Seafood Recipes

Yellow fin tuna, sage oil, hibiscus salt

November 18, 2008


I have mulling this one over in my head for a while now. I have been thinking of ideas for simple appetizers, or even an amuse bouche  that had the flavor intensity that I love with autumn, but a really clean light taste.

Sage is one of my favorite autumn herbs. Rich, deep, but yet floral, and sometimes with almost a citrus undertone to it. It adds this lovely almost smokiness to dishes, and really gives a certain robustness. Cook some with a little proscuitto and butternut squash, and have the basis for a lovely little quick pasta dish that just shouts fallen leaves, dew, and scarves.


I wanted to use sage in a different light texturally however. I have chewed through many a chiffonade of sage, but wanted something different. Something a little lighter, and not so obvious. Having the sage as an infused oil is just perfect here. It is light, very clean tasting, but has the flavor intensity of sage I love, just knocked back a little bit. And the color. Holy cow. Just this deep, rich robust green. It looks like I just pureed grass. OK, that doesn’t sound too good..hmm. To lighten the flavor a bit of the oil, and to increase the green color, I added some parsley to the mix. I cannot however take credit for the method of making this oil. That is squarely down to Thomas Keller. So I might have come up with sage oil, but it is his method of blending, straining and refining that honestly made this oil what it is… bloody tasty.


That leaves hibiscus salt. Sounds a little bit poncy doesn’t it. Hibiscus salt is often used in Spanish cooking as a finishing salt. It is a bright, light, slightly floral tasting salt that has a wonderful vivid color. The flavor isn’t too intense – it just seems to lift a dish a little bit. You can buy the stuff either online, or I am sure at some decent grocery stores or specialty shops. I decided to have a go at making mine, and it turned out pretty decent. The stuff you can buy in the shops might be a stronger flavor, since I think it is made using fresh hibiscus flowers.. but it has been so long since I tasted bought hibiscus salt, I cannot be 100%!


So what is the idea of this dish? Well.. take some of the thinly sliced tuna. Dip it in the oil, and then ever so lightly in the salt. Scoff it down. Rinse and repeat. Light autumnal flavors just spring from this one. The ahi is light, smooth and creamy. Herbal flavor comes from the oil, and a wonderful salty kick gets punched in from the salt. This really was just wonderfully light and fresh.

In my mind, you could quite easily make this with kona kampachi. In fact, I reckon it would be much better with it. The clean white flesh of the kampachi would certainly be a vivid offset to the hibiscus salt, and the sage oil.

So, there you have it. If you want an amuse or appetizer that can be prepared a day ahead, and requires no effort at all on the day. This is it. Heck, you could even lay down some of the sage oil on a large plate, put the fish on top of that, and sprinkle (ever so lightly) with the sage oil, and let people just pick at that.

As mentioned above, the method for making the herb oil has been adapted from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook.


Yellow fin tuna, sage oil, hibiscus salt

1/2lb yellow fin tuna, or Kona Kampachi

1.5 cups of sage leaves

1.5 cups of flat leaf parsley sprigs

1 cup of good extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of hibiscus flowers (dried – find this at good grocery stores)

2 tablespoons of really good quality sea salt (fleur de sel)

kosher salt (quite a lot..)

Start the day before you need the oil. Fill a large pan with water, and add to this 1/4 cup of kosher salt for every quart of water. Get it boiling vigorously.

Prepare an ice bath. Put the sage leaves in the boiling water for 30 seconds, then straight into the ice water. This will keep their bright color. Do the same for the parsley leaves, but for only 10 seconds in the boiling water.

When the leaves are completely cold, drain them, and dry the best you can on paper towels. Roughly cut them up with scissors.

Put these in a blender with olive oil. Blend on medium for a minute, then high for two minutes. Make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot. If it does, remove from the blender, cool, rinse out the blender, and blend again. Blend for another 4 minutes on high.

Pour this mixture into a bowl, cover, and put in the fridge for 24 hours to intensify the flavor.

Put a double layer of cheesecloth over a bowl, and secure with an elastic band. Pour the herb/oil mixture onto the cheesecloth, and let it drip through into the bowl. Don’t push it through, or you will cloud the oil and get bits in it. Discard the cheesecloth and pulp when done.

To make the hibiscus salt. Put the dried hibiscus in a pestle and mortar, and grind until fine. Add in the salt salt, and grind to a fine texture. I find that a coarse grind is really odd with the smooth texture of the fish. Store this flavored salt in an airtight container.

Thinly slice the tuna just before serving. Serve with the oil and hibiscus salt.


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  • redmenace November 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Gorgeous post. Thank you for the idea!

