Grilled Tuna Steak Recipe: Casual Food for the Grill

Although summer is officially over, there's still some time for one last trip to the beach or one last outdoor picnic before the weather starts to get too cool.

So in keeping with that theme, we're going to write a late-season post on casual foods for the outdoor grill. Our featured dinner is grilled tuna steaks, which we made on our end-of-summer beach vacation.

I don't know about you, but when we go to the beach, our main goal is to decompress. The only "work" I want to do is to get up and get myself a beer, or turn the pages of the book I'm reading while I'm listening to the ocean.

Occasionally, I'll even think about throwing my Blackberry into the ocean, like that famous Corona beer ad.

So when dinner time rolls around, we want to get it on the table with a minimum of labor. Of course we want a nice meal, but even more, we want to get right back to the important task of not doing anything.

One meal that's become a staple for our annual beach vacation is grilled tuna steaks. They're just a little bit exotic, but in reality they're laughably easy to make (although I must say, they are not laughably cheap--tuna steaks can cost several dollars a pound at your local grocery store or fish market).

Even so, there are few things as visually stunning as a raw tuna steak with its deep rich red hues:

I always season both sides of each steak with coarsely ground black pepper:

Then I'll add some cayenne pepper and cumin:

Here they are, fully seasoned. Note the absolute absence of any salt.

That was really hard, time-consuming work, wasn't it?

Our final step before heading to the grill is to coat both sides of each steak with a generous amount of lime juice. However, do not do this until just a few minutes before you put them on the grill, or the acids in the lime juice will start "cooking" the tuna. We're not making ceviche here!

Then place the steaks on the hot grill:

In terms of cooking these guys, they are kind of like burgers or regular steaks--there's a bit of a "feel" to grilling them. And I'll confess, since I make these once a year and only once a year, I've never really gotten the feel down quite yet.

So usually, I inadvertantly sear them ruthlessly on the outside and leave them totally raw on the inside. But the great thing about tuna steaks is that's exactly how I like them--and better still, you can feign food snobbery by saying they're supposed to be that way!

Ah, food snobs. I love taking advantage of them when it matches my poor grilling skills.

Of course for the remaining people in your dinner party who don't want their tuna steaks mooing (or making whatever noise live tunas make), you can always leave them on the grill for a few minutes longer per side.

This is a dish that will please and impress your family and friends.

But after the faux food snobbery, it's time to get back to the more important "work"....

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Carousel Cakes: Chocolate Mousse Supreme Cake

For all you lovers of chocolate cake out there, I'd like to introduce you to the greatest chocolate mousse cake in existence: the Chococolate Mousse Supreme Cake by Carousel Cakes.

This frighteningly good chocolate mousse cake solved one of my life's most vexing problems.

You see, last weekend was my birthday. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I just don’t look forward to my birthdays any more. In fact, I'm at a point now where I pretty much dread them.

How unlike when I was a kid! When I was a kid, I dreamed of the days when I would be “older.” When I'd be older, I'd be an adult. Adults got to do what they wanted. And most importantly, they didn’t have bedtimes.

But of course kids grow up to find out, unfortunately, that pretty much everything they thought about being an adult was wrong. Adults actually don't get to do what they want, and worse, they have bedtimes too.

So when my birthday rolls around, I feel just another year older, another year slower, and another year closer to that big chocolate factory in the sky (I hope! I'd be pissed if I got sent down to the burning lake of vanilla).

I needed to find something, anything, to make my birthdays less painful. Naturally, I settled on something chocolate. And now, one of the things I look forward to most about my birthday is getting one of these cakes. Laura obliges me every year with a drive up to Nanuet, NY with $25.00 in cash ($24.00 for the cake and an extra dollar for the “Happy Birthday Daniel” writing), where she picks me up a large chocolate mousse supreme cake.

Keep in mind that this company distributes their glorious cakes to tons of cafes and restaurants all over New York City, and you can find yourself paying $6.50 a slice for it retail. Thus paying $25.00 for an entire cake just might be the best deal in the NYC metro area.

So imagine my joy when I came home from work last Friday night, peeked into the freezer, and saw....

