Butter Lettuce, grape radish, avocado and dukkah-date dressing

Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah

  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Gwenn Thomas of Joan Jonas in Twilight 1975
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Gwenn Thomas,Moments of Place IV, 2013-14, C-print + aluminum frame
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Gwenn Thomas, Moments of Place II,-2013-14,-C-print +aluminum-frame
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Gwenn Thomas, IZ Abstract, 1994, photo-emulsion on linen
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Gwenn Thomas, Awning 1994, photo emulsion on linen
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Joana Avillez, Self-Portrait with Joan Jonas
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Joana Avillez, Venice Biennale Travel Diary, 2016
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Spread from Salad For President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists, 2016
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Spread from Salad For President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists, 2016
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Spread from Salad For President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists, 2016
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Joan Jonas makes a cameo on Joana's web series, Delusional Downtown Divas
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Joan Jonas makes a cameo on Joana's web series, Delusional Downtown Divas Lena Dunham
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Mirror Check, 1970-73, At Ace Gallery Los Angeles, Photo Roberta Neiman
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Mirrorpiece, 1969, At Loeb Student Center, NYX, Photo: Wayne Hollingsworth
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Joan Jonas, "Glass Puzzle," 1973-2000
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Artist Gwenn Thomas, making salad in Joan Jonas's Soho loft
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Vietnamese masks Joan picked up in her travels, props for her videos and performances
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
  • Joana Avillez, Joan Jonas and Gwenn Thomas’ Green Salad + Dukkah
    Artist Joan Jonas and her beloved dog Ozu, in her Soho kitchen

NOTES

Dukkah is a Middle Eastern spice and nut mix that you can buy pre-made, or you can make it yourself. It’s fun to riff on. The essential components are some kind of nut or seed, sesame seeds, coriander, and cumin. Dukkah is often used as a seasoning crust for protein, but it can be sprinkled on everything from roasted vegetables to dips, and I even toss it in with cooked brown rice to add texture and flavor. Here, we use it as the base for a spoonable dressing. I love this dressing on roasted beets (been eating that all week). You will have extra dukkah to play with, so get creative.

*Note: We used butter lettuce at Joan’s, but I think gem lettuce would work better with this chunky dressing.

INSTRUCTIONS

MAKE THE DUKKAH

Preheat oven to 400° and spread pepitas evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes or until they start to puff and brown. Set aside to cool.

Rough chop the toasted pepitas and add them to mortar and pestle one handful at a time to crush further. Crush until they have some nice larger pieces, but for the most part, the texture is that of coarse sand. Add to a small mixing bowl as you finish each handful.

In small frying pan on low heat, toast coriander and cumin. When fragrant, add to a mortar and pestle and crush completely. Add to the bowl with the pepitas.

Toast the sesame seeds in the same pan (wiping out any leftover cumin seeds), and add to the pepitas along with the chile flakes and hemp seeds. Mix in the sea salt and stir until well combined.

MAKE THE DRESSING

Add 5 tablespoons of dukkah to a mason jar. Add olive oil, lemon juice, minced dates and salt. Close the jar and shake to combine.

MAKE THE SALAD

Separate the leaves of the butter lettuce, wash and thoroughly dry.

Toss gem lettuce into a large salad bowl, drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil, squeeze of lemon and season with sea salt and black pepper. Use your hands to gently toss, coating the leaves. Add  the dukkah dressing one spoonful at a time until you reach your desired dressing state. Top with radishes and serve.

RECIPE

DIFFICULTY

MODERATE

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SERVES

4

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PREP TIME

15 MINS

For the Dukkah

  • cup 
    raw pepitas
  • tsp 
    cumin seed
  • tbs 
    coriander seed
  • tbs 
    sesame seed
  • 1/2 
    tsp 
    dried chile flake
  • tsp 
    hemp seed
  • tsp 
    flaky sea salt

For the dressing

  • tbs 
    dukkah
  • 1/4 
    cup  
    olive oil
  • tbs 
    lemon juice
  • 1 oz 
    (2-3) 
    pitted Medjool dates, minced
  • 1/2 
    tsp  
    flaky sea salt

For The salad

  • 1/2 lb 
    (4-6 heads) 
    gem lettuce
  • 1/2 
    small 
    grape radish, sliced in 1/4" thick half moons
  • small 
    watermelon radish, sliced in 1/4" thick half moons
  • 1/2 
    ripe 
    avocado (optional)
  •  
     
    1/2 lemon
  •  
     
    2 tbs olive oil
  •  
     
    sea salt and black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

MAKE THE DUKKAH

Preheat oven to 400° and spread pepitas evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes or until they start to puff and brown. Set aside to cool.

Rough chop the toasted pepitas and add them to mortar and pestle one handful at a time to crush further. Crush until they have some nice larger pieces, but for the most part, the texture is that of coarse sand. Add to a small mixing bowl as you finish each handful.

In small frying pan on low heat, toast coriander and cumin. When fragrant, add to a mortar and pestle and crush completely. Add to the bowl with the pepitas.

Toast the sesame seeds in the same pan (wiping out any leftover cumin seeds), and add to the pepitas along with the chile flakes and hemp seeds. Mix in the sea salt and stir until well combined.

MAKE THE DRESSING

Add 5 tablespoons of dukkah to a mason jar. Add olive oil, lemon juice, minced dates and salt. Close the jar and shake to combine.

MAKE THE SALAD

Separate the leaves of the butter lettuce, wash and thoroughly dry.

