What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Naked Ahi Chop Chop! When you discover fresh raw sashimi, your brain immediately kicks into the “gotta have it” register. At least, that’s the way it was for me. This Japanese delicacy offered a full-flavored high, without the nasty fishiness that can swear you off fish altogether. But here’s the secret: all ahi tuna is not the same. As I learned from my seafood specialist, sashimi-grade is meant to be eaten raw, so it is handled differently, vacuum sealed, and frozen quickly to the correct temperature to keep it safe. Check the labels, of course. Sushi and Sashimi are not the same thing.
NAKED AHI CHOP CHOP
8 ounces sashimi grade ahi tuna
2 tablespoons pickled ginger, sliced
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 tablespoons unagi sauce
Watercress, for garnish
Run the ahi steak under cold water and pat dry. Slice ahi tuna steak with only one stroke of the knife, against the grain. Each segment should be about one inch thick. Arrange on a platter. Add the pickled ginger to enhance the flavor of the sushi. Squeeze wasabi paste onto a dish for a punch of heat, if desired. Add unagi sauce as a sweetened soy sauce. Garnish with fresh watercress. Serve slightly chilled.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Tuna Tartare with Seaweed! Do you wrinkle your nose when you hear the word “raw”? Some people get a little squeamish. How about if you see the word “sushi”? My grandkids’ eyes light up and their mouths begin to salivate. See the difference? “Tartare” is a fancy word for raw meat or seafood. In Hawaii, you may see the words “Ahi Poke”, which is a healthy raw tuna dish made with the best tuna right out of the sea. By adding a mixture of ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes, the flavor becomes incredibly irresistible. Check out the closest Asian Deli to pick up a container of ready-to-serve seaweed salad. It’s already marinated in a delicious sauce. Together on a plate, you’ve just created a masterpiece.
TUNA TARTARE WITH SEAWEED
2 ahi tuna steaks, cut into 1/4” cubes
3 tablespoons organic soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 green onion
1 red jalapeño pepper, sliced
4-ounce container of prepared seaweed salad
Green onion slivers for garnish
Pat ahi tuna dry with a paper towel. Transfer to a bowl. Add organic soy sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, toasted sesame seeds, the chopped white ends of the green onions, and the red jalapeño pepper slices. Gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour. To serve, place prepared seaweed salad on a plate. Layer ahi tuna over salad. Garnish with the remaining green onion curls.
Dining Outside the Home: Tavern on the Bay in Naples, Florida! Imagine yourself on a sunny afternoon, perched at the edge of a patio, under a swaying palm tree, sipping on a refreshing beverage with a panoramic view of Naples Bay. Ahhh. These are the moments when Time stands still. Notice the Mediterranean-style architecture, the brick-laden pathways, the gurgling fountains, and the waterfront activity. It practically feels like an oasis in the middle of paradise. Feeling hungry? The Tavern on the Bay menu has you covered. The freshest ingredients are used in an ahi poke bowl, chopped salad, prime rib slider, snapper sammie, or shrimp taco. It sure makes choosing something a tough decision. No worries. There really isn’t a wrong choice. Sit back and enjoy.
Dining Outside the Home: Island Gypsy Cafe & Marina Bar in Naples, Florida! Take a side turn off the main drag and you’ll find yourself on a winding road to the magical Isles of Capri, a charming waterfront community as sought after as a coveted treasure map. The Island Gypsy Cafe is recognizable by its weathered bar, salvaged from the stern of an original sea vessel destroyed by a hurricane years ago. Once upon a time the Island Gypsy was a 65-foot fishing boat. Absorb the history of yesteryear among the ambiance of present day. The outdoor Café serves a delightful array of fresh seafood, including coconut shrimp, citrus crusted tuna sashimi, and macadamia nut mahi-mahi. Anyone who has a taste for onion rings will want to add a basket of hand cut batter-fried onion rings to share. The cocktails are as tropical as the desserts are famous. Find your path for hidden riches. And don’t forget to pack your appetite.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Zestful Ahi Poke! Have you noticed all the rage about eating raw tuna? Whether it’s an appetizer or poke bowl, ahi seems to be the star attraction. If you’ve never tried it, perhaps it takes some getting used to. After all, the texture is totally different from cooked fish. When saturated in a spicy sesame soy marinade, I found it absolutely irresistible. Then served with crunchy wonton crisps, taro chips (my fav), or corn tortilla chips it evolves from a curiosity to a craving. Just so you know, premium ahi tuna steaks are now available in the freezer aisle for those, like me, who are landlocked part of the year.
