This week, Weekend Herb Blogging has returned home to Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. And to celebrate this, I've happy to feature one of the best dishes I've eaten in months. When you find yourself making little noises of appreciation as you eat something, you know you hit pay dirt. I'm rather spartan with my eating lately, so I'm hungrier than usual. That may factor into it. But, I think the rapture I felt eating this is mostly due to the incredible flavor. And yes, you read the title right. This is tuna and mint. Mint. Some of you may be put off by that, but I beg you to to remember that mint is often used in savory dishes. The combination of mint, fish sauce and ginger makes Vietnamese and Thai food sing. In the Mid-East, mint is often served with lamb. And who can forget the classic British combination of mint sauce and lamb? Actually, I prefer mint added to savory dishes than sweet recipes. It's cool flavor is perfect with salty, sour, and hot ingredients. It's interesting to remember that the mint family includes basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, and catnip. All herbs that taste great in savory dishes
This particular dish comes from Sicily, where it's usually prepared with swordfish. I substituted tuna because the swordfish looked a bit dicey. This is a simple recipe, but the combination of the garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and mint is simply heaven. It's easy and quick to prepare, and the only problem is eating a reasonable serving, which is my aim nowadays. Dishes like this make that very hard for me. But, I had a modest portion--and my taste buds wanted more.
This recipe goes so quickly, I wasn't able to take pictures as I cooked it. You can do most of the preparation as you boil the water for the penne. Take care when you brown the pine nuts, as they burn very easily. If you prefer you could use walnuts instead. If you use tuna, don't cook it as long as the swordfish. It really does taste better if it's rare in the middle. I used ahi tuna and it had no fish odor at all. It was juicy and silky soft. And yes, Upsie got her share of it.
Don't forget to stop Kalyn's site to see all the herby bloggers this weekend.
Penne With Tuna, Pine Nuts, and Mint (Adapted from Food & Wine)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Ahi tuna (or swordfish steak, about 1 inch thick)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
3/4 pound penne
1. In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, from 2-5 minutes. Or toast them in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful they burn easily.
2. In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil over moderate heat. Sprinkle the tuna with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Add the fish to the pan and cook around 2 minutes. Turn and cook until the fish is still pink in the middle--another 2 minutes or so. The fish will continue cooking after you remove it, so be careful not to over-cook it. Remove. When the fish is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1-inch cubes. Note: Cook the swordfish a few minutes longer.
3. Wipe out the pan. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil to the pan and heat over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup of the mint and remove the pan from the heat.
4. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain and toss with the swordfish, the garlic-and-mint oil, the pine nuts, the remaining 1/4 cup mint, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.