I enjoy reading cookbooks and was inspired to try this white bean and tuna recipe while paging through Gran Cocina Latina, which is a 900 page volume about Latin American Food. The book goes way beyond recipes, deep into the history and cultural fabric of the Latin American kitchen. The author, Maricel E. Presilla, explains that the rich robust complex quality of the cuisine is accomplished by the layers of Latin flavor that go into every dish. The Adobo layer comes first. This is the one that seasons the meat or fish. It is often a paste or marinade, made from crushed garlic, spices, and citrus or vinegar. I made an adobo for this tuna, using garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt, lime juice and olive oil.
The second layer is the Sofrito, which is the base for the sauce. It’s a combination of finely diced aromatic ingredients, often with onions, that are sautéed in oil to bring out their depth of flavor. This tuna and bean dish has a sofrito made up of garlic, red onion, and spicy peppers. Some other important layers in Latin cooking, according to Presilla, are the balancing of the sweet, sour and salt; and imbuing foods with color from spices like paprika and achiote.
Here’s an onion chopping tip, if you’re interested: halve them through the root, slice them lengthwise, and then slice across the natural layers, which results in a nice small dice.
There is a fair amount of chopping prep in this dish, but when you taste all those delicious layers of flavor, I think you’ll feel like it’s worth the effort.
- 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, washed
- ½ yellow onion (kept in one piece)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- (For a quicker version where you don't cook the beans, substitute a 15 ounce can of Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained)
- 1½ pounds sushi-grade Tuna, cut into 4 steaks
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 Serrano peppers, halved, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- Searing the tuna
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Put the beans, onion and salt in a medium pot. Fill pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer beans, covered, for 1 to 1½ hours, till just tender. Drain water, discard onion, and set beans aside.
- In a small bowl combine garlic, lime juice, olive oil, salt, cumin and cayenne. Place tuna steaks in a flat dish with sides. Pour marinade over tuna and turn steaks to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to marinate for 15 to 30 minutes, while you prepare the sauce.
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté over medium heat. Add peppers and garlic and sauté, stirring, for about a minute, till garlic starts to turn golden. Add red onion, cumin and salt. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, till onion softens. Add cilantro, vinegar and water and cook for 2 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and gently stir to combine with the sauce. Turn heat down and simmer till beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Divide the beans among four plates.
- To sear the tuna, put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat till very hot but not smoking. Remove tuna from marinade and scrape off some of the excess marinade. Place the four steaks in the pan. You should hear a good sizzle. Sear the steaks for 1 minute per side. Plate tuna steaks on top of the beans. Enjoy!