Nada Surf is still going strong with great album releases and reliably wonderful live shows. In fact, their show in Boston was the last live performance I saw before everything went on lockdown in early 2020. I got to chat with Matthew and Daniel before and after the show, and I feel lucky to consider them friends. Lovely people.
For the original interview back in 2008, we spent an entire day (11am to after midnight) cooking with Daniel as he made a feast to feed 28 people. The plan was to do two episodes: this one with the salad and another with the main dish (wild rice-stuffed Cornish hen with roasted carrots). Sadly, that second episode never came to fruition, and at this point, I don’t have what it takes to pick through 10 hours of footage to edit it together. But I would cook with Daniel again any day!
Nada Surf is Matthew Caws (guitar, vocals), Daniel Lorca (bass), and Ira Elliot (drums). They had a big hit in ’96 with their song, Popular, and since then have been building a strong and loyal fan base with their intelligent, well-crafted, and often beautiful take on indie pop music, cinching the deal with constant worldwide touring.
About the interview
What a fun day this was! I was absolutely thrilled when Daniel wrote in email that he wanted to do some actual cooking on the show. Little did I know what great food and good times were in store. Jo Lenardi hosted the dinner party for 28, including band members, tour support, and myriad friends. Daniel did all the cooking and I was honored to be a part of it. Lucky, indeed!
Ellie Lee and James Holland
Arugula Salad with Smoked Tomatoes, Grilled Avocados, and Tomato Jam
A note from Jen: “This is my adaptation of Daniel’s salad creation filmed in April ’08. I’ve reduced the servings to 6 (Daniel cooked for 28), and streamlined the process somewhat.”.
- 1 lb arugula (the larger the leaves, the better)
- 6 tomatoes for smoking
- 3 ripe avocados
- 3/4 lb. goat cheese (good quality
for tomato jam
- 6 to 8 tomatoes for jam (plus seeds and pulp from smoked tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
- pinch salt
- 3 T. sherry vinegar
- 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T. Dijon mustard
- Kosher or sea salt (to taste)
- Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
Put mesquite or other smoking wood in a bowl of water and let it soak while you are preparing the tomatoes (at least 1/2 hour).
Blanch all of the tomatoes (for smoking and the jam) for a few seconds in boiling water and remove all the skins.
Remove the seeds and pulp from the 6 tomatoes that will be used for smoking. Reserve the seeds and pulp to use in the jam. Tear the flesh of each tomato into 3 or 4 strips and set aside in a heat-proof dish that can go onto a hot grill later.
Start the tomato jam — Crush the tomatoes reserved for the jam and add the reserved pulp and seeds from the smoking tomatoes. Put in a large, heavy pot with 1/4 cup sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, a pinch of salt. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours until slightly thickened. (Note, the jam will thicken further when it cools.) Allow to cool.
Light the grill — Use real wood charcoal, not briquettes, if possible. When the fire dies down, spread out the coals.
Grill the avocados — Cut each avocado in half and remove the flesh from the skins intact. While the coals are still quite hot, put each avocado half on the grill for 20-30 seconds, just long enough to sear the surface. Flip them once to sear the other side. When they have nice sear marks, remove them and set them aside in a covered dish.
Smoke the tomatoes — After the avocados are removed, remove the grill rack and cover the coals with the wet smoking wood. Once the smoke starts going, return the rack, and put the reserved tomato strips in the smokey grill and allow to smoke for 1/2 or until they are good and smokey. The idea is not to cook the tomatoes, but to impart the smokey flavor. Remove when you feel they are ready. They can be smoking while you prepare the salad.
Prepare the salad — Wash and dry the arugula and put in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Pour the vinaigrette over the arugula and toss well.
Put a serving of arugula on each plate, topped with a 1- to 2-oz. slice of goat cheese. Add a spoonful of the tomato jam, 3 or 4 strips of the smoked tomatoes, and 1 avocado half, cut into 2 or 3 slices. Serve!