For a late summer gathering, try this spin on a Niçoise salad
“Lettuce is not usually found in a Niçoise salad – it’s sacrilege,” says writer and art critic Fanny Singer. “But I’ll put lettuce in every meal. It’s a fitting act of rebellion for the daughter of chef and restaurateur Alice Waters, owner of the legendary locally produced Berkeley temple, Chez Panisse. Meanwhile, Singer’s father, Stephen Singer, owns a vineyard in Sebastopol, California.
Unsurprisingly, Singer’s education therefore revolved around cooking, whether at home, in a restaurant, or in the south of France, where she often spent the summer holidays, visiting family friends. who taught him the arts of antiquity, gardening and the invention of the rustic. dishes from all available ingredients. As an adult, however, she avoided the world of food and earned her doctorate. in Art History at Cambridge and, in 2016, co-launch of the Permanente Collection, her impeccably designed range of objects with Mariah Nielson, from wheel-turned ceramic candle holders to sculptural gold jewelry to a wooden board. cut into a semi-circle in reclaimed walnut wood, made in collaboration with a coterie of handpicked craftsmen.
Yet, and as some of the brand’s offerings suggest, the food continues to inform Singer’s sense of self. In March of last year, she published a culinary memoir, “Always Home,” which is filled with stories that reflect Waters’ ideas about simple and elegant living. Its title “turned out to be hilarious and tragically prophetic,” says Singer, who returned to the Bay Area in 2017 and, at the start of the pandemic, spent 10 months living with her mother in her childhood home. “And yet, at the same time, it underscored the essential idea,” she said, “which is that even if you are far away, there is a way to organize your life in a way that makes you feel like it is ‘be close to the people you love. This could include creating a compost heap in a small apartment kitchen, “a classic Alice Waters move,” says Singer, whom she attempted during her college days in New Haven, Connecticut, which l ’caused her to “freeze” her food. waste for months until she can find a suitable place to dispose of it.
And, while Singer identifies as a casual cook and not a chef, the book also includes a number of recipes that she has developed over the years, including those for Green Goddess Lobster Rolls and grilled squid with yuzu salt. Indeed, Singer now considers cooking as “completely continuous” with his interests in art, design, culture and criticism. Having recently moved to Los Angeles (where Waters is opening a restaurant at the Hammer Museum this fall with chef David Tanis), she took inspiration from the city’s art scene and, of course, its lush farmer’s markets.
It’s a Thursday afternoon that the singer arrives in the leafy yard of her godmother, Sue Murphy, whose Silver Lake house she often receives, with an overflowing cargo from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. (“I have a real ‘more is better’ mentality,” she says.) The salad she’s making today, a version of which is in her book, is based on a deconstructed Nice girl who, in addition to include the aforementioned blasphemous lettuce, offers grilled rather than canned tuna, and omits green beans, eggs, and potatoes. “It’s a lighter, fresher take that adapts to anything on the market,” she says.
The only cooked items are the tuna steak and peppers, both grilled over hot coals. But before doing anything else, Singer makes a confidently seasoned basil dressing. “I like to use a lot of garlic, always a little more than my mom would suggest,” she says, spraying basil, garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle. from the Permanent Collection which, with its striated interior, is inspired by a Japanese suribachi, or grinding bowl. “A mortar and pestle are the tool that, after a good knife, I use the most in the kitchen,” says Singer, adding a little Dijon mustard, lemon zest, white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
While the peppers char on the grill, Singer marinates the fish (obtained from local fishmongers Mayday Seafood), which is then half-cooked, unlike barely pan-seared tuna steaks that were “so popular growing up in the 90s,” Singer laughs. From there, the salad is mostly a question of assembly.
The final touch? Nice olives, preferably pitted – “a charming landmine for guests,” says Singer, and “the only definitive concession to what a Nice salad really is” – scattered over the top. She likes to arrange the dish on a vintage fish-shaped plate, but the container is less important than the spirit with which it is presented: “I still serve family-style salads,” Singer says. “It should be laid back and community. “
Grilled Tuna Salad with Herbs
2 large cloves of garlic
1 ½ cup basil leaves (torn off the stems)
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons of white wine or rice vinegar
1 ¼ cup (approximately) good extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ pound sushi-grade ahi tuna steaks
Black Urfa pepper
4 Little Gem lettuce
2-3 red or yellow peppers
3 small Persian cucumbers
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
¼ cup whole or pitted olives (can be a mixture of Kalamata, Niçoise, Picholine, etc.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Start by making a wood or charcoal fire, or light a barbecue, as you will want to grill the fish over very hot coals, not over flames.
2. A good salad depends on the dressing, and when you incorporate toasted elements, you will need a herbaceous and garlic dressing to resist the flavors of the grill. To make the vinaigrette, first mash two garlic cloves and a generous pinch of salt in a mortar until they are mashed. Lather the basil leaves and add them to the mortar, along with another small pinch of salt, and pound, with a little effort, until the leaves break down to form a pulp. Add 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the zest of 1 lemon, white wine or rice vinegar and about a ½ cup of olive oil. Whisk together and taste. It should have a very lively taste, but not really sour. Adjust if necessary.
3. Prepare a marinade for the tuna with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a big pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon of Black Urfa pepper, ½ teaspoon of pepper freshly ground black and the juice of half a lemon. Coat the tuna and let it rest until the heat is ready to grill, or up to 30 minutes.
4. Wash and dry small gems, separate the leaves and discard any that are withered, hard or bruised.
5. When your fire (or barbecue) is ready, put the peppers on the grill, turning them over to completely blacken the skin and completely soften the flesh, for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and place the peppers in a small bowl, covered, allowing them to steam, which will make it easier to slide off the skin. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and seeds from the peppers with a paring knife and cut them into ½ inch slices on the bias. Season with a pinch of salt and season lightly with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
6. Cut off the top and bottom ends of the cucumbers, then cut them, first lengthwise, then slice on the bias. Cut the tomatoes in half, being careful to slice through the scar on the stem.
7. Place the tuna on the grill for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is seared on the outside and still a little pink in the middle, turning once. Set aside on a cutting board to rest.
8. Whisk the vinaigrette vigorously to emulsify. Place the lettuce and cucumbers in a large bowl and toss with a little lemon juice and half the dressing. Arrange the dressed lettuce leaves on a shallow plate (which will help show off the beautiful ingredients). Then, in a small bowl, toss the tomatoes in a drizzle of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, then sprinkle over the lettuce. Slice the tuna and arrange on top of the salad. Divide the ribbons of peppers on top, then drizzle the vinaigrette over the tuna and peppers. Divide the olives last and serve!