Vinegar: that’s what fear smells like.
~Jennifer Egan

Tangy fine wine vinegars are aphrodisiacal…much like fear in today’s world.

From the French vin (wine) and aigre (sour). In the Middle Ages, alchemists poured vinegar onto lead in order to create lead acetate. Called “sugar of lead,” it was added to sour cider until it became clear that ingesting the sweetened cider proved deadly. By the Renaissance era, vinegar making was a lucrative trade in France, many of them infused with pepper, cloves, roses, fennel, herbs, raspberries, and the like.

The guild of vinaigriers (vinegar makers) received French royal recognition in the 14th century under Louis XII. The trade was centered on the town of Orléans, but the rue des Vinaigriers in Paris (near the fetching Canal St-Martin) suggests that there were vinaigriers in City of Light too. Today, one of the remaining traditional vinaigriers based in Orléans is Martin Pouret (founded in 1797).

In the making of vinegar, science and art merge, and like its alter ego, wine, vinegar is a subject of scrutiny by gourmands. The transformation of wine or fruit juice to vinegar is a chemical process in which ethyl alcohol undergoes partial oxidation that results in the formation of acetaldehyde which is later converted into acetic acid. Should you care, the chemical reaction flows something like this: CH 3 CH 2 OH=2HCH 3 CHO=CH 3 COOH.

I would heartily recommend maintaining a selection of vinegars in the pantry, with red wine vinegar as the central choice, but make room in the pantry for white wine, champagne, tarragon, apple cider, sherry, and balsamic vinegars (or the French take, banyuls).

This plate is a classic, but by no means should be considered antediluvian. More like primeval.

LEEKS VINAIGRETTE

8 small leeks
Sea salt

2 T Dijon mustard
2 T red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
6 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 T capers
12 cornichons
12 niçoise olives, pitted
2 eggs, hard boiled and halved lengthwise

Trim leeks, cutting off hairy roots, removing tough outer layers, and trimming off the tops while leaving some green. Make a lengthwise slit part way down each leek. Put leeks in a large glass bowl with cool running tap water and swish to remove any sand or dirt. Remove leeks and set aside on a towel.

Fill a pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Then, salt generously and drop in leeks. Reduce heat some and cook at a brisk simmer until leeks are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool to room temperature, again on a towel.

Meanwhile whisk together mustard, wine vinegar and shallot in a bowl. Vigorously whisk in olive oil to emulsify and make a smooth sauce. Season with salt and pepper and whisk a little more. The vinaigrette should be fairly bright, and the mustard flavor should come through, but not too patently.

Arrange leeks on plates. Spoon vinaigrette over leeks and sprinkle with capers. If desired, garnish each plate with cornichons, olives, and eggs. And then “oh yeah, baby.”

Life is like riding a bicycle — in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.
~Albert Einstein

Never have these meant to be autobiographical musings, despite the medium. Hopefully it’s never read as self indulgent, indiscreet, insipid, smudge free, egocentric OMG! Zuckerbergish gibberish run amok. That social mediacrity with identity-indifferent-track-and-sell-persona greed as the true intent — razing individual privacy and autonomy with impunity.  Instead, these thoughts are meant as mere reflections, sometimes gentle and other times sharp edged, on food and culture.

Compared to previous years, I have been remiss with Tour de France coverage.   This year’s edition began in Liège, Belgium, swept toward northern Normandie then swung back to northeast region of Lorraine.  The peloton then  streaked southward down the eastern border of France through the Vosges, the Jura, the Alpes to the Mediterranean and then back westward toward the  Pyrénées when the riders finally turn north toward  Paris and the ChampsÉlysées.  Today was a relatively flat étape (stage), with one stage 3 and two stage 4 “little” climbs, that runs 158 km from Samatan to Pau in southwest France which just precedes a showdown in the Pyrénées.  In all, the riders cover 3,947 kilometers (2,452.55 miles) over three weeks this year — already 42 riders have retired.  Makes my lungs burn and my legs weary just typing.

While much of the Tour’s majesty and quirks have been noted in previous posts, a couple were brought to my attention from earlier stages.  Ahead of the riders on the course is a publicity caravan of advertising vehicles (le caravan publicitaire) while behind the peloton is a snarl of mulit-hued team little cars laden with components, parts, tools, equipment, bikes, spares, bottles, computers, radios, the directeur sportif (team manager), and the like.   Titanium, carbon fiber, and high tensile steel alloys galore.  Within this circus are officials’ vehicles, motorcycle cops, medical vans, and photographers hanging precariously off the back of even more motorcycles.  Ballet and mayhem meet.

