In most parts of the country, late September means leaves are turning their wild autumn colors, the air is getting crisp, and sweaters come out of hibernation, smelling like cedar or mothballs. Not here in Southern California. It is the hottest time of year. I never know whether to get a few more weeks out of my summer whites or sweat it out in my fall wardrobe. I feel awkward, caught in between seasons, longing for the carefree days of summer but wishing for colder weather to settle in.
Every year around this time, appetites in our house go schizzy, too. One morning last week, my daughter asked me to make roasted vegetables and pumpkin seeds for dinner, while my husband requested a salad. It was just too hot to crank up the oven, but cold greens did not seem hearty enough for an early fall meal.
When I saw a giant frilly head of napa cabbage at the farmers market, I knew just how to resolve all the culinary dithering. As a matter of fact, this recipe has come to the rescue on many an occasion throughout the year. The tuna, briefly seared around the edges but raw and deliciously carnal in the middle, gives the salad vigor; the vinaigrette lends an Asian flair; and the cabbage, when tossed at the last minute, adds a lacy-leafed crunch. Add it to your repertoire — for any time of year or hungry indecision.
1/2 head (about 1 pound) napa cabbage, shredded
1 bunch chives, chopped
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup seasoned or light rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional
1-1/2 pounds ahi tuna loin, cut into a log-shaped fillet about 3 inches wide and 8 inches long
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 egg whites
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
1. Make the Asian Slaw: Toss the cabbage and chives together in a medium bowl; set aside. In a small jar with a lid, combine the remaining ingredients and shake well; set aside.
2. Whisk the egg whites with the minced garlic in a shallow bowl. Place two kinds of sesame seeds on a plate, mix together and set aside.
3. Season the tuna generously with salt and pepper. Coat the whole piece in the egg white mixture, shaking off excess. Finally, dip the tuna in sesame seeds, patting them to cover the tuna completely.
4. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat until smoking hot. Carefully place the tuna into the pan and sear on each side for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. The tuna will be pink inside.
5. While the tuna is cooking, toss the cabbage and chive mixture with just enough dressing to coat the leaves completely. Remove the tuna from the pan and slice it into 1/4-inch thick medallions.
6. Make a mound of slaw in the middle of each serving plate and arrange five tuna medallions around the slaw. Drizzle extra dressing over the tuna and around the plate.
Try our Seared Halibut with Roasted Tomatoes.
Photo credit: An Insatiable Appetite