Bobby Flay's Bold American Food, Bobby Flay with Joan Schwartz, (Warner Books, 1994).

2004_09_food_tunasalad.JPGLabor Day means one thing to Gothamist: grilling. That and hanging out with friends drinking beer. We got to do both last Monday when we made Southwestern Grilled Tuna Salad on a friend's roof. We made the salad downstairs and then drank beer while the tuna grilled. When it was ready we vowed to eat only this for the rest of our lives. Maybe it was the beer, but this salad is really good. The saltiness of the olives and capers complements the sweetness of the vinaigrette, and everything goes good with ripe avocados and tomatoes.

Don't be intimidated if you've never grilled before or don't have a grill. According to the Gothamist Grillmaster, "Grilling is as easy as heating up food in the toaster oven." We used the least fancy charcoal grill ever and our food turned out great. If you don't have outdoor space for a grill you can always use the Foreman you got for Christmas or you can substitute sauteing the tuna over medium-high heat for grilling it.

The Cookbook

2004_09_food_Flay.JPGBobby Flay (Mesa Grill, Bolo) is the host of
Food Network's Hot Off the Grill, FoodNation, and Boy Meets Grill. This was his first book, and he has since written four more: From My Kitchen to Your Table, Boy Meets Grill, Bobby Flay Cooks American, and Boy Gets Grill, which just came out. Flay's next restaurant will be a regional American brasserie called Bar Americain in the former JUdson Grill space at 152 West 52nd Street. His next book will be "Good Carb Grilling".

Gothamist likes Bold American Food -- it's well-organized and easy to use, and Tom Eckerle's food pictures are great. As to its ease of use for the Gothamist home chef, we give it a 5: many recipes call for homemade sauces that by themselves may not be practical to make, like the chile-crusted salmon
(easy!) with a yellow pepper sauce (not so much!) which involves cold-smoking the pepper. But lots of the recipes look too good to resist, and worth the effort: Blue Corn-fried Chicken Salad with Cayenne-Buttermilk Dressing, Barbecued Ribs with Peanut-Chipolte Sauce, and a host of quesadillas and tamales and desserts. YUM. Just writing this makes Gothamist want to run back to the fridge and eat the leftovers.

The Recipe

Southwestern Grilled Tuna Salad with Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette
4 tuna steaks (about 5 ounces each)
5 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 new potatoes, cooked and slightly cooled
4 cups mesclun or mixed red and green lettuce leaves
Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette
2 Haas avocados, peeled and sliced thin (or cubed)
2 medium tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons Nicoise olives, pitted
2 tablespoons capers, drained

2004_09_food_tunagrill.JPGPrepare a wood or charcoal fire and let it burn down to embers, or preheat the broiler. Brush the tuna steaks with 4 teaspoons of the oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and grill to desired doneness, 2 minutes for rare, 3 1/2 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes for well done, turning once.

Brush the potatoes with 1 teaspoon of oil, grill for about 2 minutes, turning. When done, slice thick.

Dress the greens with about half of the vinaigrette and toss gently with the avocados, tomatoes, olives, and potatoes.

The recipe says to plate each serving separately, placing 1 tuna steak on each plate and drizzling with the vinaigrette, arranging the salad around the tuna, giving each plate an equal portion of avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, and olives, and sprinkling with capers. But why make people do so much work? Gothamist thinks the better route is to slice the tuna into bite-slice chunks and either pile it on top of plates of salad and add more vinaigrette, or, especially if you are having a buffet-style BBQ, toss the salad with the sliced tuna and the vinaigrette and rock out.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette
2 cups (tightly packed) basil leaves (about 2 bunches)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the basil leaves, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, onion, and honey in a blender/food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly add the oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour into a squeeze bottle. May be prepared up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes about 1 cup.