Grilled Tuna Rolls

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad)  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad) | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Barefoot to Go”

The Set-up: Ina is bringing a day’s worth of meals to her friends Rob Marshall and John DeLuca who are holed up in the Hamptons editing their movie, Nine. Alas DD-L does not make an appearance.

The Menu: Grilled Tuna Rolls, Lentil Vegetable Soup, Homemade Granola Bars

0:55 – Ina says she offered to bring Rob and John “take-out” but she suspects they won’t call, so she’s surprising them with breakfast and lunch.

1:06 – First up: Homemade Granola Bars and Ina is toasting the oatmeal, shredded coconut and slivered almonds. I bet the kitchen smells fantastic…

2:19 – Granola is such a tricky thing – it seems like it should be so healthy and yet these bars have honey, butter, AND brown sugar. Not that I’m complaining exactly.

3:41 – Ina always uses the most enormous glass mixing bowls and I’m jealous that she must never worry about whether there’s enough mixing space.

4:22 – I am 100% on board with the dried apricots and cranberries in this mix, but dates – not so much.

5:03 – These granola bars look crazy sticky and delicious. May need to make a batch.

5:50 – We flash over to an adorable cedar shake cottage that we will from now on call The Editing Bunker and Rob seems to be playing “Bad Cop” insisting that they power through without breakfast. Mean!

6:34 – Back to Ina as she cuts the granola bars and individually wraps them. Because she’s perfect.

9:25 – Ina has arrived with her breakfast basket to surprise Rob “Bad Cop” Marshall and John “Good Cop” DeLuca, who actually let their crew stop for a moment to eat.

11:37 – Back to the barn to make the Lentil Vegetable Soup for lunch in their “Day of Barefoot.”

12:02 – What is it about anything that starts with a base of sautéed onions, garlic, and leeks? Sign me up!

13:28 – If I’m not mistaken this is the same base as the recipe for French Lentils with just a lot more chicken stock to turn it into soup. Very tricky, Ina.

14:33 - Ina is using her favorite French green lentils (aka lentils de Puy) and I 100% agree with her on their texture being better – maybe because they’re smaller they seem less mushy?

19:44 – Onward to the Grilled Tuna Rolls which actually aren’t grilled, but cooked in a really hot sauté pan.

20:13 – Pro Tip #1: Use a dry sauté pan, any oil put in the pan will burn before it’s hot enough to sear the tuna.

21:47 – Now for the dressing, which is soy, sesame, and lime based. I love limes, but juicing them is the worst.

22:50 – Ina is so right about avocados  I always have to buy them a little under-ripe a few days in advance and they are prone to “schmut[zing], a technical term.”

23:32 – Salad assembly time and this looks so, so delicious.

27:10 – Can I tell you a secret? When she first started making this I was expecting sushi, but it’s definitely a variation on the classic lobster roll. Should I be embarrassed?

28:09 – The soup is done and Ina has arrived at The Editing Bunker, which curiously involves some sort of soothing infinity pool in the backyard, for an al fresco lunch.

29:28 – Rob “Bad Cop” Marshall has switched hats to “Good Cop” and tells Ina that he is surprising her with a sneak peek of the movie trailer. She is adorably excited to have such a treat further endearing her to me forever. Love!

Final Thoughts:

Having a seriously hard time deciding which of these recipes to try – so many good ones!

Granola Bars seem so simple to make; I think I’m going to challenge myself to develop my own recipe.

I know I’ve said this before, but Ina has the coolest friends.

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad)   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad) | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I had never cooked a tuna steak before, so I was a little nervous, but all the more reason to make Grilled Tuna Rolls. As it turns out it’s actually pretty simple and the rest of the recipe is just prepping a few vegetables and mixing the dressing. That said, I have a confession to make: I completely forgot to put in the sesame seeds. So lesson learned, review the ingredient list carefully so you don’t leave something out! Thankfully the sesame seeds aren’t totally essential. Can we chalk it up to brain freeze? Whoops!

Tuna – As it turns out the skills needed to cook a filet mignon are the same for a tuna steak. Really hot sauté pan - I let it heat over a high flame for 4-5 minutes – a seasoned piece of fish and just a little patience. The major difference is the length of time per side: you will literally need 1 minute on each to have a perfectly seared tuna steak. Crunchy and golden on the outside and beautifully crimson on the inside. If you watch carefully while it’s searing you can actually see the cooked part creep toward the inside, so no excuses for over cooking!

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad)   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad) | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, definitely. I used a medium (8”) stainless steel sauté pan, a large cutting board, chef’s knife, medium mixing bowl, microplane grater, mixing spoon, pastry brush and measuring spoons. That’s it!

The Verdict:
The Grilled Tuna Rolls (technically seared, but who’s counting?) sounded so good that I skipped the hotdog buns and just went with it as a plated salad. The flavors straddle a really cool crossroad between a sushi roll (tuna, avocado, wasabi) and guacamole (lime, red onion, avocado again) and successfully balance richness, spice, and acid. Normally I’m suspicious of so-called “entrée salads” but this one really is a meal. I can’t wait to make this again soon!

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad)   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Tuna Roll (Salad) | Image: Laura Messersmith