Tag Archives: seared

Pan-Seared Watermelon with Salmon and Mint Chimichurri

15 Aug

 

seared watermelon salmon mint chimichurri

Last fall, I picked up a copy of Mark Bittman’s then-new book, The Food Matters Cookbook. I was feeling like my diet needed a bit of a shakeup, and I was drawn to Bittman’s philosophy, which essentially boils down to the idea that meat can and should be used as an ingredient, or a garnish, in a dish rather than as the main event. I love meat and can’t see myself going the vegetarian route, so the ideas and recipes in Bittman’s book struck a chord with me.

Of course, I also have a bad habit of buying cookbooks, flipping through them, and then promptly putting them away in my kitchen and forgetting about them for an extended period. This one suffered such a fate until I pulled it out this weekend for a look and something caught my eye that I’d never tasted, and frankly didn’t even realize was possible—seared watermelon.

In Mark Bittman’s recipe, the seared watermelon was used as a base for a Japanese-inspired fish dish. He wrote that the watermelon took on a substantial steak-like texture when it was seared, as the water was pulled out of it. I knew I needed to try this, but in my mind, I saw the watermelon paired with salmon (rather than the simple white fish Bittman recommends) and topped with a simple, fresh mint and basil chimichurri, since the flavours of watermelon and mint go so great together.

Jenny and I both agreed that this really turned out amazing. In addition to becoming less watery and firmer when seared, the sugars in the watermelon also caramelize in the pan, which adds a bit of a burnt sugar element. And while this looks like an elaborate, composed dish on the plate, it came together in no time at all—perfect for a weeknight.

pan seared watermelon

Pan-seared watermelon with salmon and mint-basil chimichurri

For the chimichurri:

1 C basil leaves, packed
¼ C mint leaves, packed
¼ C olive oil (good oil, like a Spanish – oil will be part of flavour so it should be good quality)
Zest and juice of half a lemon
A couple grinds of salt and pepper

Place all ingredients and half the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse for a minute or two until leaves get chopped and ingredients are well blended. Add more olive oil as needed, depending on desired consistency (less oil for a thicker chimichurri, more for a thinner one).

For the pan-seared watermelon:

Slice watermelon an inch or two thick and remove the rind. Season slices with a pinch of salt. Heat a metal pan coated with a small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat for several minutes. When oil begins to sizzle, place watermelon slices in pan. Leave to sear for two minutes or so, until it begins to brown, then flip and cook another two minutes on the other side. Remove from heat and set aside on a plate.

For the salmon:

Season individually portioned salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Sear on both sides in a hot pan until cooked, a few minutes per side.

To plate, place a slice of seared watermelon on a plate, top with a salmon fillet, then drizzle chimichurri overtop the salmon.

seared watermelon salmon chimichurri

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Pasta with Seared Tuna & Fennel Rub: A New Take on an Old Classic

5 Feb

I have learned so much about cooking from Neil’s family. They’re all amazing cooks who aren’t afraid to try something new. But I’ve really taken a lot of inspiration from the Italian side of his family and their simple and classic dishes.

One of the dishes that Neil was raised on was his dad’s quick and easy tuna pasta. He still makes it now and whenever I have it I always think “how did he make something so simple taste this good?”

His classic version consists basically of long pasta noodles (like spagettini), a can of tuna packed in oil, lots of garlic, olive oil, hot peppers or chili flakes and rapini or broccolini. It was a staple of Neil’s childhood and something that we now crave together and are sometimes lucky enough to have made for us.

My newfangled version came to be when my sister and her boyfriend were coming over for dinner. I knew that my sister hated canned tuna but happened to love fresh seared tuna steak. She has champagne taste, that girl.

So I decided to make a tuna pasta but using fresh tuna instead of canned. I knew I needed a rub of some sort and the first spice that I could think to use was fennel seed. Fennel is a great compliment to fish and I figured it would work well in this dish.

I had never toasted fennel seed myself but tested it out for this recipe and my kitchen was immediately warmed by the scent of toasting fennel. It’s so fragrant and lovely.

The first time I made it, I used a coffee grinder to grind up the spices but we recently got a good mortar and pestle (a kitchen tool that we should have owned ages ago) and I really like how the rub came out using it.

This pasta dish takes everything that’s great about the classic version and brings it up a notch. And it’s really not that hard to make. It’s another one of those meals that looks like it should have been hard, but comes together in a snap. Just get organized, chop and set up all your ingredients beforehand and it’ll be a breeze.

Pasta with Seared Tuna & Fennel Rub

1 box of your favorite long pasta (I used quinoa pasta this time around, a perfect substitute for the real thing)

1-2 tuna steaks (use very fresh, sushi-grade tuna, 1 steak per 2 people)

Olive oil

1 Tbsp whole fennel seeds

1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns (* we used 1 Tbsp because we like spice, but cut it back to ½ Tbsp if you’re more conservative with spice)

1 tsp sea salt

Zest of half a large lemon

1 bunch broccolini or rapini, roughly chopped into thirds

Red chili flakes

1 large clove of garlic, chopped

1 large shallot, chopped

¼ tsp anchovy paste (or more, to taste)

Mix the freshly grated lemon zest with the sea salt and set aside.

In a small pan, toast the fennel seeds and peppercorns on medium low heat for about 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Keep them moving in the pan with a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and put them right into a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Grind into a fine powder.

In a bowl, mix the fennel and pepper powder with about half the amount of lemon salt. Set the rest of the lemon salt aside for garnish.

Lightly brush some olive oil onto each side of the tuna steaks and then coat both sides with the fennel, pepper & lemon salt rub.

Lightly oil a large sauté pan and set on medium-high heat. Give it a few minutes to really heat up. Sear tuna steaks for a few minutes on each side, making sure not to overcook. You want a nice crust on the outside and a rare middle. You’re going to add the tuna back into the hot pan later on where it’ll cook a bit more so keep it on the rare side.

When the tuna is done, remove from heat and cut into thin slices or small chunks. Set aside.

Boil your pasta water (with salt!) and get your pasta cooking.

Using the same sauté pan that you used to sear the tuna, add a good amount of olive oil and return to a medium heat. Add in garlic and shallot and sauté for approximately 3 minutes.

Add the broccolini or rapini and sauté for a few minutes. We used broccolini and added about ¼ cup of water into the pan to help it steam and cook but Neil thinks rapini wouldn’t require as much water because it’ll wilt on its own. Use your judgment. You don’t want liquid in the pan, you just want to get the broccolini a bit wet and it’ll absorb the water as it cooks. It also helps loosen the bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add in chili flakes and anchovy paste and mix.

When the pasta is ready, strain and add directly into the pan with the broccolini mixture. Drizzle good quality olive oil overtop and mix well.

Add the tuna into the pan and toss with the pasta.

Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle the rest of the lemon salt overtop. Serve hot.

You can serve this pasta with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, even though it’s not traditional to put cheese on top of a fish-based pasta. Clearly though, we’re not averse to breaking tradition.

Thanks to my fabulous sister Jayme for being the driving force behind the creation of this recipe!

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