Dining In The Parks: Blackened Ahi, Pickled Watermelon, Basil Coulis, Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette

The finished dish. Photo courtesy of ARAMARK Parks & Destinations.

Last week we took a look at [url=http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2013/06/dining-parks-healthy-parks-healthy-people23488]the evolution of dining in the National Park System[/url], and one of the items mentioned was a blackened ahi dish from the Rainbow Room at [url=http://www.nps.gov/glca]Glen Canyon National Recreation Area[/url]. So you can treat yourself to this dish without heading to Utah, here's the recipe, courtesy of Chef Matt Smith. Serves: 4 Ingredients Blackened Ahi: 1 pound sushi grade ahi tuna, block cut 3 tablespoons blackening spice 2 tablespoons olive oil Place a thick-bottomed frying pan, or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When you see small wisps of smoke, add the tuna to the pan and sear for about 1 minute per side, or until desired doneness is reached. Remove to a cutting board. Pickled Watermelon: 1 cup red watermelon, cut into ½ inch cubes
 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
sugar, to taste 
1/2 jalapeno pepper 
1 tablespoon cilantro 
Sriracha sauce, to taste 
sea salt, to taste
 Place the watermelon in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Use scraps from the watermelon and puree with vinegar, sugar, cilantro, sriracha and the jalapeno. Strain and pour over watermelon, sealing the jar with lid. Let mixture rest for about 2 ½ hours. This is how long it takes for the vinegar mixture to pass the cell walls of the melon without compromising their structure. Basil Coulis: 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves 1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled Sea salt, to taste ½ teaspoon sugar ¼ cup olive oil (use good olive oil) Have ready a medium bowl of ice water. In a small saucepan, bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the basil and blanch for 20-30 seconds. Remove from the water with a strainer or slotted spoon and plunge into the ice water. Once it's cool, squeeze the basil with your hands to remove excess water. Put the basil in a blender and add the garlic, a pinch of salt and the sugar. With the machine running, slowly add the oil. If the mixture clings to the side of the container add a touch more oil. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer the coulis to a squeeze bottle or a jar.