Yep, it IS the chocolate mousse supreme...


Granted, the large-sized cake is so enormous that we usually don't finish it off until sometime in mid-October. But it’s designed to be kept frozen, which serves a dual purpose: it's easier to slice up that way, and it keeps the cake from turning into a science experiment... :)

But I have to confess, that after a month of mousse cake eating, even I am ready to wait until next year for the next one.

Now that's a birthday!

Carousel Cakes Factory Outlet 5 Seeger Drive
Nanuet, NY 10954
Tel: 866-659-CAKE

Carolina Barbecue!

Today's post is about that uniquely American food, barbecue. Specifically Carolina Barbecue, which we lustily ate last week on the way to our vacation on the North Carolina shore.

My secret for finding solid barbecue is this: wherever we're staying, I ask the girl at the checkout desk (in this case it was the Hampton Inn in Edenton, NC--and it was quite nice and clean by the way) what her favorite barbecue place is. She told me to head over to Captain Bob's about 15 miles away in Hertford, NC.

We knew this place would be great the minute we saw the cheap chairs, formica tables and paper placemats.

Heck, my hopes started soaring the minute I saw the gravel parking lot full of American-made cars.

Sure, NYC has its BBQ places, most notably, Virgil's and Blue Smoke, but there's something deeply irritating about paying $100 for dinner for two. It just doesn't seem appropriate to charge that much for barbecue--it kind of ruins the vibe (I'm thinking about Blue Smoke specifically here, Virgil's is a bit more reasonably priced).

Better to spend $19.89 for dinner for two (okay, it was $25.00 including tip) at Cap'n Bob's for some of the best BBQ we've had in a while, complete with delicious hush puppies and of course, mooshy beans!

Keep in mind, we're now on vacation from our normal diet, which is based primarily on quasi-vegetarianism. Thus there's just nothing like sitting down to a big plate of shredded meat with a bottle of Texas Pete's in hand. Some might call this just another example of mindless eating, but I see this as more of an example of following Rule #10: Let down your guard once in a while.

And of course I can't leave out that this $25.00 dinner also included a 2,000 calorie slab of peanut butter pie. Calling it a "piece" of pie would be a gross understatement. I could tell by the glint in her eye that Laura was only going to let me have a very small taste.

Antioxidant Alert! Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup

Last week I promised a recipe that would use swiss chard, and I'm fulfilling that promise with one of the best soup recipes I've found in a long time.

This dish will give you yet another way to include more leafy green vegetables in your diet and thus benefit from their high vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content. And not only does this soup recipe pass the five easy questions test with flying colors, it also qualifies for laughably cheap.

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup)
(slightly modified from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups water

4-5 cups diced white potatoes (unpeeled)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 cups packed kale or swiss chard, chopped
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup roasted sweet red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Saute the onions and garlic in oil for 4-5 minutes in a large soup pot. Add water, potatoes and black pepper, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the kale (or swiss chard), beans, roasted red peppers and parsley, simmer for 10 minutes more. Turn off heat and let stand for 10 minutes more. You can mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to make a thicker soup. Serve immediately.

Serves 5-6, and can be doubled easily.
Roasted red peppers and cannellini beans, draining:

A few quick additional notes:
1) You'll recall in our last post on swiss chard, I said to chop up and include the stems. However, if you use kale, as I am in the pictures in today's post, I suggest you cut the stems off. Swiss chard stems are mild and tasty, but kale stems are quite thick and tough. Thus with kale, just stick with the leaves.

2) Just as with swiss chard, the prep work goes a lot faster if you stack the leaves like in the picture below. Cut them in 1-2 inch strips, then cut them again once or twice crosswise. You'll reduce these guys to bite-sized pieces in no time at all.

3) Finally, recall our suggestions in prior posts about including wine with any meal, for purposes both gustatory and analgesic. Today's dinner was accompanied by an unpretentious semi-sweet wine we bought a few weeks ago at Americana Vineyards called Barn Raisin' Red. If you're ever visiting Ithaca, NY or the general area of upstate New York's Finger Lakes region, I highly recommend checking this winery out.