A recent headline on a story in the Gardening Section of my local Sunday paper proclaimed “eating tuna can improve your lawn”. Are you kidding me? Cancel my subscription, please!
Now I’m no horticulturist for sure. I’m even challenged when the string breaks off on my weedeater. Furthermore, edging is definitely not part of my job description, but suggesting that I eat tuna for a beautiful lawn is an attack on both tuna sandwiches and Charlie the smiling Tuna - not to mention the tuna that is mounted on the back wall of one of our well-known seafood restaurants. Okay maybe it’s a swordfish.
What the gardening expert is telling you is that in order to find out how much water your irrigation system is catching in a particular area you need to set out a minimum of 10 tuna cans. What he failed to mention is the number of litter boxes that would be needed as well.
How would you like to be awakened one morning to find your yard overrun with cats? Wet cats at that if the irrigation system is operating properly. Do you know what wet cats smell like? Guess again because It is not tuna sandwiches.
I like tuna for sure. It has great omega-3 health benefits. What I don’t like is the prepared tuna salad that comes packaged at the grocery store. It is mayo infested.
I grew up eating tuna salad tossed with mayo on white bread slathered in mayo. As much as I miss many of my childhood favorite foods, one look back at my adolescence pictures is reminder enough that I don’t want to relive my chubby and unhealthy childhood.
Like many others I am a fan of fresh grilled tuna. Sliced rare and served with a good dollop of wasabi that literally brings tears to my eyes and thin slices of pickled ginger it is like totally Asian fabulous.
However, on a recent Saturday afternoon I decided incorrectly to stop at one of this area’s well-known tourist watering spots for lunch. Unfortunately, stopping at a tourist's favorite place is never a good idea. Set among gracious, not-so-native palms, the outdoor setting was perfect for a glass of chilled white wine and what was billed on the menu as a grilled tuna salad.
After an interminable wait, while my server chatted up friends at another table, he produced a good-size bowl filled with the prerequisite field greens, a couple of black olives and cherry tomatoes and laid on top were three transparent slices of grilled tuna all for a price tag fit for a Congressional Investigation.
When I questioned him about the paltry amount of tuna he disappeared once more and reappeared later with the news that the chef assured him this was 3 ounces of tuna and that is the amount called for in this salad.
I had visions of replacing the mounted fish at that other restaurant with both the chef and the waiter along with a copy of my bill as a warning to future unsuspecting diners at this restaurant.
By my calculation, pricing tuna on the high side, I’d say next time I’ll op for a can of albacore at home and toss the empty can on my lawn. Meow to that.
Tuna Melts are another favorite of mine as well as a local specialty of smoked tuna served as an appetizer that is spicy and a perfect foil for a cold beer.
While I’m about it, sushi rolls with fresh tuna, not from your local grocer but at a sushi joint where you can sit at the counter and watch the great sushi chef perform his theater magic while sipping a warm sake, is probably best of all.
Lucky for me we have such places here at the beach just as I know they have become part of the culinary fabric in Chattanooga. One day I want to try my hand again at making sushi rolls. The secret I remember from my one lesson is the rice.
It is all about the rice, but don’t tell that to the little grey tabby roaming a front lawn somewhere in a neighborhood near you!
Fresh Tuna Steak on the Grill
For two people, have the butcher aka “the Fishmonger” - a great name rarely heard at Publix! - cut one three-quarter pound tuna steak, which is more than enough since there is no shrinkage. And, if you slice it thin enough, you can have generous leftovers.
I’m not big on marinades of late preferring to do a generous rub of Old Bay instead. Set grill on high until it reaches 400 degrees. What, you don’t have a natural gas grill? Okay, then make sure your coals are seriously white hot. Spray Pam or other oil on your grill, then set the steak on the grill and let it cook for 3 or 4 minutes, or longer if you like your tuna medium, then turn to cook on the opposite side for an equal length of time.
That should give you a nice rare piece of fish off the grill once it has rested. At that point be sure you have a sharp knife for slicing. Arrange on a platter along with shards of pickle ginger and two kinds of Wasabi Sauce.
Classic Wasabi is simply adding enough water to the powder to make a nice paste then letting it sit for a good length of time to turn into an out-of-control Kamikaze heading straight for your tear ducts. For you wimps there is a more subtle Wasabi Mayo or even a Wasabi Cream whereby you mix the powder into the mayo or whisk in some heavy cream to a knob of the green stuff.
Toasted sesame seeds - either the classic or the black - can also be sprinkled over the tuna for a more jazzed up presentation. Whatever or however you present that platter the simple pleasure of the tuna is what really counts.