It’s been a while since I cooked for my friend, Heather. She was once a work-study student in my office (neither of us are saying how long ago) and after graduation worked for the publisher Harcourt Brace. I thought I had steered her toward a good literary career, but then she went off track and went to culinary school. Today she’s the chef at a popular, upscale bistro/restaurant.
I can’t remember when or why we started doing lunch at the cottage, but it was after my hip surgery when I couldn’t get out to meet anyone at restaurants. We took turns—I’d cook, and then next time she’d bring lunch. For me, it’s a bit intimidating to cook for someone with her culinary skills and background, but yesterday was my turn.
I fixed tomato slices with a tonnato sauce and an avocado/cucumber salad and served baguette slices. Tonnato is an Italian tuna sauce that once you discover it, you may be tempted to use on everything from chicken and veal to vegetables. I even had a dab on the tuna that was left over the other night.
I’ve tried several recipes for tonnato and like this one best. Unfortunately, it is not the recipe in my cookbook, Gourmet on a Hot Plate (don’t let that stop you from using the book).
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 oz. can good tuna packed in olive oil, drained
¼ c. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. capers, drained
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh or 1 tsp. dried basil
Put all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.
Use large, fresh tomatoes. Slice thickly, plate, and spoon sauce over. Pepper liberally but watch out for salt—the sauce is already a bit salty. Garnish with fresh basil (or chopped cilantro or parlsey, but basil is better). Average serving is two tomato slices, though I can usually only eat one.
1 medium cucumber, seeded and cubed
2 avocados, diced
4 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
Juice of ¼ large lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. crumbled Feta cheese
Mix it all together and chill well before serving. Serves four. Can be halved.
Heather said it was a perfect light summer lunch. Couldn’t ask for better praise.