Spring sure is taking it's time getting here, but thanks to some nearby greenhouses, some local greens are already starting to arrive in Quebec markets. I got my hands on some great red oak lettuce, still in the earth that it was grown in, and based this whole dish around showcasing that great product. The leaves were so tender and juicy that I thought they would stand up great to a quick sauteing. Most people aren't used to serving lettuce warm, but a quick dip in a hot pan with some melted butter really brings out the flavour in the red oak leaves.
The other accompaniment that I use for my seared tuna is the red carrot puree that I posted the recipe for last week. This is a perfect early spring dish, because the carrot puree has some of the richness that we all love about winter food, while the warm sauteed lettuce give us a hint of what's to come with the warmer weather.
Prep time: 5 minutes (+25 minutes to make the carrot puree) cook time: 5 minutes. Make 6 appetizer portions
500g sushi grade tuna
1/4 cup black peppercorns
2 small or 1 large head of red oak leaf lettuce
2 tablespoons butter
extra virgin olive oil
radish sprouts (optional)
2 cups red carrot puree
1. Use a coffee grinder to crush the black peppercorns with a few quick pulses. Alternately, you can use the bottom of a small pot to crush the peppercorns by hand. Spread the crushed peppercorns on a cutting board, generously season the tuna with sea salt and then press each side down into the peppercorns.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a hot cast iron pan until it just starts to smoke. Add the tuna and quickly brown it on each side, about 1 minute per side. Let rest at room temperature while you sautee the lettuce & warm the carrot puree.
3. Separate the leaves of the red oak lettuce, then wash & dry them. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon water in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the lettuce and sautee until just wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt & pepper, drain off any excess water and pat dry with paper towel.
4. Warm the red carrot puree and spread about 1/2 cup on each plate. Place a small pile of sauteed lettuce in the center of the plate. Use a very sharp knife to slice the tuna and place a few slices on top of the lettuce. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some radish sprouts.