Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Triple Sesame-Seared Ahi Tuna with Cold Sesame Noodles and Snow Peas

I was lucky enough to receive a free bottle of Roland wasabi sesame seeds and immediately knew I wanted to do a triple sesame-seared ahi tuna dish.  I had made Ina Garten's Szechuan Noodles before, and my class made a similar noodle dish in my International Cuisine class at culinary school, so I thought a sesame noodle of some sort would be a great accompaniment to the tuna to tie in the sesame flavors found in both.  I used some of the same ingredients as Ina's for the sauce, but made some big changes.  I added sriracha as a spice element, and also decided against using spaghetti, and serving the dish warm as she had.  I wanted a cold noodle salad, and I wanted an Asian noodle.  Spaghetti just wouldn't do.  I found some wheat and rice udon noodles and was really excited to try those out.  I had lots of leftover sesame noodles, so I enjoyed eating it for lunch throughout the week.  The noodles will easily feed more than 4 people.  Although it wasn't cheap to make (the ahi tuna was very costly), the meal got rave reviews and is definitely one I'd consider making for company when I want to impress with something fun and flavorful.

Triple Sesame-Seared Ahi Tuna with Cold Sesame Noodles and Snow Peas
(Cold Sesame Noodles adapted from Szuchuan Noodles in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
Serves 4

For the tuna:
2 lbs ahi tuna, cut into 4 8-oz steaks
3 T. white sesame seeds
3 T. black sesame seeds
3 T. wasabi sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

For the noodles:
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped ginger
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (reduced fat is fine)
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sherry wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 T. dark sesame oil
1 T. sriracha chili sauce
1 lb udon noodles
1 T. turmeric
4 scallions, sliced
8 oz snow peas, washed and trimmed (remove the stringy part off the edge of the peas)
White sesame seeds for garnish
Salt, to taste

For the sauce for the noodles, put the garlic, ginger, tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, sherry wine, red wine vinegar, dark sesame oil, and sriracha in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt in necessary. Set aside until ready to dress noodles.

Fill a pot with water and add 1 T. turmeric (this will give the noodles a vibrant yellow color than shines through, even after they are dressed). Bring to a boil, add salt, and add the udon noodles. Cook until al dente, drain, and rinse with cold water.

Toss with most of the sauce and the scallions until well moistened. Reserve some of the sauce to garnish the noodles when serving. If the dressed noodles are refrigerated for longer than a couple hours (such as overnight), the sauce will thicken a lot and will not be as smooth on the noodle, so let it sit out to remove some of the chill before serving if you make it further in advance than an hour or two. It would be best to dress the noodles closer to serving time if at all possible.

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and add the trimmed snow peas. Blanch for a few minutes until par-cooked, but still bright green and crisp. Transfer to an ice bath to shock and cool, then remove and pat snow peas dry. Set aside until ready to plate.

Mix the white, black and wasabi sesame seeds in a plate or tray. Season each piece of tuna on both sides with salt and pepper, and then press the two largest sides into the sesame seeds. You do not need to coat all of the edges, unless you really want to, but I find it helps keeping them uncoated to see how much each side has cooked before flipping over the tuna.

Heat up a little vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium to medium-high heat and add as many tuna steaks as will comfortably fit in the pan. Sear for a few minutes on each side (depending on the thickness), making sure to keep the center rare, or cook longer if you want it well done. Remove cooked tuna to a cutting board and set aside. Clean out the pan with a paper towel, since sesame seeds will fall off the tuna and start to burn. In the now clean pan, heat up more vegetable oil and repeat with the rest of the tuna steaks.

To serve, slice each tuna steak across the grain. Arrange some snow peas on one side of the plate, and top with a mound of cold sesame noodles, garnished with more sauce and sesame seeds. Arrange the sliced tuna steak next to the noodles, slightly fanning out the slices.


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