Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sage Wine and Flowers

I know I'm probably sounding like a broken record, but I love summer. Like, really, really love it. And while when I was a kid, there was nothing more summery than spending the day in the pool, these days, I can't ask for better than eating and drinking outdoors, a beautiful table set with candles and flowers, and dishes and cocktails featuring bright summery fruits.

Now, among my friends, an all-girls summer potluck is not macaroni salad out of a tub and weird casseroles. No, we really indulged ourselves: starting with heirloom tomato caprese and pancetta crisps with goat cheese and pear, onto a main course of fish baked atop zucchini and tomatoes, and topping it all off with an apricot sachertorte covered in silky ganache (and including even more delicious courses that I'm too overwhelmed to mention here). We even drank within the summer theme, with sage-infused rosé and apricot sangria.

My contribution was a crudo* of tuna and nectarines. It was inspired by that awesome amberjack and nectarine poke** I'd had recently at animal. Not only did it seem infinitely summery, it gave me an excuse to go to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and pick up the three most perfect nectarines I could find (not to mention the best melon I've ever eaten). I was a little nervous, as this was my first time serving raw fish to anyone but myself, so, just in case, my recipe included ample amounts of ginger juice (not to disparage the ginger juice: it doesn't just cover up fishiness; it also adds awesome flavor and heat in its own right). I shouldn't have worried though: I got small packages of cubed tuna from Mitsuwa, and they were totally fresh. The dish was a huge hit: light, fruity, with enough tang from lemon and ginger juices to cut the richness of the fish. Such a hit in fact, that the first wave of guests finished off the whole dish before the second set even showed up. What can I say, for all our girliness, we eat voraciously.

So, we ate, and drank, and laughed a lot. We even danced a bit (or rather, others danced while I applauded their performance while melting into the couch). And then, on that same couch, I fell asleep. Ah, summer.

* Crudo is an Italian dish of raw fish dressed with olive oil, citrus juice, and sea salt.
** Eating LA has a photo of that pretty dish here.

Tuna Crudo with Nectarines

Freshness is the key to this recipe. Buy the best fish you can find the day you are serving it, and don't make it more than a few hours ahead. I served this dish in a large bowl, but individual servings, drizzled with a bright olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt, would make a refined first course.

3 large nectarines, 1/2 inch dice
1 lb sushi-grade tuna, 1/2 inch dice
2-inch knob ginger
juice of one lemon
fruity extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt

In a large bowl, mix together nectarines and tuna. Extract juice from ginger by peeling and grating it on a ginger grater, then squeezing out the juice with your fingers. Add ginger juice to fish and fruit; mix again. At this point, you can chill the dish in a tightly covered container.

To serve, drizzle generously with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt, and stir to combine.


  1. All girls?!?!?!? I have three words for you: W T F. Just wait - August is the REAL start of summer....

  2. I can't decide if I'm more enamoured with visions of pancetta crisps or the tuna crudo. Sounds like a lovely potluck!

  3. Who do you have to know to get invited to one of these potlucks?

  4. brad, so long as you isolate yourself from your friends at 'family weddings', we will have all-girl parties to spite you. but don't worry, there is plenty of summer left for co-ed parties.

    and marie, there is no need to choose. why not have both? by the way, the recipe for those pancetta crisps is here.

    and as far as getting invited, tsp, why not just host one yourself? between your own dreamy backyard, and giant dining table, and POOL, you've got a lot of summeriness to offer..