I’ve been having an issue lately trying to figure out what seafood is good (i.e., sustainable) to eat, and what is not. There are the obvious baddies, like Chilean Sea Bass (a.k.a., the Patagonian Toothfish), which is: a) not even really bass, b) seriously over fished, and c) usually caught using bottom long lines, a method which tends to kill a lot of seabirds, including the endangered albatross. And farmed salmon is another baddie – farms often use pesticides and antibiotics to control disease, and waste from these farms is released directly into the ocean. (Hmm, sounds suspiciously like a fish factory farm…) Check out the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch – an amazingly comprehensive guide to sustainable seafood (and the source for most of the fish facts, above) for more information.
I usually try to avoid these issues by buying fresh, local seafood from the Blue Moon fish stand at my Farmer’s Market. But the other day, I bought some tuna fillets labeled as sustainably caught at our local food co-op. Tuna aren’t normally harvested around here, so I’m sure the fillets had to be shipped a long way to get to me – which is rather unsustainable, I suppose, even if the fish was sustainably caught. See what I mean? Lots of ethical conundrums around seafood. But I cooked it anyway. And it was delicious. I made my seared tuna into sandwiches with wasabi mayo and butter lettuce, on a big long hero roll.
A few tips on searing tuna: I usually use a non-stick pan. You don’t have to, but it does make the process a little easier. Choose a piece of tuna that is of even thickness. Otherwise, one part of your tuna may be a nice medium-rare, and the other well done. When searing, cook on exactly the same amount of time on each side for perfectly sized rare, medium-rare, or medium centers. And high heat is the key! Don’t be afraid. As one of my culinary instructors once told me – you have to get over the fear of the high flame.
Serves: 2-4 (depending on your appetite)
1 pound fresh tuna fillets (1-inch thickness)
5 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper (grind in a pepper grinder or use a meat mallet or small skillet to crack whole peppercorns)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons grape seed oil (or other high-heat oil, such as canola)
- Combine the sesame seeds, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Coat the tuna fillets with the mixture, pressing gently to adhere.
- Add the oil to a medium sauté pan and place over high heat. When the oil is very hot (almost, but not quite smoking), add the tuna fillets. Sear on one side for 1 minute for rare, 2 minutes for medium-rare, and 3 minutes for medium (or keep going for well-done). Sear on the other side for the exact same amount of time. The tuna should have a nice, brown crust.
- Remove to a plate, let rest for 5 minutes, slice and serve.