Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cooking to Combat Cancer 2

April and May bring two very important events that mean a lot to me. Two events that will bring awareness to many people. These two events are part of the effort to kick cancer's ass. Because seriously? Cancer's ass deserves to be kicked. Thoroughly.

This first post is for Cooking to Combat Cancer 2 - an annual event held by one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met.. Chris. She's the author of Mele Cotte, a wonderful friend, and a cancer survivor. Thank you for doing this every year, sweetie.. your contribution to helping us to never forget is so very important. Love you!!

In November of 2005 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.. one radical hysterectomy later, and I was cancer free without much physical fuss. Meaning, I did not get sick. Mentally, there was fuss.. lots of it. When you've always taken for granted that you'd have kids one day.. and then are told it ain't gonna happen.. yeah, that kind of messes you up some. But, as I've said a million times over, I'm alive. I'm (relatively) healthy. I'm lucky. And I'm grateful for the chance I've been given.

Six years before my own brush with cancer, I was introduced to it's devastation when my great uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer. Coming from a large Italian family, I had many, many aunts and uncles. My father was 1 of 14. Yes, you read that right.. my dad had 13 brothers and sisters. And although I did love my paternal aunts and uncles very, very much.. it was my mom's great aunt and great uncle, who I was closest to. My Auntie Ann and Uncle Sol. My Auntie was and still is my mom's best friend. They are only 10 years apart, and they grew up together more like sisters than an aunt and her niece. So we spent a lot of time with them.

I consider my Auntie as my second mom.. for it was easier for me to talk to her than my own mother sometimes. And my uncle.. well.. he tortured me. har! My uncle never passed up the chance to pick on me, to annoy me, or to embarrass me. But this predicament I was in wasn't such a bad thing. No, for all of his fun had at my expense, the only thing that I took from all of it was how much attention he lavished on me. As I'm told often, I was the first girl in a family of boys. My uncle adored me. And I adored him.

When such an amazing man was taken away from us so abruptly, it felt like a betrayal. How could this be?? This was a man who loved his family so much, he was loved by everyone he met and he was such a wonderful uncle to my sisters and I. Actually, he was known to my youngest sister as her grandpa.. as both sets of grandparents had passed years before she was born, he and my auntie took on the role.

I rarely ever told my uncle how much I loved him. I assumed he always knew. As a matter of fact, the only time I can remember actually saying to him how much I loved him was right after he had the surgery to remove part of his lung.. he cried. I'd never seen him cry before. And he told me he loved me back. This was our first and only spoken exchange of our feelings for each other. He passed a couple days later.

To say I was devastated is an understatement. I was wrecked. I still am.. several years have passed and the pain isn't as constant as it was before, but I still can't control the tears and the hurt inside when I think about him. Oh how I wish that I would have told him how much I loved him until he was sick of hearing it! How I hate that I just assumed he knew. Although he didn't say the words to me either, and even though I knew from earliest memory that he loved me very much.. I still wish that I would have said the words out loud to him more than once. Just as I always knew his unspoken feelings for me, I can only pray that he knew my unspoken feelings for him.

The recipe I am about to share doesn't really remind me much of my Uncle Sol.. no, we were more of the pizza, soft pretzel, Twix bars kinda eaters. hee! But this recipe contains a few ingredients known to help cancer stay away, so I find it very fitting. I also find it very delicious and I'm glad we finally tried it.

Salad Niçoise

It's a simple recipe for Salad Niçoise, which comes to us from Nice, France. This is a salad made up of seared tuna, blanched green beans, tomatoes, steamed red potatoes, boiled eggs and of course, Niçoise olives. Everything but the tuna is tossed with a simple vinaigrette which adds just the perfect tang. And the tuna is usually seared quickly on each side, then placed on the salad in thin slices. Never being one to follow a recipe to the T (Other than Daring Baker challenges!!!), I decided to coat my tuna in toasted sesame seeds first.

