My family spent the last four days driving to Vermont to see our oldest child graduate from college. It rained steadily the entire time we were there! From Saturday afternoon through Tuesday morning it rained! For all I know it may still be raining in Vermont.
The graduation was lovely, and even though packing Julia’s apartment in the rain was a chore, we had a lot of fun. There were lots of inside family jokes and genuinely funny moments. Even the 11 hour drive home was OK, and as we crossed the 14th St Bridge from DC into Virginia, the sun came out as if to say, “Welcome home!”
We moved all the stuff into our house and I stood looking at what used to be a dining room but was now a self-storage unit. It was then that Julia told me the first thing she wanted me to make for dinner that she missed while being away at school. She wanted Sesame Crusted Tuna with Sesame Noodles.
Other than the fact that we wouldn’t be eating in the dining room, I couldn’t have been happier!
The tuna recipe is quite simple, you just have to understand the technique. In the case of a beef steak the difference between rare and well-done is determined by how long you cook it. In the case of something covered with sesame seeds, the cooking time will always be the same because any longer will burn the seeds; so, the difference between rare and well-done is determined by how thick the steak is.
Most restaurants use a thick cut and the tuna is raw in the center. This works for a lot of people, but if you like it pink in the center, use a thinner piece. Generally speaking, a tuna steak an inch thick cooked for 3-4 minutes on each side will have a pink center.
There are, however, a lot of variables. how cold the tuna is to begin with, how hot and how thick the pan is, and how much oil used.
Don’t cook with a clock, cook with your eyes, ears, and nose!
The technique is very basic, brush tuna steaks with oil, season with salt and pepper, and cover with sesame seeds. Sautee in a skillet. Cook it long enough to brown the seeds and form a crust, but not so long that they scorch.
Sesame noodles are also quite simple. Whisk five ingredients in a large bowl, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, vegetable oil and sesame oil. Add cooked pasta or Japanese noodles and garnish with any or all of cilantro, sesame seeds, scallions and chives.
The amounts of the five ingredients are not precise and are somewhat to taste, but roughly, you want a quarter cup of peanut butter, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a couple tablespoons of the vinegar, a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of sesame oil. This should be right for a pound of pasta. The pasta tends to want to soak up all the sauce, but if you add more of any one ingredient you can throw off the balance, so instead thin it with a few spoonsful of the water used to cook the pasta.
The important thing about this recipe is that it is not precise like baking. Taste the sauce before you add the noodles. It shouldn’t taste like any one ingredient. If all you taste is peanut butter, add more of the other four ingredients. If it’s too salty, use less soy sauce the next time. Experiment. If you don’t have rice vinegar, cider vinegar will work, and if you throw out all the water when you pour the pasta in a colander, just use tap water.
What you will find is that in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, you can prepare the rest of the meal and in the course of a regular weeknight meal, you can serve something for which McCormick and Schmick charges $24.95!