Seared Cilantro, Lime and Ginger Ahi Skewers

Finding myself throwing an impromptu backyard bash on a warm summers night, I have little time to prepare some delicious small bites that will stand up to the big personalities of summer cocktails and the busy, buzzing chat of good company. I loathe insipid hors d’oeuvres – limp shrimp and underseasoned “healthy” dips, so I go with some big-flavored tapas like pancetta-wrapped blue cheese dates, inspired by Seattle’s tiny but noteworthy Ocho restaurant, and try out a new marinade for some ahi skewers that are perfect for one-handed dining and spirited wine-glass-in-hand gesticulation.

These pretty skewers are bursting with bold, citrusy, warm-weather flavors, and pack a lot of taste for the effort involved. The marinade is now officially my favorite ahi accompaniment, displacing my go to mirin, ginger and sesame version. If you are making these for a party, be sure to make a lot because they go fast and are excellent served both warm or cold. They also make a wonderful light dinner, maybe paired with some soba noodles or cucumber salad, a nice sunset and a favorite friend.

Green cilantro, chilies and avocado

Grilled Ginger, Cilantro and Lime Ahi Skewers
Adapted from recipes by Donna Hay and Food Network | Serves 2 as a light meal.

2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves
1 jalapeno, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 large limes, juiced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tsp sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for grilling
12 oz block sashimi-grade ahi (specifically, yellowfin) *
1 ripe avocado, optional

Place cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, lime, soy sauce, and sugar in bowl of a food processor. Process briefly or pulse until finely textured, but not liquidized. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse briefly to blend.

Cut ahi into 1″ wide strips, and season all sides well with salt and pepper. Place half of marinade into a shallow dish, toss ahi with marinade and set aside for 30 minutes. Note: You can also precut the ahi into cubes (pictured below) if you like more surface area of the fish seared.

On a skillet or grill over a medium-high heat, sear for about 30-60 seconds per side, until lightly browned. Let the tuna rest for a few minutes while you arrange the avocado chunks and bowls of marinade for dipping. Then, cut each strip of tuna into 1″ cubes. Thread the cubes onto skewers with the cut sides showing, so you can see the beautiful raw flesh of the ahi.

Serve with 1″ chunks of fresh avocado (on the skewers or on the side) and serve with rest of marinade on side or drizzled over. You can also grill the avocado if you prefer – it really develops flavor in some of the more bland avocados.

* ‘Ahi is the Hawaiian name for two fish – yellowfin tuna and bigeye tuna.