Tuna goes swimmingly on a barbecue grill

July 11, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

There's nothing canned about fresh tuna. With a full, rich flavor and dense, meaty texture, tuna, like swordfish, salmon and other oily-fleshed fish, stays moist and tender when cooked over direct heat.

With more and more of the prime commercial catch being marketed in fresh or frozen form rather than going to the canneries, several species of tuna steaks and fillets are becoming more widely available and often are an excellent value. Albacore, a relatively small, pale-fleshed species, is one of the most popular tuna "sea steaks" for char-grilling.

Success tip: Grilling times for fish are determined by the thickness of the fish, the temperature of the coals, the distance between the coals and the grill rack, and the type of coals used. As a general rule, allow 10 minutes of cooking time for every inch of thickness. For example, a fillet 1 inch thick will need about 5 minutes a side, or a total cooking time of 10 minutes.

"Tuna salad" may never mean quite the same thing after you've taste grilled fresh tuna atop a medley of tender vegetables. Any leftover tuna can be folded into a warm tortilla, drizzled with salsa, and enjoyed for lunch the next day.

Grilled Tuna With Vegetables

Serves 6 to 8

1 bunch asparagus

2 bulbs fennel, quartered

1/2 pound snow peas

8 quarts boiling salted water

3 bell peppers

1 pint cherry tomatoes

4 tuna steaks (6 to 8 ounces each), fresh or slightly thawed if frozen

1/4 cup olive oil, for brushing

VINAIGRETTE:

1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Build hot charcoal fire; allow coals to burn down to glowing red. Trim asparagus, fennel and snow peas. Blanch for 1 minute in the boiling water, then plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain and set aside.Core and cut peppers into strips. Remove stems from tomatoes and leave whole. Set aside.

Lightly brush tuna steaks with oil. Grill until flesh registers 145 degrees (about 3 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness), turning once.

Place tuna steaks on hot platter. Surround with vegetables. Drizzle vinaigrette over top.

To make the vinaigrette sauce, combine all ingredients and mix well.

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