We fell in love with this salad immediately and it will become a common quick dinner in my repertoire. The tuna is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for a healthy heart. The green beans have been shown to prevent or slow genetic damage to cells. The garlic and scallions in the vinaigrette contain a number of compounds believed to slow or stop the growth of tumors. And the tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to be especially potent in combating prostate cancer. So all in all, this salad is not only delicious and quick, but very good for your body.

Salad Niçoise

Salad Niçoise

Makes 2 generous servings, or 4 small servings

8 oz. fresh Ahi Tuna or Albacore - (try to find sushi grade - you won't be sorry)
1 TBS olive oil or cooking spray
(recipe for sesame seared tuna below)
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and blanched - (I suggest salting the boiling water)
3/4 pound of new red potatoes, quartered and steamed until fork tender - (My trick here is to put 2 crushed garlic cloves on the bottom of the steamer basket.. it gives the potatoes a light garlicy flavor that's delicious)
1/4 c. red onion, either thinly sliced or minced
1/4 c. pitted Niçoise olives
1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1-2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and quartered

2 TBS. Champagne vinegar - (I used Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
1 TBS. fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
3/4 c. olive oil
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Salad Niçoise Ingredients Salad Niçoise blanched green beans
Salad Niçoise Vinaigrette

Arrange salad ingredients in separate piles on a large serving platter. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and then lay thinly sliced tuna on top. OR you can go non-traditional and put all ingredients in a large bowl with the vinaigrette and lightly toss (which is what we did). Serve alone, or with garlic toast.

Salad Niçoise

If you want to use the same tuna that we did the recipe is as follows (I cut the recipe in half for one 8 oz. tuna steak):

Sesame Seared Tuna
Courtesy of

1/8 c. soy sauce - (I used reduced sodium)
1.5 tsp. mirin (Japanese sweet wine) - (We omitted this because we didn't have any)
1.5 tsp. honey
1 TBS. sesame oil - (Sesame oil is VERY strong.. I cut this down to 1 tsp.)
1.5 tsp. rice wine vinegar
4 (6 oz.) tuna steaks
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1 TBS. olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy, mirin, honey, sesame oil & the rice wine vinegar.

Spread the seeds out on a plate or shallow bowl. Dip the tuna into the soy mixture, making sure the whole steak is coated and then press the tuna steak into the sesame seeds - coating both sides well.

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over high heat until it's VERY hot. Place tuna steaks in pan and sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. You can go longer, but you chance the possibility of burning the seeds and over cooking the fish.

Salad Niçoise

Slice thinly and place warm tuna over Salad Niçoise.

And hey.. if the opportunity to share a Twix bar with someone you love arises afterwards.. why not take it? :)


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Comments on "Cooking to Combat Cancer 2"


Blogger glamah16 said ... (4/13/2008 10:33 AM) : 

This is my all time favorite salad. I like the addition of sesame seeds. My mother and grandmother passed from Ovarian Cancer and I try to be dillegent in my follow up for this as its heriditary.


Blogger Chris said ... (4/13/2008 10:46 AM) : 

Oh my - tears first thing on a Sunday morning. He knew, my friend. He knew.

This salad? Yum! Perfect for CCC2. Thanks for your lovely words and support of the event. Love ya, chica!


Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said ... (4/13/2008 1:17 PM) : 

Goodness Lisa we are blessed to have these most special people in our lives. I know how you wished you'd said I love you and I agree we should. And yet there are people so special that it screams in the silence.

Incredible salad!! favorite all over it!!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4/13/2008 5:20 PM) : 

Usually I just look at your blog and never leave a message,but today is different. My mother and father in law are fighting that battle right now.My mom is doing great with treatments but sad to say that my father in law is getting weaker and will soon lose the battle.You are right words need to be spoken when there is time but just being present whith those that you love speaks volumes.


Blogger Annemarie said ... (4/13/2008 5:21 PM) : 

Really lovely post, Lisa. Big hugs. x


Blogger Peabody said ... (4/13/2008 5:43 PM) : 

I'm quite sure he knew how much you loved him. A touching story and a wonderful salad.


Blogger Jenny said ... (4/13/2008 6:27 PM) : 

When I eventually make it to visit you, will you make this for me? I never get to have fresh tuna around here and would love to share it with you!
Hugs and kisses!


