Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest
It’s not easy being an understudy. You have to learn all the lines and rehearse the show, yet rarely actually make an appearance onstage. Once a Broadway actress, Shirley MacLaine famously stood in for one of her Pajama Game cast members, who was out with a broken ankle. She was discovered and went on to become a movie star, earning an Oscar for multiple hanky tearjerker Terms of Endearment. MacLaine grabbed her moment and outperformed her colleague. In the food world, this dynamic plays out, too. Think of hanger steak. It’s intensely full-flavored, but can be overly chewy if not cooked and sliced correctly. More tender cuts like filet mignon and rib eye tend to enjoy the spotlight, while hanger steak remains in the background, ever ready to step up. Its beefy charms win over plenty of fans when the chance to shine eventually arises.
In this ultra-simple, quickly seared main, two ingredients that are often kept on standby take center stage. For sautéing, coconut oil, tends to take a backseat to other options like olive or canola. Recently, though, its use in moderation has been shown to increase good cholesterol levels and in its unrefined state, it adds a tropical island-evoking taste to foods. Then there are cumin seeds, forever struggling to gain recognition in the shadow of their powdered counterpart. More than ready to fulfill their role as an alternate, they offer more heady, musky flavor and a longer shelf life than the pre-ground stuff, which coasts along on its reputation for convenience.
The biggest star of all in this recipe is fresh tuna steak. To get a good sear, be sure to pat it dry with a paper towel before coating with the spice mixture. Come to think of it, other firm meaty fish, such as halibut or mahi mahi would serve as fine substitutes. Consider them, if you will, as highly capable understudies.
Seared Tuna with Cumin
2 tablespoons crushed cumin seeds or ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges
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For a meaty fish, I usually want a wine with a lot of body. Tuna is one of the few fish you can easily match with red wine. Here, though, you'll want to stick with white. With the spices in the rub adding heat and zip you'll want a white with a rich texture to calm your palate. Try a Roussanne or Viognier -- they are tropical tasting whites that work well with lean or acidic foods. There are both of those elements present here in the forms of lime juice, cilantro, and the fish itself.
2010 Mas Grand Planiol "Tradition" Costières de Nîmes Blanc
2010 Melville Estate Verna's Santa Barbara County Viognier
How would you make this dish your own? What would you serve alongside the tuna? Share your ideas and cooking tips in the comments section below.
Like this post? See the Easy Everyday topic from last week: Sautéed Radishes with Mint.