If you check the weather, the heat is still on, and it cries out for Rosé. Seriously, Rosés can perform beautifully all year, but they are especially fine in summer when one might want something with more heft than we generally expect in a white, yet lighter than most reds.
Serving them as summer sippers can be a no-brainer, yet they can also match well with many lighter dishes, as well as a variety of seafood.
There can be a huge variation in Rosés, from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, delicate to intense, and pale to amber to deep reddish-pink. The LCBO is good at providing sugar levels, and so that simplifies things a little, but beyond that, some light-coloured examples can have good depth, some darker ones can be a bit fat and flabby.
As for price, you can find examples in the $10 range, and others in the $30 range and up. In reading about the best rosés for 2020, one of the recommendations was Chateau Minuty 281 from the Côtes du Provence - $91 U.S., according to Forbes magazine! I will have to trust their judgement, as it is just a little outside my comfort zone for price.
The LCBO has begun to carry more and more Rosés in the $25 to $30 range.
Aside from Blush Zinfandel and Moscato’s, most Rosés are in the dry to slightly off-dry style. Ontario examples tend to have 6 to 12 grams of sugar per litre - sometimes more- while good French Rosés from the south of France often just carry two grams of sugar per litre.
An excellent summer dish with which a Rosé would shine is Tuna Salad Niçoise. As the name suggests, it likely originated in the region around Nice on France’s Mediterranean coast. That little ‘comma-like’ mark under the ‘c’ changes the sound from Hard ‘k’ to ‘s’ so that it is pronounced “Nee-Swahze.”
With this dish, you can use either fresh tuna steaks or canned tuna. Apparently, good quality canned tuna in oil is traditional, but the dish can be more dramatic when served with freshly seared tuna cut into strips.
If you consider that Sushi is made using raw tuna, you can understand why it is crucial to just sear the tuna for a minute or so, so that internally it remains red. It has also been suggested that, if you are not plating the tuna immediately, you place it in the refrigerator to stop the cooking process, keeping it rare.
The recipe that we adapted appeared in Rose Reisman’s The Complete Light Kitchen, and we have modified it with adaptations from other versions, particularly that of Tyler Florence on foodnetwork.com, along with my wife, Sue’s, own inspired tweaks.
Seared Tuna Niçoise
Note: You can make the salad, the dressing, and hard-boiled eggs earlier and refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before serving.
- 1&1/2 to 2 pounds raw tuna steak, preferably 1and 1/2 inches, or 3 cm. thick.*
- 3/4 to 1 pound of little red potatoes (use whatever colour you like!)
- 1/2 pound (225 grams) haricot verts (French green beans) – if bought pre-packaged, you can microwave them for a couple of minutes right in the bag, with a slit to let the steam out.
- 1 cup diced cucumber
- 1 to 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup diced red onion
- 1 cup of black olives, halved
- 6 eggs hard-boiled, then peeled and halved
- 2/3 to 1 cup of chopped fresh dill – if you can’t find dill, use other fresh herbs such as cilantro or Italian flat-leafed parsley, and chives along with French tarragon.
(In the second version I am providing here, Tyler Florence also uses a half-bunch of chives, cut in half, and 16 capers on their stems – you could also use the smaller capers we find in jars.)
- Boil the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, cool and halve. Place in a serving bowl.
- Trim the beans, if necessary, and steam them just until they are tender, then rinse with cold water – cut in half if necessary. (The packaged beans generally don’t need trimming.)
- Add the beans, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, olives and herbs to the bowl with the potatoes.
For the Dressing (Rose Reisman)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 to 8 anchovy fillets, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or pressed.
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch each of salt and pepper, to taste.
For the dressing, mix and whisk in the oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper, and anchovies together until well mixed. (Trust me! Don’t leave out the anchovies… the salad would never forgive you!)
Pour the dressing over the potato mixture. And place on a serving platter. Rose Reisman reserves about a quarter of the mixture and uses it as a garnish at the end.
For Tyler Florence’s vinaigrette, he uses two tablespoons each of parsley and fresh tarragon, rather than dill, and puts them in the dressing with the other ingredients. He places all the ingredients in a mason jar, screws on the lid and shakes vigorously to emulsify. He does this ahead of time so that the flavours can marry. He uses it as he prepares to plate.
