Normally a pictures is worth a thousand words. Am I right, or am I right? The above picture is one I took and it really doesn't do the meal I'm about to tell you about justice. It reminds me more of this. The camera was dying and I was too impatient (read hungry) to wait for it to charge so I could photograph something more appealing. So this is what you get. I hope you keep reading. I'll even post more inspiring pictures from my trip to France if you promise to read further.
Sometime mid way through college I spent one spring break touring France and Belgium. My friend, Gina, had family in Belgium who were kind enough to let us stay with them for the week. In college, and more often than I care to admit now, an invitation for free lodging had me packing my bags. This was an offer we couldn't refuse so we made ze Waterloo (said in bad French accent) our home base. During our trip we hit tons of museums and must see spots in Paris and Versailles. And oddly enough, I probably had a Niçoise Salad every single day. I couldn't get enough of this combo so little known in small town Tennessee.
Fast forward to about three years ago. My friend Erica, an amazing cook who always hosts the most incredible dinner parties, made Salad Niçoise. Only she didn't make it the traditional French way. She used all the typical ingredients and opted for seared tuna instead of the traditional canned chunk variety. I don't have her recipe on hand but have adapted one over the years from the Gourmet Cookbook.
And I want to tell you how incredible this salad is. It's light, crisp and just as perfect in the middle of a cold January night as it is on a warm summer afternoon. It feels like a meal but is also so simple and light you won't feel guilty indulging in an extra portion of bread. The most important part is to buy fresh tuna steaks. Some stores call it ahi, some call it yellowfin. Whatever it's called in your store, ask how fresh it is. The better the tuna, the stronger your love affair for this salad. And let me admit, tuna is probably one of my least favorite swimmers, but if seared just so, it's to die for.
Nouveau Salad Nicoise
Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook and Erica
3 TBSP chopped shallots
1 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
2 TSP Dijon mustard
1/2 TSP salt
5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TPSP coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1/2 pound haricot vert, tips trimmed
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 heads Boston lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
3 hard boiled eggs, quartered
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges
10-12 oz wild caught yellowfin tuna steak
1/4 cup Niçoise olives
1 can anchovies in oil
2 TBSP chopped parsley
5 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP honey
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
marinade the tuna:
Mix the soy, honey and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over tuna. Flip the tuna a few times in the sauce before searing.
make the dressing:
Blend the shallots with lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a blender. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream and blend until well combined. Add parsley and blend until finely chopped.
make the salad:
Combine potatoes and cold well-salted water to cover by 2 inches in a 4 quart heavy sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, cook the beans in a 2 quart saucepan of boiling well salted-water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Pat dry.
When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and halve lengthwise. Toss with 2 tablespoons dressing and salt to taste in a large bowl. Add beans and bell pepper and toss.
Toss lettuce with just enough dressing to coat and divide into 6 equal portions. Scatter potatoes, beans, bell pepper over the lettuce and top with eggs, tomatoes, olives, anchovies and parsley.
Heat a saute pan on high heat. Test heat of pan with water and don't place the tuna in the pan until the water sizzles. Once heated, place the tuna in saute pan for 30 seconds on each side. Use a timer so you don't overcook the tuna. Because that would be a tragedy. Flip and allow to cook for another 30 seconds. Once the minute is up, remove tuna from pan and cut into thin slices and divide between the 6 bowls. Place on salad and drizzle with more salad dressing.
serves 6 as a main course
Be sure to serve with crusty french bread and a lovely California Pinot Noir instead of a French. After all, this is a new take on such a French staple.