For several days last week, the overcast and drizzly weather created this sort of slow, relaxed atmosphere. While I worked in the kitchen, it felt like all my movements had this meditative quality, and I was exactly in that moment and nowhere else. Perhaps it's the fall season beginning to sneak in, and that's okay with me. When I was growing up, summer was my favorite time of year for obvious reasons; no school and endless days of swimming and playing. During those days, I was easily lost in moments without notice of time passing until the day's end was signaled by the setting of the sun. But in the long years since then, fall, with its mellow feel has become the time of year I most enjoy, and maybe it echoes the time of life I'm in too. Dusk, when the sun begins to set, is my favorite time of day too, and a good meal is the best way to enjoy it.
This coffee-crusted ahi tuna is my husband's inspiration; I've tweaked it by adding a little lemon zest and contrasting its darkness with a creamy curry sauce. I usually serve the tuna with a side of whole wheat couscous that I've doctored up with sautéed onions, white wine, and dried mission figs, and then finish the plate with some roasted asparagus, sprinkled with some of the remaining lemon zest. Ahhh...the beginning of fall, dusk, and this dinner? That just about completes a perfect end of the day for me. That and a little bit of chocolate, of course.
Coffee Crusted Ahi Tuna with Curry Cream Sauce
2 six to seven-ounce raw ahi tuna steaks
For the crust:
2 tablespoons whole coffee beans, medium-roast (avoid using a dark-roast coffee as the flavor can be too bitter)
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, lightly packed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, lightly packed
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup whole milk
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
In a small saucepan, melt the butter completely over low heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Stir in the curry powder and the lemon zest. Cook over low heat for about three to five minutes, stirring often. Slowly add the heavy cream and milk, stirring to combine, turn the heat to medium-low to bring to a low simmer, and cook for an additional ten minutes. The sauce will thicken as you stir and cook it. If the sauce becomes too thick, add more a little more milk, a tablespoon at a time. Once the sauce reaches the consistency you like, season with the salt, and adjust for taste. Put the sauce into a serving container with a pouring spout and set aside.
Rinse the tuna steaks, and pat completely dry with a paper towel. Lightly season both sides of the tuna steaks with a little salt and ground pepper. Set aside. Measure the coffee beans into a coffee grinder. Grind until the beans are a fairly fine texture. Add the cocoa powder, salt, and pepper to the grinder and run grinder for a couple of seconds. Add the lemon zest last and run the grinder for a couple of seconds more to blend everything. (Note: If you don't have a coffee grinder, just use ground coffee that is medium-roast. In a small bowl, mix together the coffee, cocoa powder, salt and pepper. Then add the lemon zest, using your fingers to disperse it throughout the mixture evenly). Dump the coffee mixture onto a medium plate and spread it out into a thin, solid layer. Dredge the tops of the tuna steaks in the coffee mixture until well-coated, and then dredge the bottoms in the coffee mixture until well-coated. Dredge the sides of each tuna steak in the remaining coffee mixture until each piece of tuna is completely coated.
Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until the pan is hot, and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the tuna steaks, and sear for forty-five seconds to a minute, until about an 1/8 of an inch of the tuna is cooked on the bottom, then turn over and sear the bottom the same amount of time. Using tongs, turn each tuna steak on each of its sides briefly to sear the sides as well, then transfer each to a plate. Pour some of the curry cream sauce over each tuna steak and serve immediately.
Serves two people