Blogger Veron said ... (4/13/2008 8:31 PM) : 

Oh, this salad looks delicious. I love sesame crusted tuna.

And sis....*big hugs*


Blogger Mary said ... (4/13/2008 8:34 PM) : 

A Nicoise salad is one of the many reasons I wish I liked olives. Your salad looks beautiful and I really enjoyed the lovely tribute to your uncle. I'm sure he knew how much you loved him, but you are right. We should tell people we love that we love them more often.
(And I'm glad you're relatively healthy too!)


Blogger Sheltie Girl said ... (4/13/2008 8:55 PM) : 

I was delighted to read that you had an opportunity to tell each other how much you cared before he passed away. You are very blessed to have had such a loving and caring family to surround you while you were growing up. Thank you for sharing your story of your Aunt and Uncle with us.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go


Blogger Elle said ... (4/13/2008 11:19 PM) : 

Imaagine something this yummy being good for your body, too. Like the addition of the sesame seed...good thing there are rebels among us :)

I’ve awarded your blog and “E for Excellent”. Go to my Feeding My Enthusiasms site at to see the post. You were an easy choice because laughter is always excellent.


Blogger Sara said ... (4/14/2008 12:10 AM) : 

I had an uncle just like that. Teased me mercilessly, drove me crazy. And I loved him. He was taken by cancer too. Your pictures are beautiful, as is your salad. Thank you for your post, and thanks to Chris for the event.


Blogger Marie Rayner said ... (4/14/2008 2:36 AM) : 

Great post. My Aunt Freda passed away almost two years ago now, from the same dreaded Lung Cancer, and like you, I can scarce think of her without breaking into tears. I wish that the last time I saw her I had known it would be the last time I would see her. We were close, just like sisters, there only being 12 years age difference and my having lived with my grandparents when I was young. What a lovely tribute you have posted here for a much loved Uncle. (((hugs))) OOOHH, and the salad looks delicious too!


Blogger Terri said ... (4/14/2008 7:11 AM) : 

I have heard of this salad, but never tried it. After seeing your recipe I think that will change VERY soon. Thanks!
God bless.


Blogger Lis said ... (4/14/2008 7:35 AM) : 

Courtney - I'm sorry for your loss, but happy to hear you keep up with testing. I didn't - for 4 years - and I paid a pretty hefty price for just being lazy. :(

Chris - Aww.. thanks, sweets!

Tanna - Thanks for that, my love :)

Allie - Ugh, I'm so sorry for what you, your family, your mom & your father-in-law are going through. I wish your mom a full recovery and I will say a prayer for your FIL. Thanks for leaving me the message. :)

Annemarie - Thanks xoxo

Gracie - Thank you for that. :)

Jenny - I'd be honored to make it for you! Come visit me soon! :)

Sis - Love you! xoxo

Mary - The salad is so good that if you left the olives out, it would not take away from the rest. :) Thanks honey!

Natalie - And thank you! I am blessed - my family is wonderful :) Thanks xoxo

Elle - awww thank you! thank you! xoxo

Sara - Am sorry about your uncle too. It's just not right. :( The salad.. gotta be decent in points!

Marie - It's comforting to know that all of you wonderful people can relate to what I'm still going through.. thanks for sharing that with me. :) xoxo

Terri - Oh you must - it really is that good! :)


Blogger liberal foodie said ... (4/14/2008 4:35 PM) : 

Even a few years later, I am sorry for your loss. We have a famiy member suffering because of cancer.

Your salad looks great. Made my mouth water for ahi tuna. Where do you get yours around here?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4/14/2008 8:25 PM) : 


That might be the most beautiful salad I have ever seen! I am totally blown away. Wow! BTW, That Cookbook Thing II has started, wait for the posts!


Blogger creampuff said ... (4/14/2008 9:34 PM) : 

Oh, sweetie! What an unbelievable post! You're very brave and I think your Uncle Sol must be so proud of you! And believe me, your love for him just comes right through.

