Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Back to the Kitchen

Now that I'm finished with my Japan Series, I need to get back to taking photos of my kitchen adventures. I have been cooking a lot lately but have not been documenting much since most of our meals have been low-effort, summer suppers. It's just getting too hot to spend much time over a stove, and with the abundance of fresh produce at the local Farmer's Markets, there isn't much need to put fire into the equation.

The other day I decided to give my local Pavilions a shot since I was in the mood for some fresh fish but didn't want to pay Whole Foods (AKA Whole Paycheck in some circles) prices. It's hard to part with $40 or more for a weeknight meal, no matter how strong the fish cravings are! The fish at my Von's is a joke- brown, smelly and forever marked with bright orange "Additional $1.00 Off!" stickers which don't exactly signal freshness. Although I am aware that Vons and Pavilion's is the same company, the latter generally has larger variety of fish and meat. Much to my surprise, I found some lovely, thick ahi steaks that did not have that fishy smell- fresh fish should NOT smell fishy.

Even though I daydream about seared ahi steaks often while I sit at work (so THAT's what they pay me for!) I've never ventured into the preparation of one. Strange, no? I've often bought tuna sashimi at Mitsuwa and have even made an enormous bowl of salmon tartar but shied away from seared tuna steaks for fear of over searing, and thus drying out, the tuna. Another worry was the potential for fishy tuna- no one wants to eat fishy fish but it's even worse when the fish is raw, as seared tuna is supposed to be.

I am happy to report that last Monday night, I not only overcame my fear but conquered my tuna demons. Ok, that sounds overly dramatic but I was extremely happy with both the Pavilion's tuna steaks and the recipe which I found here. I let the steaks sit out for about 10 minutes to take the chill off and seared them for only a minute and a half (the recipe says 3 minutes per side but that is way too long) in a couple of teaspoons of hot sesame oil. After placing the steaks on a plate tented with foil, I deglazed the pan with soy sauce and dry sherry to create a sauce. I had picked up some ripe avocados at the Farmer's Market and fanned those along with some Japanese cucumber on the plate before topping with the sliced tuna and sauce. It was absolutely delicious and had all of the freshness and light that you could ask for in a summer dish. Although fresh ahi steaks certainly aren't cheap, the $14.00 total we spent on our portion would barely cover one order in most restaurants.

One of two portions of seared ahi

With the ahi we had a simple side dish of lightly steamed broccoli tossed with a bit of my favorite dressing- it's a "diet" sesame dressing from Japan (found at most Japanese grocery stores). It's just the right combination of sweet, nutty sesame and just-tart-enough rice vinegar. The fact that it is "diet" is just icing on the cake- I'd eat it even if it wasn't! I included it in the photo since I had a few inquiries the last time I blogged about it. I hope you get a chance to try it. It is particularly good on steamed and cooled asparagus, green beans or broccoli.



Jen said...

I love the simplicity of this dish. It not only looks tasty but also healthy. Works for me : )

Anonymous said...

This looks and sounds seriously wonderful.

BoLA said...

Absolutely delicious and perfect for a summer dinner! Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking the other day... I was so *hot* and shweaty from cooking and frying over the stove. Muhaha! And I share your love of korokkes. My favorites are the ones filled with crab meat! =)

Whoosh said...

Oh cool! A new "diet" Japanese dressing for me to try! Thanks so much for the'll be sueful for my next asian mart trip (so I can look for it! yay!). Just curious, what's the calorie count on it?

I have a "diet" dressing too... it's called GOMA (Yasai No Dress) by Ikari (and the bottle describes it as "Non oil dressing with sesame". It tastes *just* like the salad dressing at sushi/hibachi restaraunts....

deenster said...
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deenster said...

Looks great!! You have my mouth watering...making this Monday morning at the office that much harder. :-)
I've been searching for a good goma dressing for a while. I think I'll look for that one tonight on my way home from work.