As much as I love to cook, sometimes I feel stuck in a rut. Throughout the year, I rotate through my repertoire of favorites–depending on the season, that could be seared halibut with fava bean puree (spring), slow-simmered Coq au Vin with roasted potatoes (fall), a perfectly ripe Caprese salad (summer), or rigatoni with broccoli rabe and lamb sausage (winter). I love eating with the seasons and getting inspired by what's in the market, or at the Bowery Whole Foods. But some days, especially when I've been on a big cooking/entertaining kick, nothing sounds good. Recently, I was having one of those uninspired, burnt-out-on-all-my-usual-food days. I wasn't in the mood for takeout–I wanted something really light and fresh–but didn't feel like spending lots of time in the kitchen. I wanted to try something new.

Some friends of mine recently went to Hawaii for their honeymoon and, based on their Facebook pictures, it seemed like nearly all they ate there was a delicious-looking dish called poke. Now, for those of you that have never heard of this dish (I hadn't until recently), it doesn't rhyme with "joke," it's pronounced POH-kay. It's basically the Hawaiian version of sashimi, and can be made with all sorts of seafood. After doing a little research, I discovered that there are many, many variations on this dish, but there are a few pretty standard ingredients: soy sauce, sesame oil, onion, and often dried seaweed and sesame seeds. I've never been to Hawaii, but this looked and sounded so fantastic (and seemed so easy to make) that I headed to the store, propelled out of my food funk. I love tuna, so I ordered some deep red Ahi, and decided to add some avocado (another of my favorite ingredients). Just an FYI: it's important to buy the best quality tuna possible for this dish–you're eating it raw, so make sure to ask for sashimi grade tuna.

I looked at several recipes online, and by trial-and-error created a version that is sort of halfway between tuna poke and tuna tartare. I wasn't trying to go completely authentic–I just wanted nicely balanced flavors, and an end result that looked as good as it tasted. This dish could not be any easier to make–you just dice the tuna, mix it with all the other ingredients, and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours. I added the avocado just before serving so it would stay bright green, but you could try marinating it with the tuna if you like. Serve the poke on Bibb lettuce leaves to make cute little wraps, or sprinkle with black sesame seeds and spoon it onto rice crackers for an elegant party hors d'oeuvre.

Food dilemma solved–with minimal prep, minimal clean-up, and maximum flavor. Not to mention, I learned how to make a super-healthy dish in the process. This was the perfect light dinner served with some brown rice and sliced mangoes, and Brandon loved it. Though it's a splurge buying Ahi tuna, half a pound is more than enough to make poke for two (the recipe below feeds four). Hope you enjoy a little trip to Hawaii around your table sometime soon!


1 lb. sashimi-grade tuna, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

1 shallot, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 jalapeno chile, minced (optional)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 avocado, cut into 1/3-inch cubes

Salt and pepper to taste

Bibb lettuce leaves, for serving

Combine the tuna, shallot, ginger, jalapeno (if using), sesame oil, soy sauce, and cilantro in a medium bowl and toss gently to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Just before serving, fold in the avocado. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I found that it was flavorful enough without salt and pepper, but season according to your taste.)

Serve with Bibb lettuce, to make lettuce wraps.


• For an appetizer, serve spoonfuls of the poke on rice crackers or toasted pita chips.

• Add diced mangoes to the tuna avocado mixture.

• Serve with a squeeze of lime juice.

• Substitute 2-3 tablespoons finely sliced green onions for the shallot.

• Sprinkle the poke with black sesame seeds.

• For a heartier meal, serve with brown rice in lieu of the lettuce.