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Tuning your taste buds for tuna

August 16, 2012

Mac nut crusted albacore tuna

If you are like me you have taste buds reserved in your mouth just for albacore tuna. Just say the word and I start to salivate. “Tuna!” See, I’m drooling. Maybe I love it so much because of its dense meaty flavor or maybe it’s how fresh it is this time of year here on the Oregon coast or cause of all the things you can do with it. Whatever it is, albacore is just plain delicious.

Albacore tuna not only tastes great but is also one of the most sustainable fisheries on the west coast. All tuna caught here is done with hook and line, no gill nets, so the fishermen target just the tuna. Tuna is a fast growing carnivorous fish that migrates up into our waters on the warm currents every summer until fall. Then they follow the warm currents back south again.

They are very low in mercury, particularly in fish under 25 pounds, which are most tuna caught off our shores. As the tuna get bigger and meaner they move into deeper waters to predate on larger fish and the mercury levels go up. Just remember, the larger the fish, the older they are and the more mercury they will have.

Albacore tuna is also a very nutritious fish, loaded with omega 3 fatty acids and protein. Interestingly enough the smaller the fish the more omega 3s in them. Omega-3s, that which we all seek, are associated with reducing the risks or effects of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, lupus, and anything that ails you. Troll caught albacore tuna are considered a “best choice” by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sustainable seafood watch.

There are many ways to get your fresh albacore but the easiest way is to go to a very nice fish store in your area. When buying any kind of fish, ask first when it was caught then ask to smell it. I know this sounds weird but if it isn’t fresh it will smell strongly of fish. It should smell of the ocean, salty and slightly like fish.

Eating it fresh isn’t the only way to enjoy it. Canned local tuna is absolutely the best! Once you’ve had it, you’ll never go back and you’ll know you are supporting a local industry that only targets tuna. I have home canned albacore tuna a few times under the watchful eye of a friend who knows how but have come to the conclusion that buying locally canned tuna is way easier and just about as expensive. If you do want to can your own fish please get the right equipment and take a class on it at the Oregon State University Extension Agency at (800) 354-7319 or an extension agency near you. (The best places to buy locally canned tuna around here are at Bell Buoy in Seaside and the Garibaldi Cannery. “The Blade’s Best” is amazing from down there!!)

Tuna is also wonderful for freezing. It is important to vacuum seal it before you freeze it. We have had tuna in the freezer for up to a year before cooking it and it was fantastic. In fact every year, right before tuna season, we clean out our freezer and have a BBQ and eat up the rest of last year’s tuna. So don’t be shy on buying 20 pounds now and freezing it for those long dark winter nights.

One of the easiest ways to BBQ tuna is to marinate it in an Asian marinade for an hour, then grill it. Sometimes we wrap it in half cooked bacon before we grill it. Delicious. However you have your tuna I suggest you enjoy in this seasonal bounty that is one of the amazing perks of living here on the beautiful Oregon Coast. If you don’t have your own reserved taste buds in your mouth for tuna, you soon will!

This recipe that I am sharing with you is super easy and can be made in a flash. It is elegant enough for company and yet is also perfect for a dinner for two. If you can not find macadamia nuts you can use hazelnuts as a substitution. (That also gives the recipe a more local flare.) This recipe is also delicious with halibut and salmon.

Nut crusted tuna

Macadamia nut crusted fish

1.5 pounds of fresh tuna, halibut or salmon cut into 6 pieces
3/4 cup of chopped macadamia nuts or hazelnuts
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, rosemary or tarragon
1-3 cloves of garlic pressed
1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds or unsweetened flaked coconut
Few cranks of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 egg whites

Turn on the fire (oven) to 350 and let it preheat. Lightly oil a glass baking dish and set aside. In a pie plate toss together the nuts, herbs, pressed garlic, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Whip up the egg whites in a small bowl till they are cloudy, then mix in the olive oil. Dip the fish into the egg white mixture then press into the nut mixture. Coat the nut mixture on all side of the fish then lay into the baking dish.

When all the fish pieces are in the baking dish tuck into the fire to bake for 15-20 minutes depending on how fat the fillets are. You know the fish is done when it is flaky and pulls apart easily. Make sure and do not over bake! Serve with a glorious salad and enjoy.

PS, here is an Asian marinade if you would like to use this;

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of lime juice
2 tablespoons of something sweet like coconut nectar, maple syrup, or honey
2-5 garlic cloves pressed
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, (do not peel, the peels have a lot of flavor)
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Add all ingredients to a bowl and add you tuna to it and marinade for 20- to and hour. No more than that!! Discard the marinade and grill on a hot grill till barely pink inside. Enjoy!

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