It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
~~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Well, it is almost March, but in McAllen, we've hit 90 degrees at least a couple of times already! Soups and stews seem less appealing, and I find myself more drawn toward summer dishes like this Miso Tuna and Grilled Asparagus Soba Salad. Fresh asparagus has hit my local market, and ahi tuna is always available - either fresh or flash frozen. Flash frozen ahi tuna does not compromise the taste and texture of this dish, though fresh is certainly the best option...
This recipe is another great example of how I use My Pantry Checklist and my knowledge of flavor profiles. The ingredients that make up the glaze for the tuna and the dressing for the salad, as well as the soba noodles are ALWAYS in my pantry. My husband and I have a phone app called Our Groceries that syncs to both of our phones. When any of these ingredients run low, they go on the "right now" shopping list! Miso, tamari, mirin, sesame oil and seeds, and ginger are some of the ingredients that define the Japanese flavor profile. Striking a balance between these flavors is important when creating a new dish. I think Miso Tuna and Grilled Asparagus Soba Salad does just that.
This meal-in-a-bowl can be "sitting pretty" on your table in under 30 minutes if you are organized and focused. Mise en place (prep work) is key. Snap off the woody stems of your asparagus, and add them to a platter large enough to hold the asparagus and the tuna steaks. Whisk together the ingredients for the miso glaze, and finely chop the red pepper, scallions, and cilantro. Have the rice vinegar and toasted sesame seeds at the ready. Preheat your grill to high for 10 to 15 minutes, so that the grate is extremely hot (500° to create sear marks). The grill itself doesn't need to be that hot. Put the water on to boil for the soba noodles. Arrange the asparagus perpendicular to the grate or on a grill basket. The asparagus require 5 to 10 minutes to develop a little char and begin to caramelize (maillard reaction). If you're going for a rare center on the tuna steaks, you'll need approximately 2 minutes per side. I suggest you start the asparagus, turn the asparagus, start the tuna steaks, brush the top of the tuna steaks with the miso glaze, remove the asparagus to the platter, turn the tuna steaks, brush with the miso glaze, and remove the tuna steaks after 2 minutes on each side... Whew! This all happens in 10 minutes or less.
I am a huge fan of dishes that don't need to be served piping hot. Miso Tuna and Grilled Asparagus Soba Salad is served at room temperature. While the tuna and asparagus rest and cool, add the soba to the boiling water, and cook according to package instructions; my noodles cook to al dente in 4 to 5 minutes. While they cook, whisk the rice vinegar into the remaining miso glaze. This will be your salad dressing. Cut the asparagus into 2 to 2 ½ inch pieces. Drain and rinse the soba with cool water. Toss with the dressing, finely chopped red pepper, and the asparagus with the soba noodles. To serve, simply plate the soba salad, arrange sliced tuna over top, and garnish with chopped scallion, cilantro, and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy with a glass of viognier or a farmhouse saison... if you're so inclined!