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Pan Seared Tuna Steaks on Spinach a la Baja

Jane ButelThis recipe has been reproduced with the kind permission of Jane Butel and comes from her latest book Real Women Eat Chile.

Often credited with starting the Tex-Mex mania, Jane Butel published her first cookbooks on New Mexican and American Mexican food in the 1960s. Sixteen cookbooks later, her books and her Cooking School in Albuquerque, which Bon Appetit called among "the best in the US", bring you all there is to know and love about this cuisine.

Jane is an internationally recognized authority on the regional cooking of the American Southwest. The daughter and granddaughter of accomplished home economists, she is a cookbook author, teacher and television personality.

Her interest in Southwestern cooking predates its current widespread popularity by decades. She was the first to write about the cooking style that evolved in the Southwestern border area and is credited with starting the USA's love affair with this cuisine.

Jane operates her own site-based Cooking Schools, which have been recognized far and wide for their quality of instruction. Jane's Cooking School specializes in week long and weekend full participation classes on New Mexican and Southwestern cooking - to find out more click here.

Pan Seared Tuna Steaks on Spinach a la BajaFresh tuna steaks are so good that they should be only subtly enhanced. This tease with orange and garlic is just perfect. Most people agree that tuna should be cooked only to the rare to medium stage to preserve the moist, fresh flavor. For this dish to be at its best, the tuna must be cut about an inch thick, no less. Wilt the fresh spinach in the same pan.


1 orange
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon crushed caribe chile
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or oil spray (optional)
2 fresh tuna steaks (5 to 6 ounces each), cut 1 inch thick
1 10-ounce package fresh spinach, rinsed
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  • Using a zester or a grater on the fine setting, zest the very outside (orange part only) of the orange. Squeeze the juice.
  • In a shallow, non-reactive bowl, combine the orange zest, juice, garlic, and caribe chile.
  • Add the tuna and press into the liquid; turn the tuna and press the other side into the marinade. Let stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  • About 10 minutes before serving time, heat a heavy, well-seasoned skillet until hot over medium-high heat (see Note).
  • Remove the tuna from the marinade (reserve marinade) and cook for 4 minutes, then turn and cook for about 3 minutes. Keep warm.
  • Add the spinach to the skillet, drizzle with the reserved marinade, and cover.
  • Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until the spinach is just wilted.
  • Add the vinegar and toss.
  • Arrange on warm serving plates and top with the tuna.


Water sprinkles should dance on the surface when it is hot enough. If you do not have a well-seasoned skillet, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a skillet.

Serves: 2

Jane Butel

Reprinted with permission from Real Women Eat Chiles by Jane Butel