Imagine yourself sipping lemonade on a warm summer day, while overlooking the beautiful Italian seaside, breathing in the crisp, sea-salt air. Take a few seconds on that. Now let me tell you that it wouldn’t take you more than a few simple ingredients to recreate that moment. Light, refreshing, healthy, and absolutely delicious, it’s a complete surprise how simple this is to make.
Insalata de Mare simply translates to seafood salad. There is no traditional or specific set of requirements on how to make Insalata de Mare, as there are many kinds–some are made with literally only seafood. This one is inspired by Cibo’s Insalata de Mare, and comes in directly as a food hack. Though Cibo’s chefs are geniuses and deserve every peso they earn, I can’t dish out 400 bucks for every time my body says “Salad! Salad!”
Shrimp or Prawns, peeled, washed, deveined/butterflied
- Romaine Lettuce
- Other seafood–Squid, Lobster, Mussels, Oyster, Clams
- Recommended additional greens–alfalfa sprouts, arugula, Lola Rossa, shredded zucchini
Fresh basil leaves, picked and washed
- Olive Oil (or hydrogenated coconut/vegetable oil is alright)
- Balsamic Vinegar (or substitute with equal parts red wine and cane/white vinegar and two teaspoons/more brown sugar)
- Filleted Tuna
- Salt & Pepper
For the Pesto:
Chop up a couple cloves of garlic and tear some fresh basil leaves. Put them into a blender or food processor with some oil and parmesan and pulse for a couple of seconds. You can include some rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. If you’re making a large batch of pesto for future use, make sure to keep a sterilized, air-tight jar.
To make the vinaigrette, just mix the pesto and balsamic vinegar/red wine, white or cane vinegar, brown sugar together in a small bowl. The pesto-to-vinegar ratio should be roughly 1:3.
Insalata de Mare
Heat some oil on a pan, and lightly sautee all the seafood together. Toss in with the greens: romaine, lola rosa, alfalfa sprouts, arugula. Have the vinaigrette in a separate saucer. When you’re ready to eat, just pour over the salad and toss lightly.
Lemon Seared Tuna
Have your tuna cleaned and filleted. Make sure you trust where you buy your tuna from. If it’s fresh tuna, leave the skin on. If you’re buying the ready-filleted frozen tuna from your grocery store, try to find the ones that are certified sashimi-quality, with the packaging vacuumed and air-tight. The fish won’t be sliced into steaks until after cooking. So, with a knife, make incisions every two inches across the fish. Also make sure that your sources for lemon do not use pesticides or coloring. And if you aren’t sure about it, just wash the lemon before you begin cooking.
Thinly slice four cloves of garlic and put it into a large bowl with a few splashes of olive oil/vegetable oil for the marinade. Take your lemon and use a micro-grater to zest the lemon. Roll the lemon on your counter-top to get the juices flowing, and cut off the top half. Slice off the rinds and mince them and include them to your marinade. Set the lemon aside. Take a sprig of rosemary and pick off the leaves. Crush them in your palm and throw them into the marinade. Toss together.
Make sure your hands are clean for this one. Sprinkle salt and freshly grate some pepper on your tuna, and rub lightly. Toss it into the marinade and massage lightly. Let it sit on some of the lemon and garlic, and sprinkle some of the lemon and garlic on top.
While the fish is settling with the flavors, heat up a pan. You can choose to not oil the pan anymore since the marinade has enough of it. If you are oiling the pan, use vegetable oil or peanut oil, not olive since it burns faster than the others. Heat the oil but don’t let it smoke. Regardless of oil, check if the pan is at its hottest. When it is, use a pair of tongs to take your fillet and cook skin-side down. Only wait until the skin crisps up and spreads the heat a bit towards the center before you change sides.
Don’t overcook. The entire point of a good pan-seared fish is that you get the best flavor of the fish by cooking up the skin quickly, but without drying out the center of the fish. Tuna is reddish when raw. A light pink with about a centimeter of white around the margin is a good texture for pan-seared tuna. You know it’s cooked, because it flakes easily, but it isn’t dried out. Don’t worry, though. If you really do prefer your steaks and fish well-done, or if you don’t trust your fish supplier 100%, feel free to cook the fish all the way through, or cut the fillet into individual steaks from the beginning.
Plate your fish with your greens, but take a minute or two before you carve the fish, just to let the juices settle in. Before you serve, have a final sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste, and squeeze the lemon over. Garnish with slices of lemon and a sprig of rosemary.
And there you have it–a simple, refreshing, and flavorful meal.