A Dinner Fancy Enough for Guests, Easy Enough for Weeknights

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img_2848Tonight’s meal will be a seared tuna steak with a chimichurri sauce served over a bed of couscous with a chopped Caprese and cucumber salad and steamed asparagus.

That sounds fancy, doesn’t it? This is a great meal to serve to guests because it looks beautiful, but it’s not complicated to make. In fact, the most time consuming part is chopping up cucumbers and tomatoes for the salad, which means it’s also perfect for any night of the week. This is also a healthy and incredibly flexible meal. Swap out the tuna for beef, chicken or pork and use a pesto instead of a chimichurri sauce.

Within the recipes below, I’ve included suggested adaptations to suit your family or your guests’ tastes without adding extra time in the kitchen.

The recipes are listed in the order in which you’d work on them.

Chopped Caprese and Cucumber Salad

Serves 4, 10 minutes active prep, 30 minutes inactive prep

1 pint, cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 large cucumber, chopped to match size of tomatoes

8 oz container of Ciliegine or Bocconcini mozzarella (the tiny balls of fresh mozzarella in the deli section)

1/3 cup, red wine vinegar

1/3 cup, extra virgin olive oil

splash of water

1 tablespoon, fresh oregano, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoon, fresh basil, torn or 2 teaspoons dried basil

salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients into a bowl and mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Adaptations: Instead of mozzarella, try Ricotta Salata cheese crumbled into the salad. It’s firmer and slightly saltier than the mozzarella, but equally as good. Put aside some chopped veggies for picky eater who may not like them marinated.

Seared Tuna Steaks

Serves 4, 5 minutes active prep, 4 minutes cooking time

4, 4 ounce fresh tuna steaks

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Coat the tuna steaks in oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. I season generously, so that the surface is well covered. This is a hearty fish that can stand up to the flavor. Adjust seasoning to your taste preferences.

Preheat grill or pan to high heat. Grill or sear to preferred doneness.  1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side for rare or 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch of thickness for more well done steaks.

Adaptations:  Swordfish is another good “meaty” fish option in place of tuna. For the meat eaters, cook up any cut of beef, pork or poultry they’d prefer. Season the same way you did the tuna and throw them all on the grill together. Here’s a handy chart to estimate grilling times.

Chimichurri Sauce

Open up a prepared container of chimichurri sauce, put it in a pretty serving bowl and do not feel guilty about it.

Chimichurri is used in Argentina and Uruguay as a condiment for grilled meats. It’s a raw sauce made out of fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro, and it’s flavor is bright, tangy and delicious. It’s simple to make your own. Here’s a basic recipe. If you’re going to take some help from the store, like I usually do, look for freshly prepared chimichurri sauces near the hummus and pesto (it’ll be in a similar looking container).

Adaptations:  Pesto sauce is a great alternative and may be easier to find pre-made. If you want to get really fancy, offer your guests three different sauces: chimichurri, pesto, and an olive tapenade. All of these flavors will go well with the tuna, and it’s an even prettier presentation.

Couscous

Serves 4, 5 minute inactive prep, 5 minutes cook time

1 box of couscous mix, prepared according to package instructions.

I like the Near East brand, and you can usually find it near the rice.

Adaptations: Couscous is a very tiny pasta that cooks in five minutes, but quinoa or wild rice would be great with this as well. The key is to have a side dish that can soak up the vinaigrette from the Caprese salad and the flavors of the chimichurri sauce.

Asparagus

Prepare however you like it. Here’s an easy recipe to follow.

Adaptations: Substitute any other veggie you like or leave it out all together.

In Summary

These recipes may look overwhelming when they’re listing down the page like this, but in practice, this is very simple meal to pull together. Before guests arrive, make the Caprese salad, season your tuna and put your store-bought sauce into a serving dish. While the grill is pre-heating for the tuna, start on the couscous and asparagus. Add your tuna to the grill and it should be ready at the same time as the couscous and asparagus.

Enjoy!

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