• Seared Ahi With Grapefruit And Fennel

    Seared Ahi with Grapefruit and Fennel.

    Seared Ahi with Grapefruit and Fennel.

    ahiMany of you know how much we like fennel here at the farm. Usually simply caramelized, or in risotto, fennel brings a light anise flavor and subtle, earthy sweetness to many dishes. We love it and think fennel is an underused and under-appreciated ingredient. So when we see a restaurant dish using fennel, we often try it out at home. And in this case, while in Kauai, we tried a dish of seared ahi with a light “slaw” of thinly sliced, barley pickled fennel and supremes of ruby-red grapefruit. It rocked, so we tried to make it at home.

    ahi5ahi6ahi7And we are glad we did. Not only because it was a delicious dish, but it served as a reminder to us about what restaurant dishes we should try to cook at home. In general, we often avoid making restaurant dishes, they tend to be complex, use purposefully esoteric ingredients and are often cooked with equipment most home cooks just don’t have. But then there are restaurant dishes that simply combine quality fresh ingredients with a few basic techniques. The resulting dish seems upscale, and it is, but anyone can make the dish if they know a few tricks. This is one of those dishes.

    ahi4ahi3All you need to make this dish is some very fresh ahi (and that may take some time to find, save this recipe for when you get it), a rocket-hot pan, a very sharp knife and some technique. The hot pan is to sear the seasoned ahi about 45-60 seconds per side (max). That is all you need, then slice the ahi to stop any cooking in residual heat.The sharp knife is to peel the grapefruit and cut “supremes” from between the membranes. This seems like a lot of work, but it takes just a few minutes and is easier than you think. Just do it over a bowl and reserve the juice. Then thinly slice the fennel (we add some radish as well). And if you have a small hand-slicer or mandolin, this gets even easier.

    ahi8ahi9To finish the dish you simply make a quick pickle of the sliced fennel and radish. Quick pickling is one of the easiest ways to quickly add flavor to a dish, you just combine sugar and salt with sliced veggies for about 15 minutes then drain the veggies. We add a splash of rice wine vinegar here as well. Then you assemble the dish. Layer the grapefruit supremes and slices of the ahi and then add a splash of the reserved juice and a bit of rice wine vinegar. Then add the pickled fennel and radish. Season and serve. And the whole thing takes maybe 25-30 minutes.

    ahi1And what do you get? A beautiful, flavorful and balanced dish that is pretty healthy, too. The light but meaty ahi goes very well with the acid of the grapefruit and the sweet, earthy crunch of the fennel and radish. It looks and tastes like a restaurant dish, but almost any home cook can make it.

    ahi10Seared Ahi With Grapefruit And Fennel:

    (Adopted from Bar Acuda in Hanalei, Kauai)

    Notes before you start:

    • You can use most types of tuna for this dish, and you do not have to serve it as rare as we do. But tuna past medium-rare gets very dry. Tuna is expensive, so if you prefer well-cooked fish, other recipes may be a better choice.

    What You Get: A restaurant-quality dish with less work than you think.

    What You Need: No special equipment required, but a hand-slicer or mandolin is always nice for slicing veggies.

    How Long? 25-30 minutes with 10 minutes of active time. This dish takes less time than you might expect. Anytime dish.

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course)

    • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cleaned (a few fronds reserved)
    • 6 small radishes
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
    • 1 pound fresh ahi tuna (preferably cut into a rectangle by your fish monger)
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 tablespoons high heat cooking oil like peanut or canola
    • 1 large ruby-red grapefruit

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  • Spring “Kitchen Sink” Risotto

    riso4

    Couldn’t resist leading with the asparagus.

    I guess you could also call this “caramelized fennel and asparagus risotto”, but what fun is that? In any event, we tend to get excited as spring breaks loose and we buy up all sorts of stuff at the farmers market. And right now, asparagus just came in, the fennel is rockin’ (and we have Meyer lemons in orchard). Time to make risotto. And since we have some Serrano ham, parmesan, pecorino and saffron, may as well toss them in as well. But it is really up to you how you accent the veggies. Like we said, this is a bit of a “kitchen sink” recipe.

    riso

    Spring "Kitchen Sink" Risotto.

    Spring “Kitchen Sink” Risotto.

    But the key elements in this dish truly are the spring veggies. Caramelized fennel (one of our all-time favorite dishes) sweetens when cooked and is a perfect foil for the earthy asparagus. Put them in a creamy risotto and you have a lovely spring dinner. And we make extra, as the leftovers are also a real treat. The only downside of this dish is that it is risotto. And cooking risotto takes time. Expect 45 to 60 minutes of total time. Some extra prep may shave off a few minutes, but it is what it is.riso5

    riso8riso7The upside of risotto is that it is very easy to make, and any home cook can get some very “pro” results. And once you know how to make risotto, you can make dozens of variations. And if you garden or get a CSA box, risotto is an excellent use for all sort of random uncommon veggies. (Btw, if you want some serious risotto recipes, Stefan’s Gourmet Blog is the place to go, he knows his stuff.) Basically, all you need to do is a bunch of chopping and stirring (and tasting). Once you get the knack, it just comes down to the flavors you use.

    riso6riso9riso13 Continue reading