Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grilled Tuna with Pesto Sauce, with King Estate Backbone Pinot Gris

Shannon Rose (pictured right enjoying this meal) and I  collaborated on this delicious summer meal. The main idea was inspired by a note in our King Estate wine club shipment about submitting suggested pairings for their 2011 Backbone Pinot Gris for a recipe contest.

Let me show you around the plate:
At 4 o'clock we have some grilled fresh summer squash, lightly oiled and salted and peppered.

At 8 o'clock is a fresh cucumber and tomato salad, dressed with a little white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

And the main course (which is the inspired pairing), at 12 o'clock, is grilled albacore tuna with a yogurt pesto sauce.

Here's how we did it:
First, pour yourself a glass of nice Pinot Gris. It's always helpful to taste the wine you're cooking with or plan to drink with your meal so you have the flavors in your head.

Cut tuna loin into fat slices - 2 to 3 inches. Marinade for a half hour or so in olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Place in a grill pan lined with foil, skin side down, and place over a hot grill. Add some pinot gris. Cook about 4 minutes and turn over. Add more wine and cook another 4 minutes. Voila! It should be ready to eat!

We found that the tuna was just a tiny bit pink in the thickest part (we like it that way), and really moist all the way through.

On top of the tuna, we put a homemade yogurt pesto (see recipe below) sauce. We just mixed the two together - about 1/3 pesto to 2/3 yogurt, but you could go as much as 1/2 and 1/2. The nutty and tangy flavors of the pesto sauce complimented the tuna nicely, and brought out the earthiness in the pinot gris.

To make fresh pesto:

What you need:
- Basil. A lot of basil.
- Pine nuts or hazelnuts
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh garlic, chopped
- Salt
- Olive oil
- Something tangy: lemon juice or balsamic vinegar work, but with different results
- A food processor or blender

What you do:
Wash or basil, allow to dry on towels, and then spend a LOT of time picking the leaves off the stems and putting them in a big bowl.

Fill up your food processor with basil leaves and add a healthy swirl of olive oil. Process until it's reduced and needs more stuff in the bowl. Add more basil and some of the other ingredients. Process again. I just take turns adding bits of the ingredients each time, scraping down the processor each time, and ALWAYS adding more olive oil. Do this to the taste and consistency you want. Be careful not to put in too many nuts - they are really flavorful and can overpower the pesto in my opinion. And don't skimp on salt.

When you're done, you should have a really fine sauce. And way less than you thought you would given how much basil you started with.

You'll want to eat it within a few days. If you store it in the fridge, be sure to smooth out the top of the sauce so only the top layer turns brown. It'll be nice and green underneath.

If I make enough, I like to freeze pesto for later use. If you're going to do this, I read once that you shouldn't put in the cheese, but should add it later when you thaw it out and use it. Not sure why, but that's what I do. I spoon pesto into ice cube trays and freeze it that way. When frozen, I pop them out and put them in a ziplock. That way you have nice usable pieces for adding to sauces or whatever later on.