A sticky bottle is when a cyclist receives a water bottle from inside the team car with both parties grasping the vessel as long as possible, towing the rider and giving a little pedal-less boost to launch his return to the peloton while saving precious energy.  A magic spanner usually occurs when a rider has just had a mechanical issue, a wheel change or outright crashed. Once again, while  being assisted, riders latch onto the mechanic or car which accelerates, slingshotting the rider back into the peloton.  Similarly, attending to minor medical needs like spraying a topical antibiotic on a rider while he  holds onto a speeding car is also rather common during races.

Article 7 of the Tour’s rules, entitled Race Offences sternly reads:  “(S)lipstreaming or being pulled along by a motor vehicle, whether from the front, back or side as well as any grasping-hold of the bicycle or vehicle is forbidden under all circumstances.”   As with most sports however, team tactics sometimes delve into gray to achieve those little boosts with an eye on that sometimes elusive, collective goal of victory.  Just a little help from their friends.

Other times though, the game is not worth the candle.  This year’s Giro d’Italia race jury pulled several sprinters from the race during its penultimate stage for holding onto team cars.   The incident happened on the 20th stage, the Giro’s  “queen stage,” which boasts five climbs, making it an exceptionally difficult stage for sprinters .   A jury communiqué called it a fatto grave or “serious fault.”

This distinctly French plate seemed à propos

POTATO, TURNIP & GREEN BEAN SALAD

1 lb medium Yukon Gold potatoes, washed
1 lb medium turnips, washed, with roots and tops trimmed
Sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 large thyme sprigs

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed to a paste
1 T high quality anchovy filets, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 1/2 T fine capers, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
4 T champagne or sherry vinegar
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb fresh green beans (preferably haricots verts), ends trimmed off
4 large eggs, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 T basil, roughly chopped

Bring a large pot of cold water with potatoes, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a boil and salt generously. Reduced heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes are firm but easily pierced with a paring knife, about 30 minutes. Remove, drain and let cool some.

Bring another large pot of cold water with turnips, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a boil and salt generously. Reduce heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the turnips are firm but easily pierced with a paring knife, about 15-20 minutes. Remove, drain and let cool some.

While the potatoes and turnips are cooking, prepare a vinaigrette. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy, capers, mustard and wine vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and whisk again before dressing.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and gently slice into pieces about 1/3″ thick. Likewise, peel and gently cut the turnips into 1/3″ slices. Put the slices in a large glass bowl, season lightly with salt and pepper and add half the vinaigrette. Using your hands, gently coat the potatoes and turnips with the vinaigrette, taking care not to break them. Set aside.

Put the green beans in a pot of boiling, salted water and simmer until just tender and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander, then cool under running cold water and pat dry. Promptly plunge into ice cold water for a brief moment to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain and dry on cloth or paper towel or the beans will become soggy. Set aside.

Gently place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to liberally cover the eggs. Bring to a boil over high and then immediately remove from heat and cover until done, about 12 minutes. Uncover and flush with cool running water and then briefly place in an ice bath to cease cooking. Dry promptly on paper towels and peel. Set aside.

To assemble: season the beans with salt and pepper, then dress lightly with with vinaigrette. Combine the dressed beans, potatoes and turnips, using hands to toss, and arrange on a platter or large flat bowl. Cut the eggs lengthwise, drizzle lightly with vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange eggs over the top and sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil.

Serve standing alone or with grilled, sautéed, or roasted meat, poultry or fish.

Magical Miso(s)…

March 15, 2012

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
~Albert Einstein

Salty and complex, a revered Japanese staple — umami laden.

Miso (味噌) is a traditional, thick paste produced by fermenting rice and soybeans, with salt and the fungus kōjikin. White miso (shiromiso) which is preferred in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe is milder than the red version (akamiso) which finds favor in the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo. The lighter hue is often due to the inclusion of white rice during a notably shorter fermentation period. There is also yellow miso which is made from soybeans that have been fermented with barley and a smaller percentage of rice, and black which is crafted entirely from soybean.

Mysteries abound about miso’s Japanese origins. Some posit that miso developed from fermented foods found in China over two millennia ago which arrived on the Japanese shores along with Buddhism in the 6th century. Others trace the origins to the northeastern provinces of Japan where archeological digs suggest an early mastery of fermentation processes. According to Japanese mythology, miso was bestowed by the gods upon mortals to assure longevity and happiness.

Many find it tasking, even enigmatic, to classify the rich flavors of miso — definitely salty, a tad sweet, not quite bitter or sour, yet chocked with that fifth taste: subtle and exquisite umami. From a Nobu inspired cod forward, versatile but often underutilized miso runs the culinary gamut.

