for, many varieties of tuna make their “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” list for guilt-free healthy dining. That includes Yellowfin and Big-eye, both of which you will commonly find on sushi menus and can be caught by hand line or deep-set trolling lines. Bluefin, which some people consider the caviar of the species (especially the fatty toro cut), should be avoided. Drifting long lines have depleted the supply and if you just think about it, it’s not fair. Not to the fish and certainly not to the environment.
Now that we’ve set the table, next question. Why don’t more people attempt their own home versions of tuna sashimi or sushi? There is a lot of debate about whether “sashimi grade” is a real term or a marketing ploy. And there certainly are fish you do not want to eat raw. But before you rule out these recipes for raw or rare tuna, ask yourself: How well do you know the chef at your favorite local sushi place? Did the fishmonger just walk through the door carrying the day’s catch? Or is your sense of safety beefed up by staring at those beautiful slivers of fish wrapped in plastic beneath the chilled glass at the sushi bar?
When I shop for fish for raw, I go to any decent fish store wherever I may be. I choose local or line-caught or day boat varieties. The fish has to look beautiful and have no off scent, of course. I have made sashimi from Farmer’s Market fish if it is well-stored and looks like it was just caught. When I lived in Gloucester, MA your culinary worth was defined by having a friend who was a professional fisherman. When someone came in with fresh scallops in the shell and shucked them for you straight from the nets, you won!
So for these recipes, shop fresh and local, know your fish person, ask questions, trust your eye and nose, and if you are pregnant or have any health issues, follow all the standard cooking procedures. Sushi and sashimi may simply not be the right choice for you.
Season a 1/2 to 1 lb. tuna steak on each side with sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
Heat a stick free pan or skillet with a teaspoon of vegetable oil to very hot.
Lay the tuna in the hot pan and allow to sear for 2-3 minutes. You can see the crust forming and watch the wellness without moving the fish. Flip only once.
Sear the other side for a minute or two, or until you see the reddish pink color you are comfortable with.
Remove from pan and slice like a steak, on the bias.
Pairs well with a simple green lettuce-y salad, or perhaps a Ramen stir fry with Bok Choy and mushrooms.
Chill or even briefly place a 1-lb. tuna steak in freezer. You want the fish cold and firm.
Cut into chunks approximately 1 inch by 1 inch.
Cover each chunk of fish with a piece of folded-up Saran wrap. Then tap it with a meat tenderizer tool, or the side of a can of soup or beans. (I use a small hammer!) Tap, don’t whack. The fish will thin and spread out, as pictured above.
Lightly drizzle sesame or fruity olive oil, and a bit of soy or fish sauce across the spread.
Add finely chopped onion, or capers, or jalapeno. It can also stand a bit of black pepper or a sprinkle of sea salt. Voila!
Tuna and Scallop Sashimi
Thinly slice a small hunk of raw tuna on the bias and plate it like artwork.
Using fresh, plump local sea scallops and your sharpest knife, slice the scallops on the bias and mix in with the tuna for color and variety.
Serve with soy sauce and Wasabi mustard (available at most stores prepared in a tube or as a powdered mustard).
In a future piece, FOOD FOR MARRIAGE will explore the nuance and delights of fine Sakes, hot and cold.