Grilled Tuna Salad with Macadamia-Mint Pesto

Many people associate macadamia nuts with souvenirs picked up from Hawai'i. (#1 request from my aunties, actually.) They come in so many different flavors...kona coffee glaze, Maui onion, and even Spam! Then, there are all of the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, including caramel clusters and ones layered with coconut. They don't always come in the form of candies and snacks, though. In the last week, I've put these sweet and buttery nuts in muffins and even made milk out of them to churn into ice cream.

Now, I'm making pesto!

In this savory turn of events, I paired the macadamia nuts with Summer herbs and tangy Greek yogurt. A bed of corkscrew gemelli pasta just wraps itself in that fresh sauce. Then, it all gets topped off with grilled tuna, sweet cherry tomatoes, and eggs.

This is perfect for a light lunch! You can serve it for a day by the pool, lounging on the patio, or sitting in the garden. It's an easy dish to make for an afternoon of easy relaxing! :)

This pesto begins similarly to the original Italian classic, with a couple of garlic cloves and fragrant basil.

Then, add some just-as-sweet-and-aromatic mint. These herbs, together, really perfume the whole dish with the scents of summertime.

Mint always reminds me of the bunches that my dad planted along the walkway at our old house. It grew like crazy during the summer, even sprouting through cracks in the concrete.

Next, add macadamia nuts in place of the usual pine nuts. Their natural sweetness pairs well with the herbs, and their richness works perfectly in a pesto.

Pulse everything together a few times, until the mixture is a finer, crumbly texture.

To lighten up the pesto, but retain the creaminess that olive oil and Parmesan cheese would give, add 3/4 of a cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt.

This is a great sauce for pasta, but it can also work as a spread for sandwiches, a marinade and sauce when grilling meats, or a dip for fresh vegetables.

Also, if you want a more "saucy" pasta salad, I would recommend making double the amount of pesto.

To make the salad, you'll need 1 pound of gemelli pasta. Its corkscrew shape makes it easy to catch onto every last bit of sauce. Sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes from the farmers' market or garden add to the seasonal theme. And as for the boiled eggs? I love putting them in any salad. Soft, creamy yolk...yes, please.

Finally, top everything off with grilled tuna steaks! If you use ahi tuna, like I did, you can cook the steaks all the way through or sear the outside and leave them rare on the inside.

If you're wondering where all of my nice photos of bright red tuna grilling over a high flame are...Well, there's a story about that...It was already 97 degrees outside when I was making this salad, so I went out to the backyard to grill my tuna steaks as quickly as I could...leaving my camera behind and completely forgetting to take photos of that step! Whoops. (Using a grill pan instead probably would've helped...Double whoops.)

To serve, slice or flake the tuna into pieces, then at last...dig right in!

Grilled Tuna Salad with Macadamia-Mint Pesto can be warm, room temperature, or chilled right out of the refrigerator. (A big bowl of leftovers is divine.) This salad can also be eaten as an entree or as a side dish, making it ideal for all of those potluck BBQ's this summer as well! Its quick and easy preparation is just what you need on those too-hot-to-cook days. Relax, and enjoy! :)

Grilled Tuna Salad with Macadamia-Mint Pesto (serves 4-6)

Print Recipe

1 lb Dried, Short-Shaped Pasta (Recommended: Gemelli)
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 cup Basil Leaves
1/2 cup Mint Leaves
1/2 cup Toasted Macadamia Nuts
3/4 cup Plain, Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/2 - 1 tbsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
12 oz Ahi Tuna Steaks (about 1 - 1 1/2 in. thick each)
1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 tsps Canola Oil 
1 cup Quartered Cherry Tomatoes
3 large Eggs, boiled, peeled & quartered
Fresh Mint, for garnish
  1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, salt the water, then add the pasta. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Next, transfer the pasta to a colander to drain the water. Toss with a tablespoon of canola or olive oil, and set aside.
  2. In a food processor, combine the garlic cloves, basil leaves, and mint leaves. Pulse until the mixture is a fine texture. Then, add the raw macadamia nuts, and pulse a few times. Finally, add the yogurt, salt, and pepper. Process this mixture until the herbs and nuts are completely incorporated and the pesto is smooth. Add lemon juice as needed. Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin, then set aside.
  3. To prepare the grilled tuna, season the tuna steaks with the salt, pepper, and oil. Grill over medium-high heat. For seared-rare, grill for about 30 seconds per side. For well-done, grill for 1-2 minutes per side. Once the tuna is cooked, slice or flake the steaks into pieces.
  4. In a large serving bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the pesto-yogurt sauce. Top with tuna, cherry tomatoes, and egg. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired.
  5. Serve as an entree salad or a side dish. Enjoy!