Friday, January 18, 2013

Rosemary-Lemon Grilled Ahi with Pearl Couscous

Last year's recipe:Salmon with Pumpkin-Seed Cilantro Pesto

Continuing a Healthy 2013
Tuna is a wonderful low-fat high-protein source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids as well as selenium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B complex.  The Omega-3's alone are associated with eye health, cardiovascular health, cognitive ability and cancer prevention.    Together with the pearl couscous loaded with veggies it's a meal in the Mediterranean-style diet that fits right in with your healthy resolutions.

I always like to try new ingredients and pearl (also called Israeli) couscous is the one for today.  Pearl couscous is larger than regular couscous but they're both wheat-based pastas.  My store carried two varieties - a plain wheat version with brown-ish couscous pearls, and a tri-color version where color is added via spinach powder and paprika extract.  I always think colorful food looks better so I chose the tri-color version.
Pearl couscous has an entirely different taste and texture than regular couscous.  A few people I know don't like couscous because they think the small grains taste gritty.  If you're one of those people, you might like pearl couscous as an alternative.  If you can't find pearl couscous you could always substitute regular couscous or rice in this recipe.

OK, enough of couscous.  The other interesting part of this recipe is the technique used to make the lemon olive oil basting sauce.  The lemons are broiled (aka torched) in the oven until very soft, then the pulp and the juice are mashed through a strainer.

The resulting flavor is different than fresh juice - I think it tastes more mellow, although still very lemony. The lemon olive oil is used to baste the tuna as well as a finishing sauce for the dish.

One thought about tuna - I always used to order it cooked medium-well in restaurants until a friend who is a fisherman from Maine begged me to stop ordering it that way.  He claimed that good quality tuna should never be eaten any more cooked than medium-rare or it gets dry and tough.  I followed his advice and never regretted it.  Now I always have tuna cooked medium-rare and it retains wonderful flavor, texture and moisture. If grilling isn't an option in your locale at this time of the year, you could certainly grill the tuna indoors or broil or pan-sear it.

Don't be scared by the length of this recipe - the lemon olive oil is made ahead and the couscous is served at room temperature so it can be made ahead also.  If you make it the day before you plan to serve it, I'd store the salad dressing and tomatoes separate from the couscous and toss the whole thing together at the last minute to maintain freshness.  Then all you have to do the night you serve it is grill the tuna, which takes just a few minutes.  You can also serve the tuna at room temperature so the whole meal is ideal for entertaining.  The couscous would also make a wonderful main dish salad with the addition of any leftover meat you have on hand so be sure to make extra.   Great salad for work the next day, even without meat.

P.S.  We had some leftovers, so I cut up the tuna and tossed it with the couscous,leftover sauce, and and a few more greens for a cold salad a few nights later served with french bread.  It was just as good as the first preparation.

click here for a printable recipe

Rosemary-Lemon Grilled Ahi with Pearl Couscous
Serves 4

For the lemon olive oil and ahi:
6 lemons, cut in half
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
4 center-cut ahi tuna steaks, about 5 oz each

For the salad dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

For the pearl couscous:
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
½ zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half or quarter depending on size
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup chopped arugula

To make the lemon olive oil sauce:
Preheat broiler.  Place lemons, cut side up, in a small non-aluminum baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast, about 6 inches below the heat, until very soft, about 20 minutes.  The tops will darken and caramelize.  Let cool in the baking dish. Squeeze the lemon pulp and juice and scrape all the cooking juices from the baking dish into a strainer supported over a bowl.  Force it through and add garlic.  Whisk in rosemary and olive oil.  Keeps up to 1 week refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.

To make the salad dressing:
Whisk shallot, juice, zest, vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified.

To make the pearl couscous:
Heat the chicken broth in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add couscous, stirring until light brown.  Add the hot stock and stir, then simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes.  Cover pan and remove from heat.  Let stand 10 minutes, then uncover and stir.  Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. When couscous is cooled to room temperature, add the tomatoes, dressing, and remaining ingredients and toss.  Serve at room temperature.

To cook the ahi:
Preheat a grill or broiler.  Reserving a small amount of lemon olive oil for later, brush the tuna pieces with the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over high heat, turning once and brushing again with oil, until medium rare.  Let rest for a few minutes, then cut into thin slices.  Serve drizzled with remaining lemon oil.  

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