  • Y November 18, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Such gorgeous colours! I love the look of that hibicus salt – it’s something I haven’t come across before. My favourite way to eat this kind of tuna would be Japanese-style, with soy, mirin and pickled ginger :)

  • Thip November 18, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    so pretty!!! the color and composition…

  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver November 19, 2008 at 4:16 am

    MY GOD! This is too beautiful.

  • Heather November 19, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    That hibiscus salt – who cares if it’s poncy when it’s that gorgeous color? I want to make hibiscus sugar now, though, for a tea cake or a snickerdoodle.

    I love the components of this so much. I want to eat it with frozen shots of citron vodka.

  • matt wright November 19, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks guys! I am just loving the rest of this sage oil I have to say. It is great dipping some lovely crusty bread into.

    The hibiscus salt is awesome. Even better the second day of making – maybe the flavor soaks into the salt more. Hibiscus sugar would be great – very light on flavor. It would certainly make for a very delicate tea cake.

  • brittany November 21, 2008 at 7:49 am

    So beautiful! I also adore sage in pretty much anything. I’m fiddling with a meyer lemon-sage pots de creme this week.

  • Jesse November 21, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Wow. This post blew my mind away. So elegant and perfect! And I think few herbs can quite match up to the heady perfume of sage… mmm, I can only imagine how amazing your house must have smelled when you made that sage oil.

  • Chocolate Shavings November 22, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    The color on that tuna is absolutely wonderful. Especially against the deep green of the sage oil and the salt. What a lovely dish!

  • White On Rice Couple November 24, 2008 at 5:52 am

    The hibiscus salt is just stunning! Even the the sage looks beautiful and we don’t think it looks like pureed grass! It looks yum……….
    All the colors, textures and flavors make this a lovely, lovely autumn amuse bouche. You’ve definitely achieved the season here!
    Again….wow, the colors are stunning…..

  • diva November 24, 2008 at 10:29 am

    matt, you just blew my mind away with this post!! i didn’t think poncy when i read ‘hibiscus salt’. i simply thought ‘exotic, and bloody fantastic!’. i love how much work you put into this and i do love sage. didn’t realize you could get an oil out from it though. adore the colours in this. it’s really gonna take me a while to stop thinking about this dish and wondering what it would taste like.

  • pixen November 24, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Firstly, let me say that you have a gorgeous, gorgeous picts and recipes! The hibiscus and salt mix is unknown to me with its vivid color. Hibiscus is my country’s national flower…LOL yet I never seen been used such way. We called the hibiscus you used as Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and we even used the leaves in cooking or blanch in hot water as salad. The leaves has a sourish taste… a bit like sorrel. The roselle fruits can be cook into jam and drinks. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  • mattwright November 24, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks again guys! WoRC – you should give this one a go, I reckon it will be right up your street. Making the flavored oil was fun too.. Would be awesome for you guys actually – with all the herbs you grow.

    Diva – you should make this too :D The oil doesn’t come from the sage as such, that merely flavors the oil you blend it with.

    I am certainly going to make a few different oils. They are awesome just with some crusty bread!

  • Leah November 26, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Wow, Hibiscus salt. I’ve never heard of this and it’s both beautiful and I’m sure it tastes fantastic, especially with the fish. Can you tell me some other uses for it? You mentioned Spanish cuisine – any particular dishes?

  • Rhiannon November 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I love your picts for this – gorgeous colours – really beautiful!
    PS. I forgot to say thank you for the chutney (I’m not sure it was a chutney, but I thought I’d call it that)! Did you add molasses to it? It has this incredibly molassey flavour to it.

  • » Blog Archive » Seattle Food Bloggers Meat Party!!! January 21, 2009 at 8:07 am

    […] Yeah.. but I cannot help myself. I just love Kona Kampachi. I did this recipe a while back, but with tuna – in fact, I blogged it here. […]

  • Ben January 26, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    No, I’m not trolling, honest! Just thought i’d drop in a note as this is a really very inspiring recipe. I’m going to be taking much advice from you in the preparation of fish – I’ve been more of a meat man to date.

    A trip to the cost may be in order before attempting this though, otherwise I’m never going to get anything fresh enough!

  • Anna April 14, 2009 at 8:39 am

    this looks simply gorgeous. great combination of flavours and beautiful colours.

    i see you served the hawaiian kingfish version at your food blogger dinner. i was so jealous when i saw the photos!

  • Jaden January 18, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    OOOOOHHHHH…..hibiscus salt! Okay, I need to find dried hibiscus flowers pronto! or how about rose?

  • Carole January 18, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    LOVE the idea (and color) of hibiscus sea salt.

  • Freddie Galliher September 2, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I love Tuna, its healthy and great for you. I have been looking for better ways to prepare this dish for a while. These days I make sure that the Tuna that I buy is from sustainable fishing sources.