One of the best things about summer is having the time to attempt a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. After digging through the game drawer of our rental, I chose an intricate map of Aspen, each mountaintop, tree, and street sign painstakingly illustrated and cut into squiggly bits.
But weeks later, when I finally placed the last piece, there were gaping holes in my handiwork. I shrugged off the missing pieces, probably lost many vacations ago.
Flash to this past weekend, puzzle long forgotten, I’m back in Los Angeles, having a hard time adjusting to the frenzy of life in a big city. So I flip through my recipes, searching for one that will take me somewhere else. I spot the grape leaves and Aleppo pepper in this fabulous dish from my Modern Mediterranean class.
And I realize why returning home after a long vacation is never easy. The atmospherics may have remained the same, but somehow we’ve changed. We’re more carefree, more present; we linger in the moment a little longer than before. It’s like we’ve grown outside the puzzle and our pieces no longer fit.
But what I love about traveling is what I love about cooking. It’s an adventure, a rush to the senses, deliciously unpredictable. Now that I’m back to reality for a while, I’ll be in the kitchen often, cooking my way to faraway places.
Re-entry may be painful, but it can be pretty appetizing, too.
Vine Leaf Salsa
Serves 4-6 (makes approximately 1 cup)
1/2 cup (about 4 whole) grape leaves, stems removed, chopped roughly
3 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers in brine, drained
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1-1/2 pounds albacore tuna, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon each: sea salt, Aleppo pepper Aleppo pepper, coriander, cumin and paprika.
1. Prepare the Vine Leaf Salsa: In a food processor, blend all the ingredients, streaming in the oil slowly. The consistency should be loose but not oily. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside until ready to serve.
2. Heat a grill and oil it well. Rub the tuna lightly with grapeseed oil. Combine the spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle the tuna cubes with the spices and thread them on metal skewers or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 1/2 hour.
3. Grill the tuna until marked on the outside and still pink inside, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to serving plates and serve with the salsa on the side.
Only a few days left to enter the August Cooking Contest! Add your favorite tomato recipe to the mix for a chance to win some cool kitchen swag!
Photo credit: tastespotting.com