Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Seared Tuna With Ponzu Dipping Sauce

There’s a new wave of entertaining popping up in homes throughout the world. It’s called the coffee-table movement. More and more people today are serving small, healthy dishes that are perfect for chic, informal meals served around the coffee table. Hence the name, coffee-table movement. Depending on where you live, these little dishes may be called antipasti, appetizers, tapas, mezze, sushi, or simply finger food.

In the introduction of her delightful cookbook Small Bites, author Jennifer Joyce explains, “There’s a revolution going on. The formality of the dining room is being exchanged for a more relaxed gathering around the coffee table as a new mode of entertaining. Growing numbers of home cooks are unashamedly offering guests simply a selection of canapés and appetizers as a main meal. They are dismissing the classic three course scenario with large cuts of meat and fish in favor of diminutive yet beguiling small bites.” 

These little small bites, or appetizers if you wish, are especially suited for those who want to entertain stylishly, but live in a small space without a dining room. They are also perfect for those of us that wish to eat less but not compromise on quality.

This seared sesame tuna is a perfect of example of small bites that can be served around the coffee table. The tuna is best prepared the night before so it is firm to cut, making it easier to slice. The ponzu sauce can be made on the morning of the serving day. Of course you could purchase the ponzu sauce, but why when you can throw it together in a matter of minutes.

When we lived in the Bahamas, tuna was on our menu frequently. Our favorite way to prepare freshly caught tuna is to make a simple raw tuna tartare and serve it as an appetizer with crackers. This is a picture of my husband and his friends with their catch at the dock, still dripping with salt water. It took two men and a boy to boat this big boy. So unless you’re lucky enough to catch your own, be sure to buy really good top quality sushi grade tuna – ruby red with a little white marbling throughout – and for heaven’s sake, please don’t overcook it.

Seared Sesame Tuna With Ponzu Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Small Bites by Jennifer Joyce – makes 8 small appetizers or 4 small meals

1 ½ pounds best quality fresh tuna, preferably from the tail
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
4 scallions, white parts and some green, cut into matchsticks
1 Granny Smith apple, (or apple of your choice), cut into matchsticks
1 European cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into matchsticks
Green scallion tops for garnish
Ponzu dipping sauce, recipe below

Cut the tuna lengthwise into 2 – 3 long slices, 2” wide, like you would small beef fillets. Heat a large, non-stick sauté pan on medium high heat. Meanwhile, rub the tuna with the olive oil, then roll it in the salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Place the tuna fillets in a dry pan and sear until brown on all sides, taking care not to overcook – the meat should be raw inside.

Allow the tuna to cool slightly, then wrap them very tightly in plastic wrap. The more tightly it is wrapped, the firmer it will be to slice. Refrigerate for at least an hour and preferably overnight so it’s firm to cut, making it easier to slice.

Unwrap the fish and slice very thinly, about ¼” thick. Arrange on a bed of scallions, apple and cucumber on individual plates and top with tuna slices. Garnish with some of the green scallion tops. Serve accompanied by the ponzu sauce for dipping.

Printable recipe including ponzu sauce

Ponzu Sauce
Be sure to zest the lemon before squeezing

1 cup low sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
Juice of ½ lime and ½ of lemon
1 scallion, chopped
Zest of ½ of a lemon for garnish

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the soy sauce and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Add lime and lemon juice and allow to cool to room temperature, then stir in chopped scallion. Garnish with lemon zest.


  1. Mmm, I love ponzu sauce! I like ahi tuna cooked rare-- the BH, not so much. But I try to get it out when I can! Looks great!

  2. What a tempting dish. And I love the idea of the "coffee table" movement!

  3. Love tuna! While I recently added a dining room to my home, I included a coffee table and fireplace area in the same room, so I have options for both types of entertaining.

  4. Ah, Sam!
    That looks as delicious as the Abaco Inn's!! We get it every 10-14 days!

    Hope your view is as lovely. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. This looks perfect...a beautiful dish...clean and refreshing.

  6. I love sushi! The color of the tuna on your plate is beautiful, it looks like candy. This is a stunning dish.

  7. I've made a similar sauce before and it really makes the dish to me. That's some big fish in the picture. Cute.

  8. wow looks great and love the idea of small tasty bites and wow great catch by your hubs

  9. Sam, I love tapas. I think the Spanish have the right idea!

    Okay, you are going to have to shoot me over this, but I can't do it. I just can't! I have to have my tuna cooked. LOl! I'm Southern. What can I say??? That's what I tell people when I tell them in restaurants to burn things. LOL!