And that salad ... bring me some now!


Blogger Barbara said ... (4/15/2008 2:57 AM) : 

That was a very touching story about your uncle Lisa. I lost a friend to cancer on the weekend. All last week I thought about ringing her and I didn't and now I'm disappointed in myself.


Blogger Carrie said ... (4/15/2008 9:18 AM) : 

I really need to stop checking out your keyboard is getting ruined from all the drool...(gross thought I know, sorry) That looks soooooo good though.

Oh, and by the way, I just passed on an award to you. I know you probably already got it, but I just can't help it you deserve it!

See here for the good stuff :)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4/15/2008 1:18 PM) : 


I'm one of the biggest fan of your blog and recently I made your Italian Chicken wings for supper and its was really good but anyhow I dont want to let the days pass by without checking your blog every day though my hands full for having twin daughters last Aug. and I'll be honest with you CANCER is one of my ENEMY too - my twin daughters have both eye cancer but they're both such a wonderful blessing for me and my husband since this is my first kids - its quite challenging for us as a parents but I will count it a BLESSINGS. You seem pretty tough lady and I adore you for being the way you are.



Blogger Katie Zeller said ... (4/16/2008 3:48 PM) : 

Wonderful post and wonderful goal! I think cancer touches all of us eventually.
Love the idea of seared tuna in the Nicoise. We rarely see fresh tuna here (northern France) and then it's not of the grade to be eaten this way. I try to find it whenever I'm in the U.S.


Blogger Lis said ... (4/16/2008 11:27 PM) : 

Liberal - Thanks. :) I hope your family member isn't going through too much pain and that they have a full recovery. I get my fish from either State Fish down by the Flats or at the West Side Market.

Mike - Still ticked I couldn't join this time.. can't wait to read the reviews! :D

Ivonne.. you're the bestest.. thank you, my love. :) xoxo

Barbara - Oh I am so sorry to hear that. The simple fact remains.. we never think that "this time" is going to be the last.. we hope beyone hope, until we truly believe, that there will be another time we're together.. it's just impossible to know these things. If you were her friend, then I can guarantee she knew how you felt. Your warmth and caring always shines through your writing, so I can't imagine it being any different in person. :)

c.l. - ya rock, sweetie! thank you again for the award. *blush*

CJ - *hugs* beautiful twin daughters.. what could be better? :) I can't imagine what you all have been going through - but the love for your babies sure shines through that comment. I'll be praying for their complete recovery. :) Thank you so much for letting me know you are there.. I'd love to know how the girls are getting on.. maybe a little update here and there? :) And I'm glad you liked the wings.. I crave them. hahaa! Keep in touch! So nice to meet you! :) xoxo

Katiez - Thanks! Ohh my well I hope you get to the states often enough to indulge when you want! :D

Thanks everyone.. I can honestly say that each and every comment ya'll have left has really lifted my spirits. xoxo


Blogger Helene said ... (4/17/2008 1:10 AM) : 

Great salad :) I have a feeling your uncle and my brother are playing cards right now and asking "where is the cake women?"
Your uncle knew, have a peace in your heart.


Blogger kellypea said ... (4/17/2008 11:23 AM) : 

Hearts to you, Lis. Big ones. And that salad looks and sounds delicious. I haven't had ahi in so long and this is really making me want some! I love nicoise olives and their buttery flavor. YUM!


Blogger Tracy said ... (4/19/2008 1:06 AM) : 

Hey, so sorry to hear about your experiences with cancer. What a nice theme for an event. The salad looks great!


Blogger Lori said ... (4/21/2008 6:24 PM) : 

Congratulations for you beating "cancer's ass". Lots of emotion in your beautiful post. I am sending some caring your way!


Blogger Sharona May said ... (4/21/2008 9:24 PM) : 

Looks wonderful. The combination of flavors is great as is the combination of colors.

Sharona May


Blogger Valerie Harrison (bellini) said ... (4/24/2008 11:58 AM) : 

This a great event that I support wholeheartedly as well Lis. I just have to take a photo of my dish and I am there giving cancer the big heave ho.


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