Mother Necessity

Spice Dusted Tuna

Schoolhouse Rock taught me that necessity is the mother of invention.

Mother Necessity
With her good intentions,
Where would this country be
Without her inventions?

So when faced with a need, I try to get creative in my solution.  I look at what I do have and see if I can’t repurpose an item.  It’s amazing how many ordinary household items can be used in ways they are not specifically designed for.  For instance, did you know that in a pinch, a basket style coffee filter can be used to line a cake pan instead of parchment?  It can.

Spice Seared Tuna presented me with one of those challenges.  The recipe calls for a combination of different spices to be ground together into a fine powder.  My first thought was that I wished I had one of those tiny electric coffee grinders.  That would have been fast and easy, and I like fast and easy.  My second thought was that I needed a solution fast because I had a slab of sushi grade tuna in my refrigerator that would not be happy waiting around another day.

I looked at the blender and the food processor and neither of those were really right.  There weren’t even almost right.  They were just wrong.  Then I saw my solution.  Sitting right on my counter was an adjustable salt grinder.  Don’t ask me why I have a salt grinder.  It seemed like a good idea at the time and I know that it’s followed me in at least two moves.  But I couldn’t tell you the last time I had used it.  Until Spice Seared Tuna.

Here’s the thing about necessity, your improvised solution may be less than ideal.  Because even though that salt grinder did a fine job at taking various whole and ground spices and turning them into a powder, it was a lot of work.  What an electric grinder could have accomplished in a matter of seconds, took me about five to ten minutes to do manually.  At least the recipe made enough powder so that I now have some all ready to go the next time I want to make this dish.

Thanks Mother Necessity….because Spice Seared Tuna was worth the effort.  Schoolhouse Rock also taught me the entire Preamble to The Constitution, but so far, that hasn’t come in quite as handy in the kitchen.

Spice Seared Tuna with Avocado and Mango

Washington Post presentation of recipe by Jason Wilson

The original recipe called for pea shoots or baby mache.  Maybe if I Googled them, I’d know what they are.  I used whatever lettuce mix I had at the moment.  When choosing avocados for this dish, be sure to get ones that are not overly ripe.  My selection was limited to ones that were guac-ready, ie very soft, which completely disintegrated once they came in contact with the dressing.  With firmer avocados, this dish would be off the charts good.  I also reordered the steps and prepared the tuna last.  You do what makes the most sense for you.

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (I used ground coriander)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole back peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel

Combine the coriander, sugar, ginger, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and fleur de sel in a spice grinder.  Grind thoroughly.  If doing this in an handheld salt/pepper mill, set it to the finest grind possible.  This won’t be as quick or  easy as using an electric spice grinder but with patience, and a strong arm muscle, you should get enough spice blend to have it ready for the next time you make this dish.  Transfer half the ground spices to a small bowl and reserve the remaining spice blend for another use.

  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 12 ounces tuna (big-eye/sushi grade) loin
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 to 4 limes)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 inch piece peeled ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 8 ounces pea shoots (or baby mache)
  • 2 ounces pickled ginger, for garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat, until the oil shimmers.

Cut the tuna into 4 equal portions, then gently press the spice blend onto all sides of each portion.  Add the tuna to the skillet and sear lightly on all sides, about 10 seconds per side.  My skillet was not screaming hot so I seared to a count of 60 for each side.  The tuna will not be cooked through.  Transfer to a plate.

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, discarding pits and peels.  Cut the flesh lengthwise into thin slices.  Peel the mangoes, then cut the flesh lengthwise into thin slices.

In a measuring cup or bowl, combine the lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and remaining oil.  Finely grate the ginger and add to the lime juice.  Whisk to form an emulsified dressing.

Trim the scallions and cut into 1/4 inch slices, then place in a medium bowl.  Cut the red bell pepper into very thin strips and add to the bowl.  Add the pea shoots, discarding any of their thicker stems, then add three quarters of the dressing.  Toss to coat evenly.

Arrange the avocado and mango slices in the center of serving plates.  Place a mound of the dressed vegetables over the avocado and mango.

Use a sharp knife to cut the seared tuna portions into thin slices and arrange over the vegetables.  Drizzle the remaining dressing over the plates.  Garnish each portion with pickled ginger.

{Printable Recipe}

4 thoughts on “Mother Necessity

  1. It was totally a MacGyver Moment.

    If you don’t have an electric gizmo spice grinder and have to use a manual method, I highly recommend recruiting your children to help. They can think it’s a game.

    You should definitely try this. Maybe as a reward for making it through turkey, creamed onions, stuffing, and cranberries???

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