    Tell you what, we'll have a chicken dish when you come visit, okay?


    Sheila :-)

  10. Really delicious looking! That'll make a perfect summer dish.



  11. Sounds like a really 'clean' fresh tasting dish.

    Coffee table - interesting concept. And people may eat more, or less, as a result.

  12. I love this new coffee table movement... and much prefer entertaining with finger foods in an informal atmosphere, even though we still have the dining room. We've chosen not to live "formally" and in the new house have eliminated a formal living room and our dining room area is open to the kitchen.

    I have never become a fan of sushi in any form other than california roll... I might be the only person left on the planet who feels this way. However, the way you have prepared it looks delicious.

  13. Such a lovely red coloured tuna Sam, cooked to perfection ans served deliciously. I think I love coffee table dining best!

  14. I've always preferred small bites to a large dinner. More so since I've gotten older. People are entertaining large groups of people less and less, so the idea of appetizers and small groups of friends is most appealing.
    Your tuna looks perfectly delicious, Sam, and I love the ponzu dipping sauce!

  15. Love that picture! i ma not a big fan of rare tuna, but myhusband loves it; Maybe I need to try this great looking recipe.
    Happy Chinese New year!

  16. Your tuna is cooked perfectly for my taste, Sam. Dipped into that wonderful sauce it's a perfect meal. Small bites are a great alternative to traditional meals.

  17. I've never had this can you believe? The photo of your husband and friends is so happy! That's a big fish!
    Your recipe sounds very good!

  18. We do enjoy eating around our cocktail table too. Sometimes dinner is simply appetizers for the two of us. I love seared ahi tuna and the sauce sounds delicious. I'm saving a copy!

  19. Absolutely love this recipe, but I'll probably eat my seared tuna at one of my favorite restaurants because I'm too chicken to do it myself.

  20. Healthy and scrumptious - and oh my - that was one big tuna! Very impressed! Have never caught anything near that size. Love the idea of the "coffee table movement." It's actually my favorite way to eat.

  21. What a great shot of perfectly cooked tuna

  22. Sam, your seared tuna looks almost exactly like what Lynn had today at the Copper Door in Hayesville at our Mother-Daughter lunch. I had salmon. You and Meakin will like this place. Try it.

  23. Your tuna is just gorgeous, sounds perfect with the tangy and flavorful ponzu sauce!

  24. Sound and looks perfect. Definitely a keeper! Lovely snaps too.

  25. Absolutely beautiful photo Sam

  26. Yum! I would love this.

    And, it is the perfect pink.

  27. Sam- I love the picture of your husband with his friends.

    The tuna looks perfectly cooked and extremely tasty.

  28. Love this dish! My son and his father go on an albacore fishing trip every year, so I will pass this along. Thanks for visiting my blog. I will enjoy checking yours out- it looks fabulous. Vickie

  29. Fantastic appetizer; you are so right, I would much prefer eating small bites as a main meal then a three course huge meal; as we get older, we can't stomach all that food, but we still want it to taste good.

  30. Your tuna and ponzu looks delicious, Sam. I agree that a good quality fresh tuna tastes best raw as possible. That was a nice tuna that your husband caught!

    "Small Bites" looks like a delightful cookbook that I'll have to add to my collection.

  31. What a beauty!! And I love this meal...I don't think I've ever tried ponzu sauce!!?? I must fix that soon, it sounds awesome. And I love the concept behind this book, sounds fun. I'll look for it! :D

  32. I am NOT FALLING for this Ponzu sauce. I have heard about those things and people like Bernie Madoff! (ha ha)

    Elegant presentation, especially considering the kitchen you had to work in, all torn up!

  33. Hello,

    Thanks so much for visiting and your kind comments.
    Seafood is my most favorite food...including all kinds of fish.

    Great recipes and photos!

    ~ Gabriela ~

  34. Wow, Sam, that is some catch! Gorgeous! And this is some fabulous dish, small or not! I'll bet the flavor is tremendous! I adore tuna and simply prefer it just barely seared like this. Wonderful recipe!

  35. ahhhh ! tunaaa !
    loveloveloveloveloveeeeee it ~
    youre killing me here , hahaa

    youre recipes, backed up with your photos = amazing

  36. The ponzu sauce is new to me, so it's a must-try since I love ahi tuna. This new trend of coffee-table dining sounds perfect for my lifestyle, and I've always loved tapas too. This cookbook sounds tempting!


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