I find it hard to believe, but there are still people out there who, when the topic of sashimi or sushi is mentioned, swear they would never eat raw fish.

You can try to reason with them. I certainly have. I'll talk about how clean and pure sushi-grade fish tastes. How its texture is wonderfully delicate or satisfyingly meaty, depending on the variety. How the combination of soy sauce, a hint of hot wasabi (green horseradish), and a palate-cleansing bite of thinly sliced pickled ginger together present a combination of refreshing, stimulating flavors unmatched by any other dining experience.

I'll even appeal to red meat lovers by asking them if they like their steaks rare. If they say yes, as they often do, I'll wonder aloud why they'll eat barely cooked meat but won't touch raw fish.

Reasoning usually does no good. They still won't touch it.

I've found another way, however, to introduce sashimi (raw fish on its own) or sushi (raw fish on top of rice). My secret weapon? Tataki.

This Japanese term refers to quickly searing a piece of seafood or meat to cook just the thinnest at its surface, leaving the interior raw. Think of it, I tell meat lovers, as treating a piece of sushi like it's a very rare steak.

And steak is a good comparison when you consider the kind of fish most commonly used for tataki: absolutely fresh, sushi-grade ahi tuna, as deep red, tender, and flavorful as a great piece of prime beef fillet.

Thanks to the growing popularity of Japanese food, I find that fresh ahi tuna labeled "sushi grade" is available more and more frequently in good supermarkets and seafood shops. It is absolutely essential to start with the freshest, highest-quality fish; it should look bright and pure in color, firm, and moist, with no noticeable fishy smell. Buy it the same day you plan to serve it, keeping it refrigerated until cooking time.

I like to serve tuna tataki as an appetizer, allowing each guest a small, satisfying taste, at the same time subtly meaty and, thanks to the coating and the vinaigrette dressing, intensely aromatic and flavorful. (Once you've learned the technique for cooking it and enjoyed this particular flavor combination, try adding other seasonings you enjoy to the coating, such as crushed red pepper flakes, cracked cardamom seeds, some minced garlic -- whatever strikes your fancy.)

Of course, for those who already love sashimi or sushi, feel free to double the portion size and enjoy this as a main course. You can even add a bed or side of steamed sticky Japanese-style rice. Like a great steak salad, it's a satisfying meal for a warm summer day or evening.

Tuna Tataki Recipe with Ginger-Soy-Lime Vinaigrette

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main dish


1 small shallot, minced

1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1/2 pound very fresh, sushi-grade ahi tuna

1/2 cup minced fresh ginger

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper


3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


2 cups organic mixed baby greens

1 medium-sized ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, quartered, and sliced

12 thin slices red onion

1 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved

First, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, stir together the shallot, ginger, a few grinds of pepper, soy sauce, and lime juice. Whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Set aside.

For the tuna, use a sharp knife to cut notches 1/2 inch deep at regular intervals of 1/4 to 1/2 inch along the length of the tuna, to make it easier to slice after searing. On a shallow plate, stir together the ginger, sesame seeds, and cracked black pepper. Season the tuna with salt and roll it in the ginger mixture, pressing down lightly to make the coating adhere on all sides.

Heat a saute pan over high heat. Add the peanut oil and, when it is hot, sear the tuna on all sides, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, carefully with tongs. Remove the tuna from the pan and set aside on a plate. Add the 1 tablespoon lime juice to the pan and quickly stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Immediately drizzle the deglazing liquid over the tuna.

Whisk the vinaigrette thoroughly to recombine its ingredients. Put the salad greens in a bowl and toss them with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat them lightly.

Mound the greens on 4 appetizer plates or 2 main-dish plates. Cut the tuna crosswise at the notches into uniform slices and arrange them overlapping around the greens. Garnish with avocado, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle more of the dressing over each serving. Serve immediately.


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