Salmon Carpaccio | Scallion Salad | Seared Tuna with Lemon-Wasabi Dressing | Mini Apple Crunch
THERE ARE OCCASIONS THAT ARE SPECIAL because of the occasion. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, what have you. Then there are occasions that are special because of the person, such as a relative, a celebrity, or a significant other.

Your friends are the people you find comfort and merriment in hanging out with regardless of occasion. Though, even then, sometimes, "just hanging out" can become an occasion with the right mix of company, activity, and, more often than not, any number of cocktails.

One of my very best friends for almost 11 years—I've been calling her "Trixie" for the purposes of this blog—finds that just coming over to eat my cooking is "occasion" enough, and I'm only happy to oblige.

And I reward that compliment with an extra effort when coming up with the menu, already, usually, an added challenge since her culinary tastes run far healthier than mine. I happily accept that challenge, realizing not only that eating healthier can only be better for me, but devising such a menu forces me to "expand my repertoire", as she has been the catalyst for many first time dishes of higher-than-usual nutritional value.

So it was on this evening that I decided to really clean my apartment (she's since it at its worse many a time!), light a fire in the fireplace for only the fifth time in almost fifteen years (and the first time in her presence), advertise the upcoming events of the evening on Facebook , and prepare a nice, lean seafood plate.

I have prided myself in creating aforementioned first-time dishes for her previously; this time I would re-appropriate established dishes with some signature flourishes, as I set about making a Salmon Carpaccio and some Seared Tuna.

Having impressed the "fish guy" at Food Emporium with my planned recipes enough to have him slice me some fresh salmon and tuna—which he also kindly discounted—I brought them home for so quick, easy, prep.

I let one side of the tuna steak sit and marinate in a shallow plate of soy sauce and brown sugar while clarifying some butter to use for the salmon, which I had sliced into thin strips. (Not as thin as most carpaccios, though, since I had planned to plate them with the seared tuna slices and wanted their thicknesses to match.)

I poured enough melted clarified butter into a casserole to line the bottom, then placed the salmon strips on top, leaving room in between each one. I squeezed the juice of half a lemon on top the slices, seasoned them with salt and fresh cracked black pepper, drizzled them with a little more of the butter, and placed the casserole into a 350°-preheated oven.

Meanwhile, I sliced some green scallion into very thin strips, and made a dressing for them with rice vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, ginger powder, salt and pepper. While the tuna was soaking up the brown sugar soy sauce, I made a dressing for it with mayo, wasabi sauce (the more natural almost white colored sauce, not the dyed green paste that comes out of tubes!), yellow mustard, and, again, lemon juice.

I took the salmon out of the over after a few minutes, letting them bake just enough for the edges to cook through, and let them sit. I made a rub for the tuna of brown sugar, ginger, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and pepper, coated the marinated side of the tuna with it, and placed it rub side down in a very hot cast iron skillet, letting that sear for about 3 minutes until the bottom side cooked through but the top side was still raw and cool.

I plated the fish communally; slices of the salmon on one side topped with the rice vinegar- and sesame oil-dressed scallions and slices of seared tuna on the other topped with the wasabi dressing and some wasabi peas.

Trixie was a big fan of both dishes, as was I, and noted, as I did, that the layers of flavors, one first bite of each, kind of hit the tongue one by one, eventually, though, creating a "circus" of flavors that made each bite more enjoyable than the last.

The salmon retained its flavored and was nicely accented by the tempering butter, brightened by the lemon, and complimented sweet scallion and acid notes in the dressing. The tuna's spiced-induced hit a little at first, then was followed my the sweetness of the dressing (real wasabi has creamy, almost citrusy, sweetness to it, which is why I hope to eventually make a great ice cream with it), then countered by the rich fattiness and flavor of the tuna, and finally heightened by the extreme smoky kicked of the cracked black peppercorns.

But wait, there's more. Trixie also has a habit of inspiring me to prepare three courses, and tonight was no exception. With an apple I had left over from a Bratwurst over Cabbage with Apples and Andouille Sausage dish I made last week, I peeled, cored, and thinly sliced it, then sautéed it in some butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the last drops of juice my one lemon had.

I let the liquid become a nice syrup, spooned the apple mixure into two ramekins, topped them with breadcrumbs I likewise stir into some melted butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and placed them in the still-heated oven for about half an hour (giving me enough time to run to the store to get some ice cream, which Trixie herself was kind and aware enough to know the dessert would really be complete with).

After taking them out of the oven, we barely let them cool off before we dove right in.

Sweet, crunchy, rich, hot, cold, aromatic, what's not to love?! These were finished very quickly, and as we winded down our third hour of great food and even greater conversation, reminiscing, as we always do, about the great strides we've made in our friendship (things were not always so rosy), the Duraflame log had just about burned itself out, signaling another great evening with Trixie.

Trixie, not just a friend for any occasion, but an occasion herself. Anytime...! (Yes, I might being blowing smoke, but its honest smoke, dammit!! Don't be jealous...!)


Bun Apple Tea!


Salmon Carpaccio | Scallion Salad | Seared Tuna with Lemon-Wasabi Dressing | Mini Apple Crunch