This colorful dish proves two points—that eating healthy does not have to be boring or bland, and that you don’t need to be in a restaurant to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal.
When it comes to fresh seafood, I believe in keeping the fish (or shrimp, scallops, crab, whatever) as close to its true state as possible. Trust citrus juice, salt and pepper to bring out the best in seafood and bring in other complementary flavors on the side. That’s what I’ve done with this pretty plate, featuring a fresh-caught ahi tuna steak and a tropical fruit salsa that comes together in about 7 minutes. The most time-consuming part of the dish is waiting for the rice to cook.
If you’ve never seen or cooked with forbidden rice before, here’s a quick list of facts to help you get to know this delicious, somewhat exotic ingredient.
Where does black rice come from, and why is it “forbidden?”
Black rice originated across the continent of Asia, and has long been a significant crop in China, Bangladesh, parts of the Philippines, Thailand and Northeast India. The grain is no longer considered “forbidden,” but it was given that distinction in ancient China because of its former scarcity. The cost of this rare food put it out of reach for all but the wealthiest people, and so it was forbidden to everyone else. That has changed, however, as it is now cultivated more widely and available in larger supermarkets or online.
What gives black rice its color?
The rice has a very deep color that looks nearly black in its raw state, but in bright light and after cooking, it’s easier to see that it is actually more of a deep purple. This is because of anthocyanin, a type of plant pigment that also occurs in blueberries, raspberries, purple cauliflower and “blue” corn. Although some websites suggest the anthocyanins have antioxidant properties, scientific studies have so far only shown this to be true in a lab environment—not in the human body by food consumption.
What does black rice taste like?
If you were to close your eyes while tasting black rice, you might think you were enjoying smaller grains of brown rice because of the similar mild, slightly nutty flavor.
What do you make with black rice?
You can use black rice the same way you’d use any rice—in side dishes, pilafs, soups and salads. Also, because of its unusual color, it is commonly used in Asian countries in special dessert dishes, especially rice pudding made with coconut milk.
1 cup cooked black rice
2 portions fresh tuna steak
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces* (see notes)
1 fresh honey mango, cut into chunks*
1/4 red bell pepper, diced (or 1 Tbsp. jarred pimentos, drained)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely diced (optional to taste)
4 fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips* (see slides for tips)
1 Tbsp. peach white balsamic vinegar*
1 Tbsp. neutral extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lime
Save some time on the pineapple and pick it up pre-cut from your produce department. I don’t recommend canned pineapple for this, but you could probably use frozen (thawed) in a pinch.
There are hundreds of varieties of mango, but usually two at my market—“regular” mango, which is kind of round-oval and darkish green with blushing orange areas, and the one they call “honey” mango, which is usually smaller, deep yellow all over, and (my reason for choosing it) easier to cut up. Use whatever variety is your favorite, or whatever is available. If you’ve never cut a mango, check out the slideshow below for some easy tips.
The peach white balsamic is a specialty product I purchased at a gourmet olive oil and vinegar store. I chose it because it’s soft and fruity, but feel free to substitute any light vinegar you like, especially one that plays well with the fresh tropical flavors in this salsa—think fruity, citrus or mint.
Here’s a visual walk-through of how I put this together, and written instructions appear below.
- Season tuna steaks with only sea salt and black pepper, and set aside, covered, at room temperature.
- Cook black rice according to package instructions. Try not to stir it too much to avoid additional “stickiness.”
- While rice is cooking, prepare salsa—combine pineapple and mango pieces, add jalapeno, red onion and red bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Use a mini whisk to combine peach balsamic and extra virgin olive oil, stirring briskly until a thick emulsion results. (If your vinegar is not a balsamic, it may be thinner consistency)
- Stack mint leaves, then roll them lengthwise into a tube shape and cut across into slices. When unfurled, these will be thin strips.
- Pour dressing over fruit salsa blend and toss to coat evenly. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle mint leaves into blend, gently toss again and set aside.
- When rice is ready, sear tuna steak on a medium-hot griddle, grill or skillet, turning to sear other side to desired doneness. Ideally, good quality fresh tuna should be cooked rare, but if you’re squeamish about that, push it to medium-rare.
Plate by spooning about 1/2 cup black rice, then lay tuna steak halfway over the pile. Spoon salsa over the top, squeeze lime over both plates and serve!