Pickled red onion tops seared tuna in a warm sauce of pumpkin and sesame seeds… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
Thick albacore steaks are dressed up in this recipe, served with a rich warm sauce of pumpkin and sesame seeds flavored with toasted chiles, garlic and a touch of vinegar. Top the dish with fresh pickled red onion for a little tang and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.
This recipe takes a little advance preparation (to give those homemade pickled onions time to marinate), but the results are well worth it, and much of the work can be done in advance. As for those tuna steaks, they cook up in minutes! Perfect for a weeknight meal.
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Atún del diablo (Seared albacore tuna with pumpkin seed-sesame sauce and pickled red onions)
Total time: 45 minutes, plus 1 to 2 hours for marination
Note: Adapted from "Doña Tomás" by Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, divided
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch ground allspice
1 red onion, sliced paper thin and submerged in cold water for 1 hour
4 chiles de árbol
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 cup hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 clove garlic
4 (6-ounce) albacore tuna steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 bunch cilantro, stemmed, washed, dried and coarsely chopped, for garnish ( 1/4 cup)
1. To prepare the onions, place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Sauté the sliced garlic for 30 seconds, until lightly perfumed and translucent. Transfer to a small bowl and add one-quarter cup vinegar, one-half teaspoon salt, oregano, cumin and allspice. Mix well. Gently squeeze the water from the onion slices and add them to the bowl. Toss well to coat. Marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour and no more than 2 hours before serving.
2. To prepare the sauce, place a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles and toast for about 2 minutes, pressing them into the pan and turning occasionally with tongs to prevent burning, until they turn light brown and give off a sharp aroma. While the chiles are still hot, remove the stems and submerge the chiles in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate. Drain and transfer to a blender.
3. Return the skillet to a burner over high heat and add the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds, decrease the heat to medium-high and toss the seeds for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they begin to brown and become evenly crisp. Transfer to the blender. Place the sesame seeds in the pan over medium heat. Toast for 1 minute, until browned. Transfer to the blender.
4. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and one-half cup warm water to the blender and process on high speed for about 1 minute, until puréed, scraping the sides occasionally. Add the garlic and salt to taste and continue to blend for 30 seconds, until the sauce is the consistency of a wet cake batter. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Makes one-half cup.
5. Season the tuna on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a large sauté pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is smoking, add the tuna, shaking the pan to prevent sticking. Cook 1 1/2 minutes, until crisp and brown on one side. Add the butter and flip the tuna. Cook for another 1 1/2 minutes, until the second side is crisp and brown.
6. To serve, arrange the tuna steaks on a platter or individual plates. Spoon the warm sauce over each. Garnish each with a large three-finger pinch of the pickled onion and a pinch of the cilantro. Serve at once.
Each serving: 323 calories; 30 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 19 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 54 mg. cholesterol; 140 mg. sodium.