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Seared Tuna with Celery and Butter Pea Salad

Ease of Preparation: Moderate

Preparation Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Servings: 4

Recipe By: Frank Stitt

From:  Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill
Used with permission of Workman Publishing Company

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Seared Tuna with Celery and Butter Pea Salad

The contrasting textures of the buttery smooth tuna, the crunchy celery, and the earthy beans provide a tantalizing combination. Toasting the peppercorns and fennel seeds awakens their flavors and releases their deep aromas. Butter peas, a delicate shell pea somewhere between fresh black-eyed peas and butter beans, are a favorite choice, but canned chickpeas are a dependably good alternative. If truffles are unavailable, or not in the budget, substitute a julienne of button mushrooms with a drizzle of truffle oil.

1 1/2 teaspoons peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
One  8-ounce piece of center-cut tuna loin, about 3 by 3 by 4 inches
 kosher salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
For the Salad
2  celery stalks, cut lengthwise in half and sliced 1/4 inch thick, leaves reserved for garnish
1 cup cooked butter peas or  drained and rinsed canned chickpeas
1  red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
One  1- to 2-ounce black truffle or 3  large button mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned, and cut into julienne strips
1  shallot, finely minced
 grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
 freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons black truffle oil or  more if desired
Toast the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and crush with the pestle, or crush under a heavy skillet. Spread the peppercorns and fennel seeds on a small plate. Roll the tuna "brick" in the spices and press with the heel of your hand so they adhere. Season the tuna with salt.

Heat a small heavy sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil and sear the tuna on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total; it will still be very rare inside. Transfer the tuna to a rack set over a plate to rest.

To prepare the salad, combine the celery, peas, roasted pepper, truffle, shallot, and lemon zest in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss with the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and truffle oil.

Slice the tuna crosswise into 1/8-to 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange like a sunburst in a circle on each of four serving plates. Place the salad in the center and garnish with the reserved celery leaves. Drizzle the tuna with any remaining dressing from the bowl, or a little extra truffle oil, if desired.
Chef Suggestions
NOTE: You may need to order the tuna ahead. Ask the fish monger to cut a rectangular "brick" from a "loin" of tuna.

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