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Tropical Salsa & The Decemberists

January 30th, 2009

Lately, my life has felt like it’s been on serious overdrive–in a pretty good way. I’m not sure if it’s my increasing trips to Sonoma County for planning my wedding, lots of birthday/friend get togethers, a full load at work or various other increased responsibilities (Aerogarden!), but I’m sort of go go go these days.

Luckily, my cooking hasn’t suffered. At the end of a busy day, between research/emails, blogging, and increasingly, Twittering, I still relish unwinding by preparing something quick, healthy and delicious. I can’t think of a more happy meal than one involving mango–in some form. Mango is the hot buttered rum of the fruit world. It’s decadent, thick and delicious. It’s one of those tropical fruits that I’m always amazed is so easily available at nearly every supermarket.

There was a time when I had never eaten a banana. A staple of an American school lunch, this ‘tropical’ fruit was just not readily available in the Soviet Union. God Bless America and its bananas and oranges. What would I ever do without them? I did once hear a terrifying forecast that the banana might be going extinct, but I’ll try not to think about that. Perhaps at that point, I’ll replace it with the mango.

Alas, I digress. For dinner a few nights ago, Matt and I were both in really great moods (perhaps it was following the amazing tasting we had with our wedding caterer to be?). Regardless, with a few ingredients, we pulled off a pretty simple and tasty meal. We made a bit of mistake with the tuna steaks, neglecting to coat them on both sides with the spices. Don’t get me wrong, they still turned out great. But I’m just sayin’–they could have been even better. I got some inspiration for the mango salsa and the tuna here and here–how much do I love the Internet! By the way, this salsa would go great with some tortilla chips, so don’t fret if you have leftovers. In fact, you can serve this meal with some chips. We had some brown rice as our carb. Play around with the spices, too. There is no Iron Rule.

Tuna
with Mango Salsa
* serves two

Note: As I mentioned above, we only covered one side of our steaks with the peppercorns (thus the bare-looking steak above). It was still delicious, but you should really give it two rubdowns.

For the Tuna:
2 medium tuna steaks

Spice mix for each steak (for two steaks, you’ll need double this amount):
about 2 tablespoons of black peppercorn (cracked)
1 tsp of cayenne
1 tsp of white pepper
1 tsp of paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of basil (dried)
Pinch of oregano (dried)
Pinch of thyme (dried)
1 tablespoon of olive oil

1. Coat each tuna steak (on both sides) with the cracked peppercorns, spices, salt and white pepper.
2. Pour olive oil into a hot skillet and saute each steak for about 3-4 minutes per side. Depending on if you want your steak seared or cooked more thoroughly through, you may end up cooking for more or less time.

Mango Salsa
1/2 mango, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 lime, squeezed
about 10 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon of cilantro, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve as a topping for the tuna.

Musical Pairings: Tuna with Mango Salsa & the Decemberists
Kasey’s tuna with mango salsa recipe is a complex and fun entree. For that reason, I think the quirky, energetic and lush music of the Decemberists is a perfect pairing for this meal. Even more, I’m tempted to make a nonsensical explanation of how tuna with mango salsa is a perfect metaphor for the Decemberists’ music, but I won’t. That would be ridiculous. Nonetheless, if you like your music pan seared and colorfully dressed, you should check out the fun live cover of by Decemberists’ lead singer Colin Meloy from a recent show in Seattle. –Matthew