COD WITH MISO

1 1/2 lb. fresh black cod fillets

1/2 C sake
1/2 C hon mirin
1/2 C white miso
3 T raw sugar
3 T honey

Peanut oil

In a small saucepan, bring the sake and mirin to a gentle boil. Whisk in the miso until dissolved. Then, add the sugar and honey and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until fully dissolved. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Reserve some of this marinade for plating.

Gently but thoroughly pat the fillets dry with paper towels, place them into a glass baking dish with a fitted top or a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal tightly and allow to bathe in the refrigerator overnight or preferably for 2-3 nights. Turn them occasionally to encourage an even coating.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Carefully wipe off any excess marinade clinging to the fillets but do not rinse under water. Place the fish in a lightly oiled heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté on both sides until just lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the fish to the oven on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake until flaky, about 7-10 minutes.

Arrange over greens of choice on serving plates. Dabble some drops of marinade on the fish and plate, then serve.

Pourboire: black cod is also known as sable fish and has large pin bones, which are curved little bones that run along the fish’s centerline which need be removed with needle nose pliers.

MISO & SESAME VINAIGRETTE

1/2 C white miso
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
4 t white sesame seeds, toasted
2 t sesame oil
2 t honey

6 T grapeseed or canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together miso, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, sesame oil and honey in a medium glass bowl. Slowly whisk in grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

MISO COMPOUND BUTTER

8 (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 T white or red miso
Freshly ground white pepper

Cream the butter and miso together with a fork, while adding white pepper.

Use immediately, or roll into a log in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for cutting into slices later.

Pourboire: Potential additions to the compound butter could include chopped scallions or chives, minced garlic, ginger or chiles, or citrus zest. Gently melt over freshly grilled or roasted meats, sautéed vegetables, etc. For red meats, choose a red miso which is much more rich and savory.

Ponzu Scheme

February 16, 2012

Tradition is the illusion of permanence.
~Woody Allen

Centuries old, yet rarely recognized east of Honshu until just a couple of decades ago, ponzu has experienced a spirited culinary birth and finally flourishes in the West. Was about time for a break from the usual food-ethnocentricity, self-adulation.

Ponzu (ポン酢?) is traditionally made by heating mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes, and konbu (dried kelp). Some chefs substitute dashi (a light fish stock) for the bonito flakes. The simmering liquid is cooled and strained to remove the solids and then citrus fruit juice is added for tartness. In Japan, ponzu is customarily made with an obscure citrus fruit called yuzu, but cooks here have substituted lemon, lime, orange and/or grapefruit juices to create a rough equivalent.

At once subtly sweet, sour, tart, tangy and salty…ponzu is commonly served as a sauce with tataki, nabemono, sashimi or even sushi, but is also for dipping with or drizzled over rice, noodles, tempura, greens, vegetables, spring rolls, shellfish and grilled, seared or sautéed meats, poultry and fish. Adding fine soy sauce creates the ubiquitous Japanese condiment, ponzu-shoyu.

Befitting its versatility, ponzu has a West meets East etymology, deriving from the Dutch ponsen (citrus punch) and Japanese su (vinegar), and so the name loosely means “citrus punch vinegar.” (Nagasaki roots?)

BASIC PONZU SHOYU

3/4 C mirin
1/2 C aged, unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 C bonito flakes
1 T honey
3″ piece of konbu

1 C shoyu
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T fresh orange juice
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T fresh grapefruit juice

Wipe the konbu with a damp cloth to remove most of the powdery white coating. Combine the mirin, wine vinegar, bonito flakes, honey and konbu in a small saucepan and bring just to a gentle simmer over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow to cool completely.

Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the solids. Whisk in the shoyu and citrus juices. Tweak the citrus ratios to suit your tastes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight, so the flavors meld. Just before using, taste and consider adding a small squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice or some shoyu.

SESAME PONZU VINAIGRETTE

1 1/2″ piece daikon, grated

1/2 C ponzu
2 T sesame oil
1 T white sesame seeds
1/2 T ginger, grated
1/2 t sea salt
1 green onion, chopped

Using a cheesecloth, squeeze the liquid out of the grated daikon. Combine the remaining flesh with the remaining ingredients, and whisk together in a bowl.

PONZU DIJON VINAIGRETTE

3 shallots, peeled and minced
3 T Dijon mustard
1 plump fresh garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 T ginger, peeled and minced

1 C ponzu
2 T sugar
1/2 C shiro shoyu

2 C grapeseed or canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together shallots, mustard, garlic and ginger in a medium glass bowl. In a smaller bowl, dissolve sugar into ponzu and shoyu and then whisk into the mustard mixture. Whisk in grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pourboire: in the interest of brevity, you may simply create ponzu shoyu by mixing fine unfiltered bottled Japanese ponzu with really good shoyu in a ratio to suit your liking.

Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.
~Bernard Baruch

A frost and then fond adieus to tomato season. So much more than just my beloved ones, they were so damned good again this year. But that only means that brisk autumn and those other red tarts are in our midst. Those eternal temptresses: apples.

MESCLUN WITH APPLE VINAIGRETTE

2 T champagne vinegar
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, smashed
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

6 C mesclun
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, quartered and very thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shaved parmigiano-reggiano, for garnish

In a medium bowl, whisk together both vinegars, shallot and garlic. Slowly whisk in the oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Combine greens and apples in a large bowl.Toss the salad ingredients with some of the vinaigrette. Garnish with shaved parmigiano-reggiano.

The lion and the calf will lay down together, but the calf won’t get much sleep.
~Woody Allen

Veal is the meat of a young calf. A calf is defined as a young bovine of either sex that has not reached puberty (circa 9 months), and has a maximum weight of 750 pounds. Before slaughter, a veal calf–usually a male–is raised until about 16-18 weeks old and weighing up to 450 pounds.

Now, should I really weigh in on this blood feud between veal supporters and foes? Makes you just exhale, much like when trying to calmly suggest to a clueless, raving Sarah Palin that the combined effects of a decade of unfunded tax cuts ($2.5 trillion), two prolonged regional wars ($1.3 trillion) and the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (up to $1 trillion in bailout funds) explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years. And God forbid that you remind her that almost all of this inglorious work took place on princeling W’s watch or dare divulge dark Dick’s dictum that “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Today’s Word for the Day struck Sarah’s speaking and ghost written skills right between her bespectacled eyes: anacoluthia (n.) the lack of grammatical sequence or coherence, esp. in a sentence. A syntactic construction in which an element is followed by another that does not agree properly. That wolf shootin’ moose eatin’ basketball playin’ governor quittin’ mama, Sarah Anacoluthia. Atta girl! Whew.

I could go on, but back to food. Not a meat without controversy, veal consumption was resoundingly boycotted in markets nationwide decades ago. And this, no less, was in the pre-internet world. Gruesome photographs of formula-fed veal calves tethered in crates where they could not turn or rotate appeared across the country. Sales plummeted and really never fully recovered. This fiscal slump did sometimes correlate with changes in the way veal was raised, pastured, housed and slaughtered. More humane and less objectionable methods were adopted. Some farmers allowed calves to roam pastures with their mothers while chemical, antibiotic and steroid free. Other producers disposed of those bad pub crates, raising them in barn pens where they mingle with other calves, feeding them a mix of milk replacement and grain.

Doubtfully and naturally, these changes will not placate vegans or vegetarians who find the eating of meat simply abhorrent. To some, human carnivores are unrepentant sinners, pure and simple. To those, I might humbly suggest you skip the veal and drizzle the vinaigrette(s) over vegetables. To me, hell awaits.

“Veal” is a word derived from the Middle English veel, from Old French, from Latin vitellus, the diminutive of vitulus, or “calf.”

It should go without saying that either or both of the tomato and olive vinaigrettes can lissomely grace other meats, poultry, fish or greens. As always, please let your kitchen mind wander.

GRILLED VEAL & TWO VINAIGRETTES (OLIVE & TOMATO)

4 – 1 3/4″ thick bone-in veal loin chops
Extra virgin olive oil
1 T fresh rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive Vinaigrette

1 1/2 C Kalamata and Cerignola olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 T medium shallot, peeled and finely minced
1/2 T garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 t anchovies, rinsed, dried and finely minced
1 T Dijon mustard
1/4 C sherry vinegar

1 C extra virgin olive oil

Stir together the olives, shallot, garlic, anchovies, mustard, and sherry vinegar. Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while vigorously whisking until smooth and emulsed.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1 1/2 C heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 C sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 C extra virgin olive oil

2-3 T basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Stir together the tomatoes, shallot, capers and sherry vinegar. Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while vigorously whisking until smooth and emulsed. Stir in the basil.

While stoking the grill, prepare the vinaigrettes and allow the veal to reach room temperature. Also, mix the olive oil with the rosemary. Season the veal chops with salt and black pepper and drizzle generously with the rosemary olive oil.

Once the vinaigrettes are prepared, assess the grill which should reach medium high. Hold your open hand about three inches above the hot grate with the coals already spread and count how long you can keep it there before the pain demands you retract it in around 3 seconds.

