By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
If you are like me you have taste buds reserved in your mouth just for albacore tuna. Just say the word and I start to salivate. “Tuna!” See, I’m drooling. Maybe I love it so much because of its dense meaty flavor or maybe it’s how fresh it is this time of year here on the Oregon coast or cause of all the things you can do with it. Whatever it is, albacore is just plain delicious.
Albacore tuna not only tastes great but is also one of the most sustainable fisheries on the west coast. All tuna caught here is done with hook and line, no gill nets, so the fishermen target just the tuna. Tuna is a fast growing carnivorous fish that migrates up into our waters on the warm currents every summer until fall. Then they follow the warm currents back south again.
They are very low in mercury, particularly in fish under 25 pounds, which are most tuna caught off our shores. As the tuna get bigger and meaner they move into deeper waters to predate on larger fish and the mercury levels go up. Just remember, the larger the fish, the older they are and the more mercury they will have.
Albacore tuna is also a very nutritious fish, loaded with omega 3 fatty acids and protein. Interestingly enough, the smaller the fish the more omega 3s that are in them. Omega-3s, that which we all seek, are associated with reducing the risks or effects of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, lupus, and anything that ails you. Troll caught albacore tuna are considered a “best choice” by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sustainable seafood watch.
There are many ways to get your fresh albacore that don’t involve trying to find them 100 miles off shore. The easiest way is to buy them at a local seafood store. Manzanita Fresh Foods, CS Fishery, or the Garibaldi Cannery are carrying fresh albacore right now that is coming in almost every day right off the boat. Don’t walk, run and get them!
Eating it fresh isn’t the only way to enjoy it. Canned local tuna is absolutely the best! Once you’ve had it, you’ll never go back and you’ll know you are supporting a local industry that only targets tuna. I have home canned albacore tuna a few times under the watchful eye of a friend who knows how but have come to the conclusion that buying locally canned tuna is way easier and just about as expensive. If you do want to can your own fish please get the right equipment and take a class on it at the Oregon State University Extension Agency at (800) 354-7319. The best places to buy locally canned tuna are at CS Fishery or Garibaldi Cannery. (“The Blade’s Best” is amazing from there!)
Tuna is also wonderful for freezing. It is important to vacuum seal it before you freeze it. We have had tuna in the freezer for up to a year before cooking it and it was fantastic. In fact every year, right before tuna season, we clean out our freezer and have a BBQ and eat up the rest of last year’s tuna. So don’t be shy on buying 20 pounds now and freezing it for those long dark winter nights.
One of the easiest ways to BBQ tuna is to marinate it in an Asian marinade for an hour, then grill it. Sometimes we wrap it in half cooked bacon before we grill it. Delicious. However you have your tuna I suggest you enjoy in this seasonal bounty that is one of the amazing perks of living here on the beautiful Oregon Coast. If you don’t have your own reserved taste buds in your mouth for tuna, you soon will!
This recipe that I am sharing with you is super easy and can be made in a flash. It is elegant enough for company and yet is also perfect for a dinner for two. If you cannot find macadamia nuts you can use hazelnuts as a substitution. (That also gives the recipe a more local flare.) This recipe is also delicious with halibut and salmon as well.
Macadamia nut crusted fish
1.5 pounds of fresh tuna, halibut or salmon cut into 6 pieces
1/2-3/4 cup of finely chopped macadamia nuts or hazelnuts
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil, rosemary or tarragon
1-3 cloves of garlic pressed
1-2 tablespoons of sesame seeds or unsweetened flaked coconut
Few cranks of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 egg whites
Heat the oven to 350 and let it preheat. Lightly oil a glass baking dish and set aside. In a pie plate toss together the nuts, herbs, pressed garlic, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Whip up the egg whites in a small bowl till they are cloudy, then mix in the olive oil. Dip the fish into the egg white mixture then press into the nut mixture. Coat the nut mixture on all side of the fish then lay into the baking dish.
When all the fish pieces are in the baking dish tuck into the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes depending on how fat the fillets are. The general rule of thumb is 8-9 minutes per inch of thickness. You know the fish is done when you stick a knife into the fleshiest part of the fish, count to 5, pull it out and touch it to the inside of your forearm. If the knife is warm then the fish is done, if it is cool or cold, it needs 5 more minutes. (Make sure and use common sense here, if you have baked the heck out of the fish and the knife is smoking hot, please do NOT use this test!) Make sure and do not over bake! Serve with a glorious salad and enjoy this summer fish.