1 to 1 1/4 pound tuna steaks
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce (may substitute low-sodium soy sauce)
1 teaspoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup peanut oil
1/2 bunch watercress, stemmed
1/2 cup peeled, seedless cucumber, cut in julienne (very thin strips)
1/2 cup julienne peeled carrot
1/2 cup julienne peeled jicama
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
Dip steaks in the crushed black pepper (there will be some left over) and wrap them in separate pieces of foil, twisting the ends to close. The foil allows the outside of the tuna to cook without the pepper burning; the middle will remain very pink. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the ginger, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, honey and black pepper to taste, whisking to blend. Slowly add the oil, whisking until it thickens. Set aside.
Place a cast-iron or heavy skillet over high heat until it is practically smoking. Add the tuna packets and cook for 3 or 4 minutes (1 minute per side). Discard the foil and cut the tuna logs into 1/4-inch slices.
Make a ring of watercress on each plate or platter and arrange a mixture of the vegetables in the middle. Drizzle with some vinaigrette. Fan the tuna pieces on the vegetables and drizzle with more vinaigrette. Sprinkle the diced tomato on top.
Adapted from Francois Dionot of L’Academie de Cuisine.