Jan 172007
 
Authors: Liz Sunshine

While splitting my winter break between visiting family in Denver and my job in the Fort, I managed to consume a pile of comfort food during the break.

Whether I was snowed in at my Westside apartment, literally unable to go anywhere, or on the road trying to navigate the Yukon terrain in my tiny Toyota Corolla, I managed to pack my meals with homemade chili, chicken parmesan and a lot of soup.

By the third dumping of snow, I was full and dreaming about lying on a beach in the tropics, eating something light and refreshing. I poured over my cookbooks one day recently and found a recipe for seared tuna with a mango salsa.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with tuna since I was a young girl. I thought real tuna was a canned mass of mostly flavorless, colorless, mashed fish. When my mom would announce that tuna salad would be served for dinner, the news would illicit groans from me and my siblings.

By my high school years, I found ways to improve canned tuna. For example, a drizzle of balsamic on top of prepared tuna and a salad is pretty tasty. Garnish with a few avocado slices and you’ve got potential.

Real tuna – that colorful, raspberry-tinted fish at the seafood counter – entered my life one summer night about four years ago when my mom seared a batch for a dinner that I was having at home with my first college roommate, Rebecca.

The outside of the tuna was golden brown and the center still perfectly pink. It was delicious and nothing like that stuff in a can. I was hooked.

Over the years, I enjoyed seared tuna at catered events but had never taken the time to make it myself. I wondered after having this craving recently how readily available ingredients for a summer dish would be in the dead of winter.

Short of snow storms stopping airplanes occasionally, fresh tuna and the fruit for the salsa are nearly always available – and not just at the fancy markets.

Fresh mango is generally a spring and summer fruit but jarred varieties work just as well. The mango has a vivid red and green skin and inside it has an orange-yellow flesh that is sweet and juicy.

Mangos can be found in local grocery stores year round – many imported from Chile. Fruits should be chosen with an outer flesh that gives slightly to the touch. Fresh tuna is available all year and I paid about $10 a pound for it at a local chain grocery.

My mom’s recipe for tuna and mango salsa came from a Weight Watchers recipe book. The recipe I used was similar but taken from the October 1995 edition of Bon App/tit.

This meal is fast and incredibly easy. While searing the tuna, which takes about four minutes a side, whip up the salsa. From start to finish, you’re cooking for maybe 15 minutes. In addition to convenience, this meal plates up beautifully and, obviously, is very healthy.

So, regardless if you made resolutions or continue to feel the bloat of pastas, soups and maybe biscuits and gravy, consider hitting the tropics for a meal. Crank up the heater, thrown on a Hawaiian shirt and blend up daiquiri.

L’Chaim and B’tay Avon (To life and Eat well).

Liz Sunshine can be reached at verve@collegian.com. The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the individual author and not necessarily those of the Collegian.

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Seared Tuna with a Mango Salsa

1 large mango, cut into chunks

1 medium chopped red onion

1 chopped red bell pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

4 6-ounce tuna steaks (about 1 inch thick)

Vegetable oil

Mix first five ingredients in a medium bowl, season with pepper. Heat a large saut/ pan to medium heat with a thin layer of vegetable oil in the bottom. Place the steaks, seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides in the pan and cook each side for four minutes. Top tuna with mango salsa and enjoy.

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