• Chad’s Ahi Tuna Tartare

    tartar1tartartartar2It may sound a bit contrived, but we do seem to have something about traveling to the end of the road. If there is a road that ends in a sunset, or a sunrise, we seem to find ourselves there. The beaches of Kauai or the East End of Long Island call to us almost every summer (that they are both about the same distance from Norcal is just a coincidence). Other than a clean horizon, these two places don’t have a lot in common….expect maybe for surf (another um….coincidence) and incredibly fresh fish.

    tartar7tartar8And while we love the striped bass of Long Island (do we ever), the fresh ahi, also known as yellowfin tuna, of Kauai is our favorite treat. But, to be fair, there is great ahi and bluefin tuna in Long Island and our experience with this recipe started in East Hampton. Our friend Chad makes something between a tuna tartare and a Hawaiian poke’ every summer in Long Island, and now that recipe makes the trip to Kauai along with us.

    tartar9tartar10We call this dish a tartar in respect for Chad, but it is pretty close to poke’, the Hawaiian staple of chopped raw fish, seaweed, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil and roasted nuts. Chad’s version omits the seaweed (we serve on nori) and adds finely diced sweet onion or shallot and a big pinch of lime zest that adds a bright citrus note that makes the dish truly sing. And depending on what’s available, some hot chili paste, Sriracha or wasabi add a nice kick.

    tartar11tartar12This is an easy recipe to adjust as you make it, so just start with small amounts of the seasonings and tune / taste as you go. The key here is the ahi. Firstly, the ahi must be very fresh. It is best to make this dish in the place the fish was caught, or to get a piece of sashimi-grade ahi from a fish monger you trust. Once you have the ahi, you need to get it very cold (firming it up in the freezer for an hour is OK) and cut into small cubes of 1/2 to 1/4 inch. This takes a sharp knife, time and patience, but your efforts will be rewarded. You will also need to remove any white sinew you get while slicing, it is nearly inedible and will ruin the texture of the tartare. Then just take your chopped ahi, mix in the other ingredients and tune for your tastes. Fun.

    tartar13As for serving the tartare, you have a few options. The easiest / fastest way is just to serve it with some crackers (Triscuits and rice crackers both work very well). But we prefer a trifecta of nori squares, quick pickled cucumber slices and potato chips. The tartare will keep a few days in the fridge, so serving it over rice as a main course is also a very tasty option. Usually, however, leftovers are not an issue.

    tartar4Chad’s Ahi Tuna Tartare:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • You can use other sashimi-grade tuna like bigeye or bluefin as a substitute for the ahi. Very fresh sushi-grade salmon also works very well.
    • If you don’t have macadamia nuts, roasted peanuts are a decent substitute.
    • Black or red Hawaiian sea salt makes for attractive presentation.

    What You Get: One of the best fish dishes you can find. Healthy, too.

    What You Need: A very sharp knife.

    How Long? About 20-30 minutes. It all depends on your knife skills.

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  • 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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