*Here, you could substitute good quality canned tuna in oil (drained) if you prefer. You would need at least two cans, maybe three – you decide.
For fresh tuna, season it lightly with salt. Heat a seasoned cast-iron pan to high, with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil. When it is hot, sear the tuna, about one to one and a half minutes per side. (Instead of using grapeseed oil, Tyler Florence rubs the tuna on all sides with olive oil and then a bit of the vinaigrette before searing.) Do not overcook.
When ready to serve, slice the tuna into strips and place over the salad. Here is where Rose Reisman dresses the salad with the remaining potato mixture.
Tyler Florence plates things differently.
He combines the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives and anchovies along with the capers and chives in a large mixing bowl. Giving the vinaigrette another good shake, he drizzles enough of it over the salad to fully moisten it and tosses it gently, to coat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Again, do this gently - be careful not to mush up the ingredients.
Next, arrange all the ingredients nicely on a platter, so that each of the ingredients – salad, tuna, and eggs - keeps its individual integrity. Place the salad down the centre of the platter, then lay the strips of tuna across the top of the salad, and the eggs around the rim. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette, serve, and enjoy!
Serves 6… and leftovers are just fine!
Here are some of the good Rosés currently available. With this dish, I would suggest going with mid-weight Rosés, though some examples from the Tavel heartland of Rosé in France are hard to resist.
Sandbanks Rosé 2019, $13.95, from Ontario’s Prince Edward County at the east end of Lake Ontario, is a pretty good match for the tuna. A pale, copper-rose in colour, it carries impression or orange or clementine citrus along with some soft strawberry accents. It is easy-going but lifts at the finish to close things nicely.
Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2019, $19.95, hails from Niagara at the western end of the lake. Made from Pinot Noir, it impressed winealign’s David Lawrason, who wrote, “the nose is clean and floral with watermelon, cherry and grapefruit aromas. It has a lovely texture, warm, smooth and dry with fine flavour definition and excellent length. Score - 91.
La Mascota Rosé 2019, $16.95, from Argentina is on the August 8 Vintages Release. The Vintages panel acknowledges “lots of bright red fruit, with an underlying mineral quality on the finish…Excellent freshness and a refined, delicate mouthfeel.”
Marquise D’Aqueria 2019, $19.95, from Tavel is on the same release. It’s hard to resist, as the 2018 was #29 on the Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 100” last year, and was described as offering “intensely fresh, concentrated strawberry, raspberry and watermelon flavours. It’s juicy yet invigorating and mineral.” As Vintages suggests pairing it with grilled chicken or cedar-planked salmon, I think it could work very well with our seared tuna.
It might seem a bit over the top, but there is a chance to compare three Rosés made by the Perrin family, owners of the prestigious Chateau de Beaucastel in the Rhone. On the regular list is the La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2019, $12.40 The Tasting Panel gave it an 88, calling it “silky and juicy, with clean flavours of strawberry and soft spice.” And saying it’s a “nicely crafted wine at a ridiculous price.”
Being released on the 8th also is the Famille Perrin Réserve Rosé 2019, $15.95, and wine.com remarks that it is a “delicate grapefruit-pink colour... Very juicy and soft on the palate, it is a bowl of fruit full of freshness, and ends with a nice length.” With the suggestion that it be served “chilled with light foods, Mediterranean dishes, or as an aperitif,” it, too, could pair well with the Salade Niçoise.
Already on the shelves is the Famille Perrin Tavel Rosé 2019, $19.95. As with the other Perrin offerings, this is bone-dry (sugar level 2 grams per litre) but has been described as being ripe and creamy, having a full fruit complement, and busting with strawberry amongst other flavours by winealign.com. -90.
If you wanted to make it a “Perrin four-bagger” you could finish things up with Miraval, 2019, $24.95, initially a Jolie/Pitt/ Perrin collaboration. The Perrin winemaker writes, “airy and balanced, it delicately combines great freshness and complexity, and develops saline and mineral notes. Its long and intense finish is the signature of a rosé with incomparable elegance.”
It is a great time for Rosé, and I hope you can enjoy one with Seared Tuna Niçoise!