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…
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.
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.
Ingredients to help with this recipe: