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Blackened tuna with mushroom-onion relish

The whirling of angle grinders and computer hard drives are matched by the raised voices of teenagers as they make, mend and tweak their robot during the third week of the six-week build.  Pencils and markers are always on hand as solutions to this year’s challenge are drawn, scribbled and tweaked; redrawn or thrown away in frustration and then finally realized.
It is amazing what can happen when the power of collaboration is put into play.  With some amazing partners in this year’s robotics race, and the ability of our own sub-teams to work together, we are all of a sudden looking at a functional piece of machinery that didn’t exist three weeks ago.
As the build days tend to be long, we keep snack foods on hand. On the busier days, DeNovo’s gives us a mountain of food to feed the brains as they exhaust themselves in the programming and machining processes.
With other things in our lives, and beyond the days on which food comes from our sponsor, real food for dinner seems to go the wayside; not at the shop, but at home.  I guess that’s the call of the wild these days.  Everyone seems to be in such a rush that taking the time to sit down to dinner is becoming a luxury.
I am aware of the studies, now bordering on thousands, which expound the importance of the family table.  Without that one bit of community in the house, many children grow up not understanding what it’s like to sit at a meal and converse with one another; to vent on the day’s tribulations and tout the day’s accomplishments.  The idea of interaction only exacerbates the ever-growing problems in our society of the disconnection of youth from the real world; video games, ear buds, boxed TV dinners et al.
Boy, either I’m becoming a Luddite or a pragmatic old man.  “Why, these kids these days…..” I imagine myself saying as I shake my one hand and place the other on the small of my back, rubbing my imaginary herniated disk.  I better watch it or I’ll turn into my grandfather before I know it.
But what to do with a schedule busier than any I’ve had in decades, including my time in the Marines?  What treat will be quick and dirty but get the job done for the whole family?
I decide on an old standby, the blackened tuna sandwich.  While running through the store in record time, I found some tuna and much to my surprise, some pretzel rolls.
A jog through produce landed some mushrooms and onions in the cart, and using the sundried tomatoes I already had, this quick relish topped of the sandwich adding moisture and flavor.  Resting the whole thing on lemon-scented arugula made our day.  It was easy.  It was delicious.
When we sat down, there were no angle grinders.  The computers were turned off.  It was just family; eating, talking and grateful that we had this little time together.

Blackened Tuna Sandwich

for 4 sandwiches
4 – 5 ounce tuna steaks
blackening Spice, as needed
1/4 cup brown butter (recipe follows)
4  pretzel rolls
1 cups mushroom-onion relish (recipe follows)
2 cups lemon arugula (recipe follows)

Pat tuna dry and then season liberally with blackening spice.
Heat butter in a pan large enough to fit the steaks with room to spare.  Don’t let the pan get overcrowded as this will cool it too quickly.
Sear on first side for about 4-6 minutes, or until it has a deep sear but is not charred.
Turn to other side and cook to the temperature of your liking.
When cooked, place lemon arugula on pretzel roll and top with tuna.
Top tuna with mushroom relish and any sauce that you feel might complement this.  

Brown Butter

makes about 1/2 cup

1 cup whole, unsalted butter
Melt butter on a medium heat in a sauce pan small enough so that you can spoon foam off the top.
Once butter has melted, scrape foam from the top.

You will be left with oil and the layer of water and solids underneath.  Allow butter to cook until water has evaporated and the solids begin to brown.
Once butter takes on an overall aroma of roasted nuts, remove from heat.
Run through cheesecloth and set aside until ready to use.  I learned recently that nothing on this green earth goes better with steamed clams than brown butter!)

Mushroom-Onion Relish

for 2 cups

1 medium white onion, diced
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp. ev olive oil
good white vinegar, to taste
2 Portobello caps, diced
2 tbsp. butter unsalted
S&P to taste

In a little oil saute onions until they begin to soften.
Add tomatoes, remaining oil and mushrooms.
Cook for 20 minutes or until everything is tender.
Add vinegar and butter.
Season to taste and allow to cook longer if it needs more time.

Lemon Arugula

enough for four sandwiches

2 cups baby arugula
ev olive oil, as needed
lemon juice, as needed

Sprinkle a touch of the oil and juice on arugula just before service.
Toss lightly and serve.