PUTTING IT ALTOGETHER
Follow the instructions below to make this savory fish dinner. Look for frozen tuna at Trader Joe’s. If you can find a local, fresh filet it will cook and taste better than the frozen. Seafood Watch is the searchable database of sustainable fish and shellfish compiled by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can search by fish type or by one of their state by state guides. They also have convenient and free smart phone apps to use in the grocery store. Making wise seafood choices has never been easier. Cod and salmon are acceptable substitutes for the tuna used in this recipe.
Time-savers: Buy cabbage that is pre-sliced. Any green or red cabbage will work here. Also, crushed garlic in a jar will save you the hassle of peeling and crushing your own. Garlic powder could work here too. Don’t have any fresh thyme? Use some dried thyme instead.
It’s good practice to pull out all the pots and pans you need before cooking. Likewise, pulling out the ingredients you need to measure or chop beforehand will simplify your cooking. The French call this practice mise en place which translates to “putting in place”. It is practiced in restaurants and taught to chefs in culinary school.
Start by making the slaw. The vinegar in this recipe will help to break down the raw cabbage. I like to make this first and let it slightly wilt in the fridge. Optionally, you can dry toast your 2 of the 4 cloves of fresh garlic in a skillet over low heat for 5-8 minutes. If you do no mind the dragon breath, just use the cloves raw. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and then the cloves will slip out of the skin easily.
To make the dressing, simply add 2 tbsp of the olive oil, 1 tbsp of rice vinegar, 1 tbsp of dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp of sea salt and black pepper, 2 cloves of minced/pressed garlic and the optional 1/2 tsp of red chili flakes. Whisk the dressing together or use an immersion blender to make quick and easy work.
Once the dressing is made, pour it over the sliced cabbage. If you’re using the optional julienned carrot, this would be the time to add it in. The carrot adds just a touch of natural sweetness to this recipe. And some color to your plate, too. Mix the slaw ingredients together to coat everything in the dressing. Then place in your refrigerator while you work on the tuna.
Defrost your tuna, if it was frozen. Allow to completely defrost overnight in the refrigerator (if you remember to pull it out). If you forgot (it happens), place the frozen tuna on top of a cast iron skillet. These heavy pans are great for quickly defrosting meat in 1-2 hours. Once defrosted, remove from the packaging and drain off any liquids.
Take a deep skillet or sauce pan and place the tuna steaks close together, but with a little breathing room in between. If you have some space to fill up, place a ceramic ramekin or pyrex dish in the empty space. This will help you use less olive oil to get a deeper amount for poaching. Add the fresh sprigs of thyme around the tuna. Take the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and remove their skins. Then smash them with the side of a knife on a cutting board. This opens them up to get more healing flavors from them. Place the smashed garlic in the skillet, too. Cover with the remaining olive oil. You will not end up consuming all of this oil, so fill your pan until it at least reaches half way up the thickness of the steaks. Completely submerged is okay, too.
Turn the heat on to low. This low-heat technique is great for cooking all different types of fish – salmon, halibut, cod. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Depending on the heat and thickness of the tuna, you may need to poach it for up to 10 minutes. Pull out the thickest steak around minute 5 with a fish spatula. Cut it with a knife at the thickest section. If you prefer it more cooked, return it to the pan.
Cooking note: At first glance, you might expect that the fish would come out very oily. But, this is not deep-frying at high temperatures, this a low temperature poaching technique. Water and oil doesn’t mix, remember? Your piece of fish was fairly wet when you put it in the pan. That moisture in the fish prevents the olive oil from getting absorbed by the fish. And the low heat prevents the olive oil from going rancid, so it keeps its healthy omega-3 fatty acid profile. When you order fish and chips in a restaurant, that fish gets dipped in a carb-y batter and fried in some unhealthy canola or vegetable oil. The high heat and breading absorb a lot of that rancid, unhealthy oil which is why that kind of fish is so unhealthy for you.
Serving sizes: This dish has 3 or 4 servings, depending on which meal plan is being followed. Simply divide the fish and veggies into 3 or 4 containers. The 1,500 calorie meal plan has 4 servings, while the 2,000 calorie meal plan has 3 servings. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days.