Meat Break: Seared Tuna with Lentils and Basil Oil

tuna steak with puy lentils and basil oil

The heavens have cleared here in NYC, finally.  After over twenty straight days of clouds and/or rain, we celebrated the welcoming warm and sunny weather with something light and bright.  Before this week, bathing suit season seemed very, very far away – then the heat and sun came and getting into a bathing suit began staring me in the face immediately. Barf.  I’ll need a few less choripáns and patacones and a few more lentils and fish to feel a bit less “Dance Your Ass Off contestantand a bit more Gisele Bündchen pre-pregnancy (that ain’t no beer bloat, please).

With the abundance of basil out in the garden, we decorated our plate of lentils and quickly seared, sesame-crusted tuna steaks with some fresh, bright basil oil.  Easiest thing to make and extremely delicious.  Nothing much more to elaborate on except to say that this meal cost about $5 each and took about twenty minutes to prepare.  Can’t get any better than that (well except if I really did look like Gisele).

tuna steak with puy lentils and basil oil


  • 1 lb fresh tuna steaks
  • 1/4 cup untoasted sesame seeds
  • 1 cup of dry lentils (preferably puy)
  • 1 teaspoon rock salt (kosher salt will be fine too)
  • 1/2 onion, whole and skin removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, skin on, smashed
  • 1 whole dried red chile
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of peppercorns
  • 15 large leaves of fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil (more or less 2/3 cup)
  • boiling water
  • salt and pepper
  • stick blender or regular blender

What to do:

  1. Add lentils, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns to a sauce pan.  Cover with boiling water and allow to boil for 15 to 20 minutes, adding more liquid as necessary.
  2. Rub tuna steaks with olive oil and generously season both sides with salt and pepper.  Next, roll steaks in sesame seeds.
  3. Heat up pan till it is very, very hot.  Add tuna steak and sear for 30 seconds on each side (this will ensure it will be perfectly rare in the middle – if you don’t like it rare, then add another 30 seconds to each side).  Remove from pan and sprinkle with a bit more of salt (optional) and allow to rest for a moment.
  4. While tuna is resting, make the basil oil by adding the basil leaves to a bowl (if using a stick blender) or blender and slowly add the olive oil until it is completely blended and very, very green.  Lay back on adding any more olive oil if it’s beginning to look too oily.
  5. Cut the tuna steaks in 1/2 inch slices against the grain.  Remove the bay leaves from the lentils and add some to a plate and top with tuna and some basil oil.  Enjoy with a crisp glass of white wine!

tuna steak with puy lentils and basil oil

18 thoughts on “Meat Break: Seared Tuna with Lentils and Basil Oil

  1. Jen – not long is the answer. experience tells us that the herbs start getting bitter after a couple of days. You can stop this by adding some acid (lemon juice, white wine vinegar) to your oil, but that tends to turn the basil brown, defeating the object really. Happily for us, we didn’t let it age much and used it as a salad dressing on the leftover tuna for lunch the next day!

  2. OH! It’s 4.5 more months before I can eat tuna that rare (unless I disobey all the books). But I have been loving fish with pulses/beans lately, especially the lentil and tuna combo. So Provencial.

  3. Looks amazing! Great summer dish.

    It’s been a very strange June indeed … but we’ve finally got some summery weather to boast about.

  4. Meat break – are you kidding? This looks like a steak from the sea…look at that gorgeous rare inside. I could have this instead beef…c’mon…sear some more!

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