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Sicilian Sweet-and-Sour Seared Tuna

Sicilian Sweet-and-Sour Seared Tuna

Sustainable Seafood Recipe

"Sicilians love playing sweet-tart flavors against fresh mint and a snap of heat," says Lynne Rossetto Kasper. "A millennia's worth of cooks—from the ancient Greeks, to the medieval Arabs, to the French and Spanish—brought flavors to Sicily you'd not think of as Italian.

"For instance, a cinnamon stick goes into the pan sauce because its sweet-peppery snap gives another dimension to the sauce. Caramelizing this sweet-tart sauce so it glazes the tuna steaks with glossy spice gives you a stand-out dish."

Troll- or pole-and-line-caught albacore tuna from the U.S. Pacific, British Columbia or Hawaii is on the Seafood Watch green, "Best Choices" list.

  • (Serves 3 to 4)
  • Good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds albacore tuna steaks, cut 1-inch thick
  • 1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin slivers
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • 1, 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Pour a thin film of olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Place over medium-high heat.

Cut the tuna into 3 or 4 portions. Sauté the fish with the onion, seasoning with salt, black pepper and hot red pepper until light golden brown on both sides.

Reduce heat to medium low and add the cinnamon stick. Cover and cook about 8 to 10 minutes, until fish is barely firm when pressed, turning once. Remove the tuna to a warmed platter and keep warm.

Set the pan over high heat. Swirl in half the sugar and half the vinegar. Stir about 30 seconds, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is syrupy, immediately blend in the rest of the sugar and vinegar and simmer a few seconds. Don't let much of the liquid evaporate. Taste for sweet-tart balance and depth, adding more sugar or vinegar if needed. Simmer another few seconds if necessary.

Add the mint, quickly pull out the cinnamon with a fork and immediately scrape the sauce from the pan over the tuna. Serve hot.

Hint from the Chef
For a terrific side dish, roast or pan-sauté carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a fair amount of garlic. Throw in fresh oregano and lemon zest, and just let the carrots cook slowly—you’ll get that wonderful sweet, yet very aromatic quality. You could do the exact same thing with green beans or zucchini.

© 2010 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, best-selling author and host of "The Splendid Table"® radio program

Best Choice Albacore tuna

Troll- or Pole-and-Line-Caught Albacore Tuna from the U.S. Pacific, British Columbia and Hawaii

Albacore tuna is found in most of the world's oceans, but not all albacore fisheries use ocean-friendly methods. When possible, look for albacore caught with troll or pole-and-line, which have very low levels of bycatch.
iPhone Our app brings you up-to-date recommendations for ocean-friendly seafood and sushi. And the newest version, with Project FishMap, lets you share the locations of restaurants and markets where you've found sustainable seafood. As the map grows, you'll also be able to see what others have found near you.

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