Grill the veal chops for 5-6 minutes or so on each side for medium rare. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the veal chops and the heat of the grill. Let the chops rest for at least 5 minutes, then spoon a base of the olive vinaigrette on each plate. Rest the veal chops on the olive vinaigrette and spoon the tomato vinaigrette atop of the meat.

Ahi “Niçoise”

May 13, 2010

Sorry, Charlie…Starkist doesn’t want tuna with good taste, Starkist wants tuna that tastes good.
~StarKist, Chicken of the Sea

A highly migratory, fish found in many oceans, tuna are from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. They are swift swimmers, with some species capable of speeds of over 50 mph. Unlike most flat fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red hues. The coloration derives from high quantities of myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule.

Tuna have a remarkable ability to maintain body core temperatures above that of ambient seawater which enhances their superior swimming speeds while running at reduced energy rates. This endothermy is achieved by conserving the heat generated through normal body metabolism via the action of an intertwined meshwork of veins and arteries, known as the rete mirable (“wonderful net”), located in the body’s periphery.

Whenever your love life has gone south, rethink those urgings from friends that “there are plenty of fish in the sea,” as 90% of the big fish in the world are already gone; and if global fishing trends continue, there will be even fewer wild fish left by mid-century. Love the one you’re with?

Across the seas, tuna fisheries face a number of urgent problems that threaten their continued existence and endanger wider marine ecosystems. There have been alarming tuna stock declines and unfortunately poor conservation strategies have been in the making. Troll and long line tuna fishing techniques have resulted in large bycatch, including threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and seabirds.

So, make a sustainable catch at the market and buy tuna nabbed with troll or pole & line gear to avoid the evils of indiscriminate bycatch. Above all, please make tuna a rare treat until populations have had a chance to reload.

SEARED TUNA “NICOISE” WITH TWO VINAIGRETTES & FRISEE

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
Pinch of herbes de provence
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisking gently in a bowl, combine sherry and red wine vinegars, mustard, herbes de provence, salt and pepper. Then, whisking more vigorously, slowly add olive oil in a narrow steady stream to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. May be made a day or two ahead and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.

Tapenade Vinaigrette
4 T tapenade*
2 t Dijon mustard
2 fresh plump garlics, peeled and crushed gently
1 t sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
2 T sherry vinegar
1-1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Gently whisk together tapenade, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar. Whisking further and much more robustly, slowly add olive oil in a narrow steady stream to form an emulsion. Discard garlic cloves. May be made a day or two ahead and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.

1 lb haricots verts, ends trimmed
3 T spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced

1 lb fingerling potatoes
Cold water
Sea salt

2 fresh ahi or yellowfin tuna fillets, thickly cut 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped

3 T capers, rinsed and dried
1 C cherry tomatoes, halved
1 C yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 heads frisée, cleaned, cored and torn into bite sized pieces

Put green beans in large pot of boiling salted water. and blanch until just tender and crisp, 3-4 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge into ice cold water to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain on cloth or paper towel—otherwise, the beans will become soggy. Then, in a bowl toss with the sliced spring onions or scallions and some sherry vinaigrette. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add liberal amounts of salt. Add potoatoes and cook until fork tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove from the pot and let stand until room temperature. Once cooled, slice and set aside.

Heat a large heavy nonstick sauté skillet over high heat. Brush each tuna liberally with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and lightly with thyme. Add tuna to pan and sear briefly until rare in the center, about 2 minutes per side depending on thickness. Take care just to sear quickly and not overcook, and do not turn the tuna over repeatedly—just once. When done, it should be rare in the center but not cold. Remove from pan and lightly brush one side with olive oil, and lightly season one side again with salt and pepper. Slice tuna across the grain and on the bias.

Toss the green beans, spring onions, potatoes, capers, cherry tomatoes and frisée with sherry vinaigrette. Arrange the green beans, spring onions, potatoes, capers, cherry tomatoes and frisée in a colorful array on each plate and top with tuna slices. Lightly drizzle some tapenade vinaigrette over the tuna.

*Tapenade
2 C Niçoise olives, pitted
3 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
3 T capers, drained and rinsed
2 high quality anchovy fillets
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t Dijon mustard
Dash of brandy or cognac
6 T olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olives, garlic, capers, anchovies, thyme, lemon juice, mustard, and cognac. Process in bursts to form a thick paste.

With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until it is thoroughly incorporated into a paste. Season with pepper, then allow the tapenade to stand for an hour or so to allow the flavors to marry.

Pourboire:  apparently, a Dutch study has found that swordfish exude body grease which allows them to swim so rapidly.  While swordfish are the sole members of their family, Xiphidae, and are solitary swimmers, one wonders if the same performance enhancement oil holds true for tuna.