I typically turn to fresh seafood in times of health and abundance. A beautiful piece of fish or a pile of shellfish feels virtuous, celebratory, life-giving. Life is changing for all of us at lightning speed, now more than ever, but it’s not likely that celebratory or life-giving are the words we’d use to describe our world lately.

And yet. If you can make a moment feel exuberant—do it. Flowers still open in the rain. The rhythms of life have a way of renewing us, especially those practices that require us to make something. There’s nothing frivolous about pulling out your knife and skillet and setting to work.

If you have access to ahi tuna right now, this simple sesame treatment paired with a tangle of spicy, crunchy, fresh soba noodles will jolt your palate. If you can’t find tuna, but have another kind of fish to pan-sear, substitute it and carry on. And if you don’t have fish at all, a plateful of noodles is always a plate of abundance, in my book. The soba noodle salad is the star here, anyway: crisp, colorful vegetables, cooling herbs, and a spicy dressing that may have you shoveling noodles into your mouth straight out of the fridge for a late-night snack.

In crisis or celebration, time moves along just the same. I make sense of it by cooking my way through—maybe you do, too.

Sesame Tuna with Spicy Soba Noodle

Serves 4


Ingredients:

seared tuna
4 (6–8 oz.) yellowfin tuna steaks
4 Tbs. white sesame seeds
4 Tbs. black sesame seeds
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
Soy sauce (optional)

salad dressing
3 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. sriracha
2 Tbs. lime juice
1/4 tsp. red chile flakes

salad
6 oz. soba noodles
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 orange or red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage
½ cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 lime, for serving

Instructions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients for salad dressing and set aside.

2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Drain and immediately rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Toss noodles in a large bowl with the dressing until well-coated, and then add the celery, bell pepper, carrots, jalapeño, cabbage, and chopped herbs. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. (The salad is delicious room temperature or chilled, so feel free to make ahead.) Before serving, be sure to squeeze the juice of one lime over the soba salad.

3. Pat the tuna dry and season on both sides with kosher salt and pepper. On a large plate, combine black and white sesame seeds. Gently press both sides of each tuna steak into the sesame seeds to form a crust. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Sear tuna 1 to 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare (cook in batches if your skillet isn’t large enough).

4. Serve tuna sliced with the soba noodle salad and soy sauce for dipping, if desired.

Photo by Jivan Dave