ZESTFUL AHI POKE
2 ahi tuna steaks, premium grade
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
Wonton Crisps, Taro Chips, or Corn Tortilla Chips
Pat ahi tuna steaks dry with a paper towel. Cut into 1/2” cubes. Transfer to a bowl. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped green onions. Gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Serve as an appetizer with choice of chips.
Dining Outside the Home: Cocomo’s Grill on Marco Island, Florida! Laid-Back is their middle name. When you’re on your way to somewhere else, stop by for a little conversation and a familiar face at this island-themed eating house. The mood is always groovy at Cocomo’s, and the positive mind-set is downright contagious. After all, this cozy island oasis is exactly where you want to be right now. Order a platter of Ahi Tuna Nachos. Seared rare is the only way to go, you know. The wonton chips, sprinkled with pickled ginger and snipped scallions, add crispy crunch to that burst of wasabi. Peruse the menu to make a mental note for other favorites later on. Take a break from the sandcastles and beach combing. Did you hear that? Cocomo’s is calling your name.
Dining Outside the Home: Sunset Grille on Marco Island, Florida! Whether you walk across the white sandy beach to the barefoot bar or ramble under the turquoise-blue awning from the parking lot, you can’t ignore the familiar chorus floating across your mind, “…down at the Sunset Grille…”. Prepare yourself for tropical dining. Look around, this is definitely paradise. The view is breathtaking all the way to the aquamarine horizon. Order a crafted cocktail. When you catch your breath… sip, chat, laugh out loud. It’s okay, you’re among friends. These are times you remember. Nibble on the seared ahi appetizer (the seaweed salad is amazing) before moving on to dinner. Perhaps the garden-fresh steak salad, medium rare, will tempt your palate. Order another drink. Stick around for a sunset kaleidoscope of color that will dazzle the senses. And tomorrow you can do it all over again.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Ahi Morning Booster! The secret to cooking ahi tuna is to never overcook it. If that happens, you’ll know because the center will be dark and the fish will taste dry and rubbery. Using a timer will prevent this from happening. For a visual, you want the ahi to appear like a medium-rare steak. By starting off the day with this protein-packed combination, you’ll feel as though you can handle just about anything. You deserve a tremendous boost to help you on your way.
AHI MORNING BOOSTER
1 ahi steak
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon furikake seasoning
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1 piece wheat toast
On a piece of wax paper, combine sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and furikake seasoning. Mix well. Press the ahi steak into the seasonings, coating both sides. Warm vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the ahi steak for 2 minutes per side. A crust will form, while the inside remains rare. Set aside. Meanwhile, spray a ramekin with nonstick oil. Crack an egg into the dish. Pierce the egg yolk with a sharp knife or toothpick. Cover loosely with a paper towel. Microwave for one minute on 30% power. Gently swirl runny egg white. Microwave for one minute longer on 30% power. The yolk will be slightly runny. Place the wheat toast on a plate. Layer with mashed avocado. Slice the ahi steak; arrange over avocado. Transfer the egg to the plate. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Yellowfin Tuna Nachos! I’m not much of a canned tuna fan, but I do appreciate sushi-grade tuna, even if it’s found in the freezer section of the grocery store. Yellowfin and Ahi are two favorites than have delicious flavor. Being mild, yet firm, they work well raw, cubed, seared, or grilled. Be adventurous. Who knows? You may occasionally substitute a beef burger for a tuna burger. But that’s a recipe for another day. Don’t knock it till you try it.
YELLOWFIN TUNA NACHOS
Corn tortilla chips
1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded
1 tomato, diced
1 avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 4-ounce yellowfin tuna steaks
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/2 cup Ranch dressing, prepared
2 tablespoons wasabi paste
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick oil. Layer with corn tortilla chips. Next, layer Mexican shredded cheese over tortilla chips. Divide diced tomatoes and avocado chunks over all. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat a grill pan on high heat. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of the tuna steaks with black sesame seeds. Sear steaks on the grill for 3 minutes; flip and sear 2 minutes longer. Remove to a plate and tent with aluminum foil for 2 minutes. Then slice yellowfin tuna steaks against the grain. Remove nachos from oven. Arrange sliced yellowfin tuna over nachos. In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing and wasabi paste. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over nachos. Serve immediately.