Tomato Salad with Tuna Tapenade

Tomato Salad with Tuna Tapenade-8639

I had to bite my tongue while Jody prepared this week’s Tomato Salad with Tuna Tapenade.  The photographer in me was dying to speak up: Don’t you want to sneak a little preserved lemon into that?  Some extra visual pop?   Truth be told, my wife has always been a member of the “flavor first ” camp, with visual appeal a distant second.  And we use preserved lemons in everything, so this week we’re giving tomatoes a turn, and tapenade.  Is anything more summery than the crazy quilt of tomatoes just ripening in New England, along with an herby tapenade, basil and olive oil?  If you’ve never sat down at a table with tapenade because you’re afraid it might once have dated an anchovy, then fear not.  As Jody explains in her notes, this tuna tapenade’s for you.

Le Pique-Nique 2 – Gravlax with a Beet Cure

 

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Finding gravlax in the south of France is a bit disconcerting, like strolling through an open air market and seeing a vendor in full Viking regalia hawking cured fish among his competitors’ stands of sausage, nougat, and sour cherries.  But there it was, gravlax, an appetizer goody that arrived at our table one night to prime the pump before the serious business of the main course–eating duck–began.  Thin slices of cured salmon with a beautiful fringe tinted the color of roses.  Rich, buttery salmon, a hint of beet, of dill and gorgeous color.  None of us could remember the last time we had gravlax, but it had been awhile.  Wouldn’t it be great for picnic?  Gravlax with a Beet Cure packed among the dark bread, cheese and fruit tarts?  Especially with a few cucumbers and some fermented European butter spread on the dark bread before layering on the samon? Of course it would.

Salad Daze – Summer Squash Salad with Purple Basil

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A phrase you will never see: Big bold summer squash flavor!  Nope.  Which is why I’ll take my warm weather squash raw, as in this Summer Squash Salad with Purple Basil Vinaigrette.  Very thinly sliced, please, so I can appreciate the mild flavor and crunchy texture, ideally accented by a summery dressing, like the basil vinaigrette that tops this preparation.  Throw in a few slices of good parmiggiano and I’m in heaven.  And nobody even turned on the oven.

Glazed and Enthused – Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad

Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Fennel - Blood Orange Salad-1

Spanish Mackerel, Saffron and Honey with Blood Orange – Fennel Salad.  If you make nothing else from us this year, make this.  It’s crazy delicious, one of my contenders for the tastiest thing Jody’s cooked in the past year, and it’s easy. Contrary to what you may think, the recipe doesn’t involve filleting your own mackerel.  Unless you want to.  If so, have it.  That’s what we did, but only because the whole fish were so gorgeous I couldn’t bear not photographing them, so I spared our fishmonger the hassle of filleting them for us.  You’ll also notice that there are three fish and only four fillets, when you’d expect six.  That’s because we roasted the third mackerel whole.  If Spanish mackerel’s around, we can’t get enough of it.  Make this dish.

Eggs Baked in Avocado

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Eggs Baked in Avocado is as easy and foolproof a brunch as you’re likely to find, unless your local patissière delivers bags of warm fresh-baked croissants.  If you happen to come into some warm croissants or decent bread to serve with the eggs and avocados, all the better.  Baked avocadoes are delicious, but it’s hardly surprising most people have never eaten one, not when a ripe avocado is so good with just a squeeze of lime and a bit of salt.  A baked avocado has a rich, deep flavor that loves complimentary fat, like an egg yolk or cream, or the acidic contrast of a salad.  As we were pulling the elements of this post together I suggested topping the eggs with a spoonful of crème fraîche and calling it a day.  Not Jody.  The rule in our house is, once you open an avocado, you eat it–or you make sure someone else does–that same day, so just setting aside the cup of avocado flesh leftover from making a bit of room for the eggs was completely unacceptable.  You’re the lucky beneficiaries – you get eggs baked in avocados, served with a spicy avocado salad and crème fraîche.

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts

Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts-9029

For your consideration: Kale Salad with Plums, Roquefort and Walnuts.  By now it’s hard to believe that there remains a kale stoned unturned.  A few days ago, idling at a traffic light, the bedraggled bumper sticker on the car ahead of me drew my eye. The sun had bleached out the yellow background and faded the text to WRAITH56, and the edges of the sticker had that scalloped, singed effect favored by moviemakers for pirate treasure maps, as though someone had tried to peel away the bumper sticker, gotten disgusted, then said the hell with it.  I had to squint.  EAT MORE KALE.  Good lord, I wondered with a frisson of culinary panic, is kale overexposed?  Not so long ago you could hardly cruise down to the Gap for new underwear or Pinkberry for whatever it is that people buy at Pinkberry without noticing the sea of EAT MORE KALEs around you, as though overnight everyone in town in had joined a spanking new megachurch, and somehow forgotten to tell you.  Have we been kaled to death?  Can STOP TALKING ABOUT KALE bumper stickers be far behind?

Not so fast. Are we over-kaled?  I think not.  Not all important things fit on a bumper sticker: Eat kale, if you’re not already.  It’s really f****** delicious.  

Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers

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We’re obsessing over peeled tomatoes.  Jody has even made a convert of me, Mr. No-Fuss-No-Muss.  Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers might well have begun Peeled Tomato…  By the end of the summer you’ll either be slipping tomatoes out of their skins quicker than a fast-change artist in a costume shop. . . or you’ll be reading another food blog that doesn’t ask so much of you.  But if you do, you’ll miss the supple sensation that is a tomato without its skin, as well as a remarkable esthetic experience.  I, for one, had no idea how ordinary tomatoes metamorphosed into the Betty Grables of the garden without their skins.   They’re gorgeous.

And nothing makes it worth the effort – trifling as it is – of removing a few tomato skins than pairing the tomatoes with burrata, the really hot cousin of bufala mozzarella.  

GOAT CHEESE PIZZA WITH PORCINI SALAD

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What happens in our kitchen owes as much to happenstance as deliberate intention and sometimes the alignment of culinary planets all but makes a certain dish inevitable. Baby arugula arrived from Allendale Farms last week; Ben, the go-to guy for mushrooms for Rialto, came into a batch of fresh porcini. Jody and her staff paid a visit to Valley View Farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts for a close look at how artisanal goat cheese is made (and came home with lots of chevre). And finally [cue trumpet flourish] my new Baking Steel arrived. Let’s see: great ingredients + Baking Steel (the industrial steel world’s answer to a pizza stone). Was there really any choice other than to make Pizza with a Porcini Salad?

Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-1

This is a recipe for the 5th, 6th or 9th of July, but not the 4th, when the grilling train pulls into town with its freight cars of steaks, lobsters, salmon filets, pork shoulders, eggplant, roasted peppers, whatever.  Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto is easy–you could do it–but it will get lost amid the fanfare over Aunt Sophie’s famous deviled eggs, and the potato salad made with diced fermented sour pickles from Brooklyn, and the story about your brother Bob who almost blew his thumb off with an m-80 when he was a kid.

Save it for a quiet day this weekend, when a meal with just one main course and only one or two sides or a salad sounds great, when there’s a bit of culinary light left to shine on a rare seasonal treat.