Living in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, gave us access to the freshest seafood, which is one of the reasons we are seafood snobs. The ocean was the centerpiece of our restaurant and every room in the mansion on the hill had stunning views of Zihuatanejo Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Our resort restaurant, La Cala, was known for serving exquisite food, especially seafood. However, the Black Angus steaks we shipped in twice a week from Houston had people clamoring for high-quality beef in a country that wasn’t known for it. But back to the seafood. Robalo was the preferred fish in the winter, percebes revered during the Christmas holidays and, luckily, we had a constant supply of mahi-mahi and tuna all year long.
Fresh Fish Delivered to Our Doorstep
A few times each week, assorted fishermen would dock at our marina and summon us out to their panga filled with some of their best friends or family members and all kinds of freshly caught seafood that was maybe a few hours old. David and our chef, Sabino, would generally take most of what they caught. And they would always cherry-pick the smaller tunas for some of our top-selling tuna dishes in the restaurant.
We were almost famous for our tuna carpaccio which at least one person at every table ordered. Razor-thin slices of lightly frozen raw tuna, so it would cut easily, topped with twig-like slices of onions, doused with high-quality olive oil and lime juice and sprinkled with salt, pepper and briny capers. It was a plate of heaven that I can taste. The menu also featured a chunk of grilled tuna with a side of pasta and marinara sauce. Hearty, but not heavy, this was another dish we could never remove from the menu or havoc would ensue.
What to Make with Fresh Tuna
When I glimpsed at beautiful, bright red hunks of tuna at Whole Foods the other day, tuna machaca flashed in my mind like a neon light. It’s a recipe from Chuck Hughes when he had a show on the Food Network. This Baja California recipe takes the best of tuna and makes it even better with a few additional ingredients.
All you need is a poblano, white onion, a few garlic cloves, tomatoes and dried or fresh oregano to make tuna machaca come to life in your kitchen. If you have a grill, that is preferred, but we used a wok and it was almost as good as the smoky, grilled version. David cut the tuna in chunks while I thinly sliced the poblano and onions and, within 10 minutes, we were savoring one of our favorite meals, tacos.
We always serve tuna machaca on corn tortillas and with a salsa of sorts but concurred it would be equally good over a bed of Mexican or white rice. With so much time on our hands these days and having to cook at home, let this 10-minute meal be the one that happily brings everyone to the table. Because whether it’s Thursday or Saturday, tacos are a symbol of love and that’s what we all need more of these days.
Being tuna and taco lovers, we gleefully found this recipe on Chuck Hughes's cooking show in about 2010. It's something we have been making for 10 years and I am finally sharing it with you. Really fresh tuna is seared with poblano, onion, garlic and tomatoes which come together to make a divine sauce. Serve on corn tortillas with your favorite salsa.
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 white onion thinly sliced into half-moons
- 1 poblano sliced into thin strips
- 1 1/2 lbs fresh tuna cut into small chunks
- 1 medium ripe tomato (or 6-8 small cherry tomatoes, cut in half) cut into chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- limes when serving the tacos
- salsa we like salsa verde but you can use whatever salsa you prefer or have on hand
- corn tortillas heat the tortillas over a low flame on your gas cooktop or place in a skillet
Heat the grill or a wok or non-stick pan. If using the grill, put your vegetables in a grill pan with holes so the vegetables can cook through. If using a wok or a non-stick pan, add the oil and let it get hot.
Once it's hot, add the onions and poblanos and let them cook for 3-4 minutes, until they soften. If using a grill, this will take longer.
Once the vegetables are softened, add the chunks of tuna and let them sear. Do not move the tuna for 2 minutes. Then stir and let it sear again.
Once the tuna is seared on all sides, add the tomatoes and oregano and stir well to combine.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with lightly charred corn tortillas, a squeeze of lime, salsa verde or salsa of your choice and celebrate the joy of tacos.
This recipe can easily be halved or even doubled for a big group.