Seared Ahi Bowls with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Chimichurri
I rarely cook fish.
This was initially a personal choice, as it took a very long time to get over my many culinary school fish traumas. To be honest, I feel like all I did at Le Cordon Bleu was cook fish. Roasted fish, grilled fish, poached fish, pan-seared fish, fish stuffed with other fish (WHY?!!). And every single fish cooking experience began with the whole. damn. fish. I get that some chefs love receiving ingredients in their natural state and personally breaking them down, but I am not one of them. (Shocking, I know.) Short of Bear Grylls inviting me to demonstrate on a Lady vs. Wild-type episode, gutting a fish is not something I’ll ever willingly do. The scent lingers.
Dear God, just give me the filets.
My point is, for a good year post LCB graduation, the mere thought of cooking fish made me feel sweaty and nauseous. I just couldn’t do it.
When I finally got over my PTSD and began cooking fish again, I encountered a very serious stumbling block. My roommate. Logan is apparently insanely sensitive to fish smell, and he does not take kindly to my cooking it in our small apartment. The first few times I made halibut (or even shrimp), he walked through the front door screaming, “I knew you were making fish!! I could smell it in the lobby!!!” This is slightly melodramatic (and clearly Logan has an extremely well developed sense of fish-related smell), but he’s not wrong about the fact that fish tends to have a certain…odor.
Even extremely fresh, good quality fish has an undeniable tendency to perfume the air while it cooks. This is fine if you’ve got a spacious, Gwyneth-like kitchen with lots and lots of open windows, but in Manhattan’s less roomy apartments? You’re gonna live with that smell for a few hours. At least.
Because I really do love fish, and I would like to continue cooking/eating it, I’ve come to rely on a few recipes that minimize smell. The en papillote method is typically my go-to for white fish and salmon since it keeps the scent contained to a small package, but when I want to cook fish on the stovetop, I’m all about the tuna. A good piece of tuna is almost completely odorless, and it doesn’t offend even after a few minutes in a hot pan. HALLELUJAH. Seared tuna for the win.
Recently, I’ve been adding said tuna to various bowls like this Seared Ahi Bowl with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Chimichurri. It’s a showstopper, and you should probably try it ASAP.
Let’s break things down, shall we?
First, we’ve got some rice. I’m really into black rice right now, so that’s what I used in my bowls, doctored with a little lime juice, fresh cilantro, salt and coarse black pepper. I mostly dig this rice for its astronomical antioxidant content (you know I love things that make me look prettier), but I also appreciate the taste, which is nutty and slightly sweet. Black rice can be kinda hard to come by, so if you want to follow my lead, I recommend ordering it on Amazon. If not, no biggie. Brown rice, quinoa, and farro are all excellent subs.
Then there’s the roasted cauliflower. Lightly browned with a tender, buttery interior, roasted cauliflower may just be the sexiest of simple vegetables. Here, it’s spiced up with ground cumin and smoked paprika, flavors that jibe well with the Mexican-Mediterranean fusion vibes happening in the bowl. (Heads up, Mexican-Mediterranean fusion is probably the next big thing. You heard it from Domesticate ME! first.)
Then comes the main event—seared ahi, which we’ve already talked about. Be sure not to overcook it, friends. You want that cool, pink center.
And the whole thing gets finished off with a verrrry generous amount of red chimichurri. This festive sauce is ever so slightly adapted from Kim Kushner’s The New Kosher, gifted to me by my mother for Christmas last year. While I am clearly not Kosher, I am freakishly obsessed with the vibrant, uber flavorful recipes in this book. (Kim reminds me of why I wanted to be ¾ more Jewish after my Israeli adventure.) And this unique chimichurri, which gets its saucy freshness from the addition of cherry tomatoes and red bell pepper, is one of my favorites. As you can see, the color is actually closer to brown than red, but whatever. I plan to skip the food processor in the future and finely chop everything by hand. Sure, the chopping may take a million years, but I like the thought of a more rustic salsa. (You should obviously do you.)
I know there’s a lot going on in this recipe, but before you start throwing shit at your computer and cursing me for suggesting an unrealistic weeknight dinner, hear a girl out. I swear (on my roommate’s life) that this bowl is doable from start to finish in an hour, and that’s factoring in 50 minutes for rice. If you use pre-cooked rice or a quick-cooking grain like quinoa or farro, it’s more like a 30-minute adventure. Whip up the chimichurri and sear the tuna while the grains and cauliflower cook, and you’re good to go. I’m tempted to go full Ina here and throw out a, “How easy is that?”
p.s. This recipe makes four bowls. I originally planned the recipe for two but reconsidered for a couple reasons. First, this is a killer option for family dinner (Maybe? What do children eat?) and casual entertaining (i.e. Sex and The City Night, double dates, etc.), especially since you can serve each component family style and let peeps assemble their own bowls. Second, even if you’re cooking for one or two, a big batch of rice, cauliflower, and chimichurri can’t hurt. Obviously, you can scale back the tuna, but having leftovers of the other components will make for excellent sassy desk lunching and easier dinners throughout the week. The sides and sauce are equally bomb with chicken, steak, shrimp, or beans and lentils (if you’re doing a vegetarian/vegan thing). Go big, friends.
Seared Ahi Bowls with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Chimichurri: (Serves 4)
1 large head cauliflower, florets removed
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Fresh ground pepper
1½ pounds ahi tuna steak
2 cups cooked whole grain of your choice (I used black rice, but brown rice, quinoa and farro are all excellent.)
For the Red Chimichurri:
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes (about 6 ounces)
½ packed cup fresh basil leaves
½ packed cup cilantro leaves
1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped
1” knob fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Preparing your Seared Ahi Bowls with Roasted Cauliflower and Red Chimichurri:
-Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or foil.
-Place the cauliflower florets in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 1½ tablespoons olive oil, and add the cumin, paprika, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
-Arrange the cauliflower in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time, until the florets are tender and nicely browned in spots.
-While the cauliflower is roasting, get going on the chimichurri. Place the bell pepper and tomatoes in a food processor.
-Pulse a few times until they’re broken down. Add the basil, cilantro, jalapeño, ginger, garlic, and balsamic pulse a few more times until you have a chunky sauce. Drizzle in the olive oil and process for 5-10 seconds until incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Briefly set aside while you cook your tuna.
-Pat the tuna steak(s) dry. (I know only 2 are pictured, but I had 4 small steaks. You can always cook 1 or 2 large ones if you prefer.) Season both sides generously with salt and fresh ground pepper.
-Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tuna and cook for about 90 seconds per side. We’re just searing the tuna, peeps. It will be raw and cool in the center. (If raw-ish tuna isn’t your thing, cook your tuna for an extra minute or two per side.)
-Transfer the tuna to a cutting board. Slice the steaks thinly across the grain.
-Time to assemble your bowls! Add ½ cup of grains to each of 4 bowls. Divide the roasted cauliflower among the bowls, and fan the sliced tuna alongside the cauliflower. Top with plenty of red chimichurri.
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