Tuna tartare

I’ll tell you a secret about my husband: In certain circles, he responds to the nickname Tuna. His is a story about the power of protein.

At 17, he tore his meniscus, ACL, and MCL in one feel swoop playing soccer. Off the field and going stir crazy, he had to channel that energy in a new direction. And boy, did he. By the time I met Mike as a sophomore in college he had packed on 55 pounds of muscle through the aid of canned tuna fish and relentless trips to the gym.

Our friends find this story wildly entertaining since Meathead Mikey has long since departed, supplanted instead by Lanky Cyclist Mikey. His tastes have changed since then too—preferring ahi tuna to the canned variety—but the nickname still holds.

When we first started dating, he regarded raw fish with great suspicion. This recipe turned him to the dark side. For those squeamish about sushi of any stripe, I encourage you to brave the tuna.

Tuna tartare

Ina Garten’s recipe for tuna tartare has many incarnations. It can be the delicate nibbles you see here, or a bowl of fish devoured with chopsticks in hand. Strictly speaking her recipe is not a true tartare. The lime juice helps “cook” the tuna, ceviche-style, and the cut of the tuna in ¼-inch cubes is closer to a Polynesian dish called poke than a tartare. Subtleties aside, its flavors are heavenly—fresh tuna, avocado, jalapeño, lime, sesame oil. How can you go wrong?

Try the tuna tartare on crackers, especially rice crackers. Or small tortillas for a riff on fish tacos. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, try making your own tortillas following the instructions on a bag of masa harina (i.e., corn tortilla mix, such as Maseca), which you can buy in a Mexican market or some grocery stores. I like to grate a green plantain into the mix when I do this.

Lastly, it goes without saying that you need to buy high-quality tuna. I typically shop at Whole Foods, but if you have a local fishmonger, all the better.

Tuna tartare

Tuna Tartare

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer or 2 to 3 as a meal

¾ pound very fresh tuna steak (seriously. Reputable fishmongers only.)

4 tablespoons olive oil

Grated zest of 1 lime

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (I sometimes add a bit more)

½ teaspoon wasabi powder

1½ teaspoons soy sauce

6 dashes Tabasco sauce

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

¼ cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)

2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed

1 ripe Hass avocado

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional; you can buy them pre-toasted from Asian markets)

Cut the tuna into 1/4-inch dice and place in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Pour over the tuna, add the scallions and jalapeno, and mix well. Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed, and peel. Cut the avocado into ¼-inch dice. Carefully mix the avocado into the tuna mixture. Add the toasted sesame seeds if using and season to taste. Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour for the flavors to blend.