Szechuan Crusted Tuna with Summer Melon and Peach

Fish Week at the Farmstead house continues! And I’m probs going to confuse a few people with this dish. If you remember yesterday’s post I mentioned that fruits and vegetables that grow together, go together (despite the bizarre-ness of combining sweet fruit with savory dishes). What that means is that all fruits grown within the same season as a vegetable should pair perfectly. So when a Summer melon is combined with peaches and cucumber, (like in this Szechuan Crusted Tuna with Summer Melon and Peach dish), they should balance and contrast each other enough to make a beautifully composed dish. I get that maybe the peach, melon, cucumber pairing isn’t the most confusing part of this dish for you. But bear with me…

Szechuan Crusted Tuna with Summer Melon and Peach

One of the most lasting memories I have from Culinary school comes from the first time I stepped foot in the lecture hall. It was “Welcome Day” and my mom and I sat there, waiting with excitement for what we would learn (and eat). The Head Chef kicking off the festivities walked in and quickly passed each of us a small plate with seemingly unimportant ingredients. There was a small wedge of cantaloupe, a sprinkling of cayenne pepper, a lime wedge, and a pinch of salt.

Over the next 5 minutes, we tasted different combinations, making note of how they complimented or contrasted each other. The final bite was a combination of all of the ingredients. That single bite inevitably changed the way I would look at food for the rest of my life . The balance of sweet, savory, spicy, and acidic was simple in theory yet explosive in flavor. In that moment, I knew that playing with those combinations would ultimately become the foundation of how I build recipes.

Szechuan Crusted Tuna with Summer Melon and Peach

Sure, these days I tend to push the taste boundaries beyond what some may find comfortable. I remember making a blueberry pizza with salty cheese and shrimp for my boss once. After I promised that it wasn’t going to be gross, he tried it, and was shockingly pleased by the taste! This Szechuan Crusted Tuna with Summer Melon and Peach recipe doesn’t push those same buttons but the playful savory and sweet balance is what makes this dish a winner.

And get this! Not only is it tasty but it’s a cold dish that’s incredibly easy to prepare! It’s great for a picnic lunch or light Summer dinner. The crisp Summer melon and cucumber salad works beautifully with the peach and tart currant vinaigrette. But its the Szechuan peppercorns that not only makes this dish a hit but ties all of those seemingly opposing flavors together. The tingling spicy heat of the peppercorn acts as the invigorating moderator for all of the wonderful seasonal flavors. If you cant get your hands of Szechuan peppercorns, sub with another spicy pepper like cayenne or red chili flakes. This dish will certainly be delicious without any heat. But by keeping the spice, your meal with go from tasty to downright phenomenal.

This fragrant but mouth-numbing spice is more aromatic than spicy.

Ingredients to help with this recipe:

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Szechuan Crusted Tuna with Summer Melon and Peach
The crisp Summer melon and cucumber salad works beautifully with the peach and tart currant vinaigrette. But the tingling heat of the Szechuan crusted tuna is what truly makes this dish a winner.
Instructions
Szechuan Crusted Tuna
  1. Start by grinding your peppercorns and coriander seeds together, making sure not to grind them too fine (a coarsely ground rub will give you great bursts of flavor). I like using a mortar and pestle for this kind of grind. Season the tuna generously with salt. Sprinkle the ground pepper mixture over the entire tuna, rubbing it into the flesh and creating a nice crust.
    Szechuan peppercorns
  2. In a large skillet over high heat, add a couple tsp of olive oil then add in the crusted tuna. Cook the tuna for 1 1/2 minutes then flip. Cook for additional 1 1/2 minutes then remove from the pan. Place seared tuna in refrigerator until completely cooled. Cut into thick slices for serving. Finish with Maldon Salt (optional).
Summer Melon and Cucumber Salad
  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel long strips from the outside of the cantaloupe and cucumber (making sure not to cut into the seeded center). Place in a bowl and toss with arugula and vinaigrette.
Peach and Currant Vinaigrette
  1. Place the peeled and cored peaches in a blender with the garlic, vinegar, honey, and mustard. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Fold in the currants and season with salt.
    Szechuan Crusted Tuna
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