Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adobo Tuna Steaks with WI Cranberry Salsa

Winter meals in Wisconsin often conjure up a particular heaviness.  They're usually rich, calorie-laden dishes that rely on long, slow cooking and plenty of winter-hearty vegetables.  And trust me when I say I don't find anything wrong with that.

But, sometimes I crave something a bit lighter and less laborious.  And, on those evenings, I'm likely to look to frozen fish filets for a quick dinner that's both fast and delicious.  Not local, necessarily -- but definitely nutritious.

Of course, I'm also always on the look-out for seasonings and condiments that really kick up the flavor quotient.  And I get doubly excited when I'm able to source the majority of the ingredients locally.  Case-in-point:  my new-found love for winter salsa.

Now, this is no time to talk about your typical tomato based salsa.  Nope, nope.  Winter tomatoes are decidedly mealy, watery, and not really worth seeking out. But, cranberries!  Now you're talking.

If you thought cranberries were only useful as a sauce or relish served at Thanksgiving time, I'm going to ask you to think again.  These tart little numbers freeze impeccably for up to two years without losing flavor or texture.  So, I always stock up on them while they're on sale and in season during the autumn months.

As one of only three commercially cultivated fruits native to North America, the cranberry has a long history in Wisconsin.  In addition to using cranberries as a food preservative and fabric dye, many Native American tribes believed cranberries were healing agents that could calm the nerves and draw poison from arrow wounds.  By the 1800’s settlers in Berlin, Wisconsin capitalized on the fruits versatility by planting the first commercial cranberry marshes.  Today, Wisconsin alone produces over 60% of the nation’s cranberry crop, with a large emphasis on sustainable growing practices. More info here.

This particular salsa recipe, which makes use of Wisconsin cranberries and winter oranges, was inspired by Peef's Dad, who makes a cranberry orange relish for Thanksgiving that everyone loves.  I decided to take the idea behind his recipe and create a savory salsa that capitalizes on the tartness of the cranberries & the freshness of citrus, while incorporating the decidedly savory flavors of freshly chopped scallions, jalapenos, and cilantro.  Interestingly enough, it turned out to make one of the most flavorful winter salsas I've ever eaten.  In addition to being delicious eaten on a tortilla chip, this salsa is also excellent served alongside pork roast, salmon, or even grilled tofu steaks.

For this particular evening's dinner, we decided to go with a couple of sustainably raised tuna steaks for our meal.  Asimple sprinkling of adobo seasoning is all these lovely steaks needed to give them a ton of flavor before grilling on our trust Calphalon grill pan.
The finished steaks were perfectly grill marked and heated through, yet with a slightly pink center that belies that bit of juicy, tender rareness that really makes them shine.

A dollop of cranberry salsa is all that's needed to pull the flavors in this dish together.  Served with a side of deliciously creamy kefir-mashed potatoes and blasted broccoli, this is the perfect sort of winter meal -- one that makes you pretty confident that spring is just right around the corner.

Wisconsin Cranberry Salsa

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  1. Now...I wonder where I can find fresh cranberries at this time of year, because this recipe sound like one that I NEED to try! I love how it's both light and wintry at once!

  2. Joanne - Actually, frozen cranberries also work well for this recipe... which is why it's so awesome for the middle of winter!

  3. I do the same thing Lo...buy tons of cranberries when they're in season and then freeze them. I use them all year long, mostly in breads or mixed with yogurt. Love this idea of pairing it with tuna (or pork, which is great with a fruity side kick.)

    And Wisconsin produces over 60% of the nation’s cranberry crop? Who knew?

  4. Looks great on fish - I've been eating that stuff on everything, and took the last of the leftover to my non-cilantro eating folks this past weekend and they liked it too! My favorite thing is mixing it with cultured cream: shocking pink and spicy taco topping! Thanks for a great recipe... (well, just one of many...)

  5. Oh cranberry salsa sounds fantastic!


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