Spicy Grilled Tuna (or other fish) with Heirloom Tomato Salsa
Atun Asado con Salsa Mexicana a la Antigua
This dish is great for a summer grill party.
8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 4 jalapenos), stemmed
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
6 5- to 6-ounce fresh tuna steaks or skinless meaty fish fillets, such as snapper, grouper, wahoo, marlin or salmon, about 3/4-inch thick
3 cups chopped (1/4-inch dice) heirloom tomatoes - use what you can find, but think about a variety of colors and flavors, from Black Prince to Green Zebra to Sun Gold to Brandywine (you'll need about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs - the intensity of the herb(s) you choose will dictate quantity (cilantro is predictably delicious, a touch of mint is springy, a little lemon thyme or lemon balm or lemon verbena adds sunshine and basil, well, who doesn't like basil?), plus a few sprigs for garnish
Olive oil or vegetable oil for brushing or spraying the fish
1. The marinade/flavoring. In a small dry skillet, roast the unpeeled garlic and the chiles over medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft (the skins of both will have blackened in spots, which is okay as long as the flesh doesn't burn), 5 to 10 minutes for the chiles, 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, then peel the garlic. Place both garlic and chiles in a food processor or blender along with the lime juice. Run the machine until the mixture is as smoothly pureed as possible. Season highly with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon.
2. Marinate the tuna. Scoop two-thirds of the marinade into a large non aluminum baking dish. Lay the fish in the marinade and smear the mixture on all sides of each piece. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the salsa.
3. The salsa. Scrape the remaining marinade into a medium bowl. Mix in the chopped tomatoes. Scoop the onion into a small strainer, rinse under cold water and shake off the excess; and add to the tomatoes. Stir in the herbs. Taste and season with additional salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon.
4. Grill the fish. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the coals are covered with gray ash and very hot (the fire feels almost intolerably hot to most cooks when they hold there hand 4 or 5 inches above the grill grates for 5 seconds). Set the cooking grate in place, cover the grill and let the grate heat up, 5 minutes or so. Remove the fish from the marinade, brush or spray with a generous coating of oil and lay on the hot grill. Cover the grill and cook 3 minutes. Uncover, flip the fish over, cover once again and cook until the fish is as done as you like - 1 to 2 minutes more is all that's needed for medium-rare tuna (my preference).
Transfer the fish to dinner plates, spoon on the beautiful salsa and decorate with herb sprigs - and you're ready to eat.
Working Ahead. There is little in this recipe that can be done in advance - except the marinade, which will hold for a day or so in the refrigerator if well covered. If the fish spends more than three or four hours in that limey marinade, it will get pickled. Beautiful tomatoes with salt and lime on them also begin to wilt after an hour or two.