James Beard's Baked Beans
John T. Edge's Hypocrite Pie

Dakota Weiss's Tuna Carpaccio


Despite the incessant rain over New York City, last night's dinner called for something light and colorful and nutritious: a counterbalance to a weekend of baked beans and chocolate, and the perfect dinner-for-one. The recipe comes from the chef at Jer-ne in Marina del Rey and was printed in an LA Times article about the beauties of shaved salads by Leslie Brenner.

I'm adore shaved salads - fennel and celery root and cabbage and carrots: the list of raw vegetables that benefit from being sliced paper-thin and dressed with nothing more than olive oil, lemon juice and salt goes on and on. But the idea of pairing fennel with watermelon and raw tuna was something new to me and just the ticket for a one-plate meal.

I sliced two ounces of raw tuna, then drizzled them with lemon oil and piled shaved fennel on top. Mimicking the coral fish, thinly sliced watermelon was arranged on top of that. More lemon oil was drizzled all around, and I sprinkled flaky Maldon salt over everything to give it some edge. My plate looked gorgeous - restaurant food in my very own kitchen.

But sadly? It tasted totally insipid. The delicate tuna flavor disappeared entirely behind the fennel, and the watermelon was so thin that the fresh crunch and refreshing taste was gone a millisecond after each bite. And why did Weiss use lemon oil instead of lemon juice and oil, which would have provided some much-needed tartness?

The idea of using watermelon in savory dishes is lovely - I remember first trying a salad of watermelon, sliced grape tomatoes and feta, all bathed in a sharp, citrusy vinaigrette a few years ago (at The Red Cat? I think), and being totally blown away by the combination of textures and flavors. But this tuna carpaccio was a total snooze, even if it was the prettiest thing I ever did put together for dinner.