Not too long ago my husband and I were invited to a San Francisco-based wine club’s annual dinner. Several of our friends are members so we were fortunate to be invited to this year’s celebration. While the previous year’s party was held at Chateau Montelena this year’s venue took us back to the root of the wine-making, where it all starts, at the vineyard.
One of the members, owner of a Napa Valley vineyard, hosted this year’s summer solstice-themed dinner. With a farm-to-table menu we enjoyed fresh food in an idyllic setting. Wine, bread and cheese were served near the vineyard’s entrance, next to a small plot producing organic fruits and vegetables. Appetizers and dinner were served under a white tent in front of the property’s pond. We had salad, fish, pork, grilled vegetables, all delicious, but one item stood from all the rest.
For me, the best item on the menu was an appetizer: Seared Ahi with Shiitake Mushroom Salsa on Fried Wonton. My hand reached out to every tray that passed by with these little bites, ignoring all the other starters. The chef was generous to share with me some of the ingredients in the salsa and I’ve been looking forward to recreating it at home since. Improvising on preparation and recipe I came up with my own version.
You know what’s so wonderful about this appetizer? It’s as easy to prepare as it is elegant. Where the chef at the vineyard fried the wonton wrappers I baked them–no fuss. I just lightly sprayed the wrappers with cooking oil and baked them for a few minutes. Not at all greasy and perfectly crisp. I seared the tuna for a minute on my skillet; what took the most time was chopping the ingredients in the salsa but a food processor would make quick work of this, too. I just wanted chunkier pieces.
Talk about the perfect balance of flavor and texture. The crisp wonton played nicely against the silky seared tuna while the shiitake mushroom salsa brought the Asian flavors together. Ginger, rice vinegar and a little sugar add such a nice touch to a classic salsa.
Can you tell that I had a little too much fun taking these pictures? I couldn’t help but pop each prepared bite into my mouth as I snapped each shot. It’s a good thing that this recipe makes a lot–I think you’ll love this appetizer as much as I do!
- 1 package wonton wrappers (you won’t need them all; I used a medium-thick variety)
- ⅓ pound sashimi-grade tuna (I got 12 slices out of this piece)
- ***for the salsa (for 2 – 2½ cups salsa)***
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 small knob ginger, peeled and grated
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- ½ stalk scallions
- 10 ounces tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
- 10 small shiitake mushrooms, chopped and stalks removed
- To prepare the Wonton Crisps: Preheat your oven to 350℉. Cut each wonton square on a diagonal and arrange on a baking sheet. I lined my sheet with nonstick foil, sprayed with cooking spray before laying the wonton wrappers. Spray the tops of the wrappers with cooking spray. Bake for about 8 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through or until slightly golden. Remove from the pan, cool on a wire rack and set aside.
- To prepare the Salsa: In a small pot combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and sugar and heat just until before boiling. This just serves to bring the flavors together and mellow out the ginger.
- Combine the vinegar/ginger mixture with the rest of the salsa ingredients and add salt to taste.
- To prepare the Tuna: Salt both sides of the tuna. Heat a skillet to medium-high. When the skillet is hot sear the tuna on both sides. Depending on the thickness of your fish, this shouldn’t take more than a minute. Slice in thin pieces.
- Assembly: Layer the tuna on the wonton crisps and top with the salsa.