Sometimes I come upon a recipe that just feels right ... and this is one of them. How does one describe this dish? Subtle and lovely. This is a meal to make when you really don't want to fuss around too long, but really want to have something good on the plate in timely fashion.
The two longest tasks in making this meal were preparing and roasting a side of new potatoes and using a mortar and pestle to crush anise seeds to a fine dust for scenting the tomato dipping sauce. Otherwise, the dish came together in the time it took to roast the potatoes. Here's how I did it.
Pan-seared Tuna with Anise Scented Tomatoes and Spinach
1 lb. fresh spinach, washed and drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
3 generous pinches red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. olive oil and more for brushing a grill pan
1 lb. tuna steaks, skin on - washed, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with plenty of black pepper
2 large tomatoes, washed, quartered, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp anise seeds, crushed to powder
2 tbsp. vodka
1 1/2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. chopped tarragon
2 tsp. chopped tarragon
2 tbsp. chopped slivered almonds
3 tbsp. dry white wine (I used dry vermouth)
kosher salt for sprinkling on the finished spinach and the finished tuna
Making the Dish:
1. Prep the vegetables, grind the anise, and wash and prep the tuna filets. Chill the tuna while you prepare the bed of spinach.
2. Heat a deep non-stick pan with the olive oil measure over medium high- heat. Add the garlic slivers and sauté until the garlic just begins to turn golden. Then, add the spinach leaves and toss to incorporate the garlic. Sprinkle the red pepper flakes on and cover to wilt the spinach.
3. When the spinach is wilted and wonderfully shiny, bright green, remove the spinach to a platter with a slotted spoon, pressing as much liquid from it over the pan. Arrange the spinach into a nice bed, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt, reserve the liquid that's in the pan. Set aside the spinach platter - keep just warm.
4. Add the tomatoes, anise, vodka and honey, tarragon, and chopped almonds to the pan with the spinach juices. Let the sauce boil and stir to reduce the sauce and break down the tomatoes. Add the white wine. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan to simmer for about ten minutes.
5. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over high heat. When it's very hot, brush with a bit of olive oil and place the tuna steaks onto the pan - skin side down. Let them sear for about 4 minutes (this depends on the thickness of your filets. Mine were about and inch and a half thick). Turn them over and continue searing for another 2 minutes. The tuna should be very pink and moist at the center.
6. When the tuna is perfect, place them on the bed of warm spinach crisped skin side up. Drizzle the tomato dipping sauce around them and serve immediately with roasted potatoes or rice or a simple side of fresh green salad.
7. A nice glass of wine would be in order too ... just sayin'. I had a lovely glass of Old Vine Zinfandel ... you might like a Pinot Noir or a cold glass of Sauvignon blanc.
A word about this recipe ... it comes with a bit of adaptation from a cook book that toots dishes for diabetics ... hence, lots of fresh vegetables, good protein, nuts as thickeners and not carb thickener, scant amounts of booze in the sauce. My adaptation was using tuna instead of sea bass and creating a fake Pernod/Ouzo, neither of which I have in my home bar. Hence, I ground the anise seeds, used a tad bit of honey, and vodka to make a fake anise booze addition. It worked just fine. I make do in my kitchen, don't you?