I’m all for fall: brisk air, crunchity leaves, that particular crisp autumn smell in the air of cool air and warm fires, the sky a paler blue and the colors of the world around you muted as if pulling little blankets over themselves in preparation for the coming chill. I like overcast days and rain, and I’m even okay with a hint of snow now and again (but just a hint). I like boots and scarves and gloves and pretty coats.
Good thing I live in Southern California.
Oh, it gets a little cooler here, but it’s different. A damp kind of cold, the milder version of the bone-deep chill you experience in the Bay Area. It’s not as much of a bundle-up kind of cold as it is wear a few layers, cozy under a blanket, drink something warm, light a nice fire, and get over it.
Even so, I like having something light and sunshiny to eat, to remind me of how sparkly and full of flavor the summer was. Especially this summer, with all those tomatoes. What a dream that was.
I came across two wonderful salad recipes this year, one in September when the farmers’ markets were still overflowing with heavenly produce, and one in October. They’re both vivid and brightly-flavored, with ingredients that complement and elevate each other. The second I’ll leave for another time, because the first should be made now – quick! – while there’s still a good tomato or two on the market. Plus, it’s perfect for those who are looking to stay away from carbohydrates but would like to feel full, at least for a second, and would like to keep enjoying food.
The salad is a Ligurian-style tuna and olive salad, of sorts. The recipe came from the September issue of Food & Wine, and it looked intriguing. It also looked like something I could sort of throw together given what I had in my pantry, at the moment I was reading the issue – which was a moment at which I was hungry and in the mood to eat. What I made was not exactly the original recipe but a heavily bastardized version (this is becoming a theme here): I didn’t include the bread, because I didn’t have chickpea flour to make the farinata. I was out of capers, and I didn’t feel like opening a whole tin of anchovies for one or two, when I wasn’t sure when I’d be cooking with anchovies again. Instead, I whisked together some red wine and olive oil, put the remaining ingredients in a bowl, and tossed them together, serving them with fresh greens from the market.
The result? A continuation on the theme of “thank you, Italy.” Thank you for having someone clever enough to combine these ingredients, a jumble of salty, briny treats cozying up to fresh, sweet vegetables, tied together with warm, aromatic oregano and a hint of vinegar. Immediately after making my version of the salad, I went out and stocked up on capers and anchovies. I can’t wait to try it that way too. At this rate, I’ll be thanking Italy for the rest of the year.
Ligurian-style Tuna and Olive Salad
Adapted from Food & Wine, September 2007
1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra if desired
1/2 pound tomatoes, diced
1/2 seedless cucumber—peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1/2 Tbsp. chopped oregano
One 6-ounce cans or jars Italian tuna in oil, drained and flaked
1/2 Tbsp. drained capers (optional if you forget to stock the pantry, but probably fantastic, so make a list)
2 anchovy fillets, chopped (ditto)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Combine the vinegar and olive oil. Whisk gently to emulsify.
2. Place the tomatoes, cucumber, scallion, olives, basil, oregano, capers, anchovies, and tuna in a medium sized bowl. Drizzle with vinegar and olive oil and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with greens.