I enjoy game as much as anyone, but I’m thinking fish for our March recipe. The cold weather from early January has had negative effects on several species of inshore fish, but the offshore fishing remained surprisingly good. The wind and sea conditions weren’t often ideal, but when weather windows opened, most fishermen found the fish biting from the top to the bottom.
While the old saying is about March winds, there are usually a few good breaks that allow fishermen in the Carolinas the time to make the long Gulf Stream run in calm seas and find excellent fishing conditions once there. The two staples of catches are wahoo and blackfin tuna. Wahoo always have the potential to be large, and March blackfins are usually healthy, with many exceeding 20 pounds.
This recipe is for blackfins, but it will work well with just about all tuna, including their smaller Atlantic bonito cousins that often make an early run closer to the beaches. Many fishermen confuse Atlantic bonito and false albacore. Atlantic bonito are prime table fare, while most folks don’t particularly care for the stronger taste of false albacore. This recipe is one of many reasons to learn to tell the difference, and most of them involve eating Atlantic bonito.
This recipe began as a way to use the smaller pieces of tuna that are often left after cleaning. It has become a favorite and is now prepared with prime pieces of tuna loin. The combination with fruit gives it a lighter taste that naturally conjures up memories of beautiful spring weather and excellent fishing trips. Daylight Savings Time begins March 11, and spring arrives March 20. If the weather cooperates — with the hour of daylight shifted to the afternoon — this could be a nice meal to enjoy on the deck or patio.
Jerk and fruity tuna salad
This recipe is about as simple as it gets. The tuna is cooked, but everything else is chopped and mixed. Consider the ingredients as a guideline rather than a firm list, and if you prefer one fruit or don’t particularly like one, then add or delete to suit your personal tastes.
Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (www.walkerswood.com) is the key to this recipe, and I’d definitely worth taking the time to find. I was introduced to it years ago by a friend, Dawn Brown, whose husband is Jamaican, and it was very difficult to find except in gourmet and specialty shops. It is now available in several supermarket chains.
Walkerswood, a wet rub named for the rural Jamaican community where it began, is the real deal and still made in Jamaica. I like the “Hot and Spicy” blend, but there are standard and “Mild” versions also. For the best saturation, the jerk seasoning should be rubbed onto the meat and allowed to absorb overnight. Fish seems to absorb it better than beef, chicken and pork, and you should find several hours allows the flavor to saturate nicely.
Don’t use canned fruit for this. It just isn’t right and often has added sugar. The amount of fruit needed is low, and I find that using one of the pre-cut, mixed fresh fruit bowls popular in supermarkets gives me all the fruit I need. There is usually also some left over for snacks.
I include poppy seed dressing in the ingredients list for this, but I don’t use it in the salad or when eating the salad with crackers. I use a little poppy seed dressing when eating this as a sandwich, and it can be mixed into the salad or used as a spread on the bread.
Spring arrives this month, so it’s time to begin enjoying fresh bluewater fish again. This recipe isn’t quite as much fun as catching tuna, but it’s a great way to enjoy them without a lot of preparation time and effort. This is a superb way to enjoy the first tuna of spring in a light meal that is just right to enjoy during a spring evening on your deck or patio. The blend and amount of the Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning can be tailored so even those with the mildest palate can enjoy the combination of fresh fish, fresh fruit and genuine Jamaican jerk seasoning.
TIP: Know your tuna species. Yellowfin and blackfin are great table fare and easily recognizable. Skipjack tuna, which are very tasty, are sometimes confused with their cousins, Atlantic bonito and false albacore. Skipjacks have horizontal stripes below the lateral line. Bonito are also tasty and have horizontal stripes on their backs. False albacore, largely inedible, have worm-like markings on their backs and extremely red flesh.
TIP: Canned fruit often has enough added sugar to overpower many recipes that call for fruit. Go fresh whenever possible.
2 or 3 blackfin tuna loin steaks (10 to 12 ounces total)
3/4 cup cubed pineapple
3/4 cup cubed cantaloupe
3/4 cup cubed honeydew melon
1/4 cup chopped mango
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
Several lettuce leaves
Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (mild, regular or hot and spicy: to personal taste)
Poppy seed dressing
Triscuit whole wheat crackers (personal preference may be substituted)
Light rolls (croissant, kaiser, onion, etc.)
Butter flavor anti-stick cooking spray
Rub both sides of the tuna steaks with Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning and seal in aluminum foil. There are different spice levels, and always remember that less is milder and more is spicier. Allow the tuna steaks to season for at least a couple of hours; overnight in the fridge isn’t too long.
Return tuna to room temperature before cooking. Cube the fruit into pieces roughly the size of the end of your little finger. Spray a cast-iron pan with cooking spray and preheat to medium/medium high. Sear the tuna on both sides until the sear extends approximately 1/8- to 1/4-inch into the steaks — approximately 2 minutes per side. Cut the tuna into small cubes. Mix the tuna and fruit in a large bowl.
Serve the tuna salad on a lettuce leaf with lime slices on the side for each individual to add to their personal taste. One serving style is with Triscuit crackers on the plate, and a second is on a light bun, with poppy seed dressing on the side.
This is a complete but light meal. It is excellent served alone, but some will appreciate adding a light dessert, such as flan or fried plantains.