Seared Tuna Roll with Basil Sauce

Welcome to amateur sushi night… Tonight’s dinner was inspired by the leftover bowl of white rice that’s been sitting in the back of my fridge. We’ve been eating enough stir fries lately and I figured Jack was probably kale-d out. Plus I thought this sounded like “group” fun. (Especially for our little Japanese girl who was standing by for floor droppings).

We took a class once about 5 years ago at Central Market and I remembered this blackened tuna roll with 7-spice and basil sauce that I’d been meaning to make again. Of course Jack and I got home from the store and realized that the little bulk 7-spice baggie didn’t make it to the grocery bag. I threw a little tiny tantrum, collected myself, (took a drink of sake), remembered that cooking is fun, and just seared the tuna with salt.

So the basil sauce became the star here. While, sadly, most of my basil plant died in this past weeks’ frost, a few lonely sprigs survived to provide us enough for tonight’s sauce.

For the rice —  I was going to add a splash of water, rice vinegar and sugar (actually, agave syrup, because it’s the only sugar I usually keep on hand) to make sushi-esque rice. But when we took the leftover rice out of the fridge it was dry and un-reconstitute-able, so we tossed it and started over. Jack didn’t approve of my idea of “a splash of this a splash of that” sushi-esque rice, so he looked up the proper and official way to make sushi rice vinegar. He was very disappointed at my offering of agave syrup instead of “fine grain caster sugar” but he begrudgingly made do. I’m not going to say that this official recipe was simple… because it took him a good 30 minutes to create the mix while the rice cooker was cooking the rice… so I’m sure it involved much precision and technique.

Surprisingly I remembered from the class how to roll sushi rolls decently well.* And I garnished them with un-burnt toasted sesame seeds.

2 hours from start to finish we had a yummy sushi dinner.

* Intentionally not pictured here: Jack’s roll


from Timothy Thomas, via Central Market Cooking School

1/2 cup mayo (I actually use this brand instead of regular mayo)
2 teaspoons wasabi paste (or to taste if you like more or less spice)
1 small clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
small handful of basil leaves, blanched, shocked (cooled in an ice bath), and chopped
small handful of spinach leaves blanched, shocked, and chopped

Blend all ingredients together in a small blender or food processor.


click here


makes 3-4 rolls.

2 nori sheets, halved
4-6 oz. really good quality fresh tuna
1 avocado
half a cucumber, sliced into sticks
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
a few pinches of salt and pepper
olive oil for searing the tuna
7 spice (also called shichimi), optional
1 or 2 cup cooked sushi rice (more if it’s your first time, less if you want to go a little light on the carbs like I did).

Generously season both sides of the tuna with salt and pepper and rub with 7 spice (if using). Drizzle some olive oil in a pan and sear for approx. 1 minute on each side. Let cool and slice into thin strips.

I’m not even going to pretend to try to type out how to roll a sushi roll, and I’m by no means good at it… click here to watch a professional.

If you make this, let us see! Tag your photo with #loveandlemons on Instagram.


  1. Denise from on said:

    Sushi is always good, if you ask me. I’ve never made my own before (I know, how strange is that!), but after seeing this post that might change soon….!

  2. Ana on said:

    I can’t wait to try your recipe! I love making sushi at home.
    Sometimes with dried out rice (especially when I’m too much in a hurry to make a fresh pot) I put a about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of water (depending on how much rice) in a microwave safe container and the rice. I cover it loosely and microwave it for about two minutes and it comes out almost good as new.

  3. telesma on said:

    That is gorgeous. I pinned it for later so I won’t forget about it. I want to try it soon.

  4. paula on said:

    thanks – been planning on trying to make sushi – and really wanted to try tuna.
    this looks great.

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