Toss gem lettuce into a large salad bowl, drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil, squeeze of lemon and season with sea salt and black pepper. Use your hands to gently toss, coating the leaves. Add  the dukkah dressing one spoonful at a time until you reach your desired dressing state. Top with radishes and serve.

The best thing about this simple salad, is how complicated it was to make. Are you wondering how a basic green salad could pose a challenge for three women as accomplished as illustrator Joana Avillez, her mother, painter/photographer Gwenn Thomas, and Gwenn’s closest friend, legendary performance artist Joan Jonas? So many brains and personality in one kitchen, a complicated salad does make. And I even brought the dressing from home.

Scheduling was our first hurdle; I had been trying to coordinate this meeting for over a year, unable to work around conflicting deadlines and travel agendas (Biennale’s, solo shows and major art fairs are tough events to move). Finally, together in one room on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the prompt, “make a salad,” proves to be an unforeseen contest of wills. Consensus is a foreign concept to this trifecta, whether the topic is the meaning of a work of art, or the “right” way to cut a radish. As a person who has never shied away from conflict or dissent, this is not uncomfortable for me at all. Instead, it is a deeply affirming tableau — These women I so admire, in easy disagreement, focused on lunch as if it were their greatest work of art.

Gwenn Thomas: Usually what I do when I make my salad —

Joan Jonas: So we are all going to pitch in or what?

Julia Sherman: [Laughs] however you please.

Gwenn Thomas: Normally, when I make a salad I make the dressing inside the salad bowl, and then I add the greens.

Joana Avillez: Why don’t we make one salad with Julia’s dressing and then you could make your own dressing Mom? Two salads?

Gwenn Thomas: Alright, if you’d like. But I think we should just make one salad.

Joan Jonas: Should we toss the salad before we put all the stuff on top?

Gwenn Thomas: This reminds me of when I took a cooking class with Fluxus artist Jean Dupuis. He was a wonderful cook…

Joana Avillez: Let’s put some of this goat cheese in it.

Joan Jonas: No, no. Well, I mean, I have it if you want it.

Gwenn Thomas: Alright, I will slice the radish. Joan would you like to do some of this?

Joan Jonas: I’ll make the first cut.

Joan Jonas: [Joan takes the knife] oh, this is not a good knife for cutting. [Joan passes the knife back to Gwenn] give me the goat cheese, I’ll put it on a plate.

Gwenn Thomas: Joana do you want to slice more radishes and decide where they go?

Joana Avillez: Yeah, I know where they go — in my mouth [Pops a radish in her mouth and smiles].

The dynamic amongst these three artists is well trodden. Joan and Gwenn have been friends and peers for over 50 years, and they have shared countless salads along the way. While Joana and I only recently cemented our friendship, I would like to think it echoes that of Gwenn and Joan – built on a foundation of dry humor, ambitious projects, and mutual respect (we really are off to a roaring start). Just 30 years old, Joana has published her drawings in the New York Times, The New Yorker and Vogue. This year she sold a book to Penguin, a collaboration with writer Molly Young, and most recently she illustrated my forthcoming cookbook. Joana is a modern day flâneuse, with the ability to depict the tiny details and the texture of everyday life in a way that will make you laugh and blush at once. Her work is incisive; her drawings of me are more me than any photo I have ever seen. Let it be known, Joana Avillez is paying attention.

Joana was raised in the company of artists. Her childhood was set in a sprawling loft above the late Fulton Street Fish Market. Her father, Martim Avillez, published a journal on arts and culture called Lusitania, which merged political writing, theory, art and comics into a visceral, collage-like anthology. Her mother, Gwenn Thomas, has been an artist and teacher for over 40 years. While Thomas’ work found its beginnings in photography, documenting artist’s sculptures and performances, like Jack Smith and Gordon Matta-Clark, she eventually moved on to use photography as a framework to investigate and challenge the ways in which we view reproduction in the context of painting; what makes a picture a picture?

All the while, Joan was staging avant-garde performances and video experiments that resulted in mediated live performances that would come to define her signature style. She played with mythology and female identity, using her own body as her material. Gwenn was often there, documenting these seminal happenings. Her photos still hang on the walls of Joan’s studio and home, a record of a time when being an artist was not a “career,” it was a role in a community, a way of life not yet romanticized or professionalized. As I watched Joan tie a frilly apron around her tiny waist, I felt as if she was getting in costume. This was not the kitchen attire I imagined for one of the toughest women I’ve met, and I couldn’t help but feel like this art and life were blurring together just the way they should.

Now imagine this as the context for one’s childhood, and Joana Avillez makes sense. After she finished her painting degree at RISD, she even parodied this urbane upbringing in a satirical web series, Delusional Downtown Divas. The show was created by and starred Joana and her childhood friends, ceramicist Isabel Halley (painter Peter Halley’s daughter), and Lena Dunham. Joan Jonas was even a guest on the show, playing “The Jonas Mother,” an all-knowing performance artist that Joana’s character—a self-proclaimed “private performance artist”—sought out for guidance. At the time, Joana was working as Joan’s studio assistant, an experience that she greatly valued.

Joana: There was something about the way you interacted with people that, I don’t know how to put it into words exactly, but you had a very clear vision of what you wanted. That was exciting to be around. But then I decided not to be around it, and to go back to school.

Joan Jonas: You had to do your own thing.

Joana Avillez: I did, but I actually learned a lot from you, Joan.

Joan Jonas: And I could learn a lot from you now.