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Memorable Recipes
by Renee Behnke and Cynthia Nims
In this lovely dish, inspired by a lunch I enjoyed in Hawaii years ago, sesame seeds give tuna a wonderful nutty flavor while forming a delicate crust on the fish.
I usually just "grill" these tuna pieces in a heavy grill pan on top of the stove, or simply saute them in a regular skillet. The crust can be tricky on an outdoor grill—I find much of it tends to fall off during cooking. I typically cook some of the tuna pieces rare, others more medium, so guests can pick the doneness they prefer.
Makes 6 Servings


    • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or green onion tops
    • 2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic
    • 2 teaspoons minced or grated ginger
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
    • 6 (8-ounce) tuna steaks, 1 inch thick
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    Soy Lemon Sauce
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces & chilled
    • Salt and freshly ground white pepper


1. Stir together the sesame seeds, lemon juice, soy sauce, chives, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. Set the tuna steaks on a tray or platter, spoon half of the sesame mixture over, and spread evenly, pressing with your fingers to help them adhere. Turn the steaks over and spoon the remaining sesame mixture on the second side. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. For the sauce, combine the wine and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, until reduced to 1/3 cup. Decrease the heat to low, whisk in the soy sauce, then whisk in the sour cream. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt in creamily before adding the next. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat; do not allow the sauce to boil.

3. Preheat the broiler.

4. Heat an ovenproof grill pan or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat (allow enough time for the skillet to fully heat). Add the olive oil, then add the tuna steaks and cook until the sesame crust is set and lightly browned, 1 minute per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil a few inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until rare, or longer to suit your taste.

5. Cut the tuna steaks into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices in a fan on each warmed plate. Spoon the sauce over and serve.

    Do-Ahead Tips: The sauce can be prepared up to 1 hour in advance; reheat very gently so the sour cream does not break. The crust can be prepared and the tuna coated up to 30 minutes in advance. The tuna should be cooked just before serving.

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