August 22, 2013

Salad Nicoise with (or without) Seared Ahi Tuna

Fewer things are easier to put together on a hot day than a Salad Nicoise. Traditionally speaking, a Salad Nicoise is a composed and plattered salad consisting of potatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, cornichon pickles, nicoise olives, anchovies, and either fresh or canned tuna. I love to prepare variations on this classic for dinner when I am feeling lazy or for guests as it is versatile for vegetarians and omnivores alike, and almost everything can be prepared in advance. As it is a composed salad, it is ideal to customize for picky eaters. This version was made to suit everyone in our house.

I added gorgeous purple cauliflower to this salad along with cannellini beans making it a hardier entree. If you are looking to make it more tuna like without the fish, I would suggest using garbanzo beans tossed with a bit of dulse flakes. If you want fish, but don't want to deal with searing ahi, by all means use a high quality canned tuna. You will see in the photos different ways to present the salad with and without greens or fish. Don't feel compelled to follow my recipe, but use it as a guide to create your own version of this consistently crowd pleasing classic.

Salad Nicoise

Serves 4-6

For all ingredients, please consider using those that are grown organically.

6-8 ounces haricots verts or seasonal string beans
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets (optional)
8-10 small red bliss or fingerling potatoes
4-6 mid size seasonal heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or combination of
1 15 ounce can cannellini, navy, or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
8-12 cornichon pickles, cut in half lengthwise
  nicoise olives (kalamata or lucques olives work well if you cannot find nicoise)
1 pound piece fresh wild ahi tuna (a slice is ok, but a tail is optimal)
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
2-3 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons white wine or champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  sea salt
  freshly ground black pepper
 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
 6 ounces wild arugula or mixed baby greens (optional)
 4 eggs, hard boiled (optional)

Scrub the potatoes, cut them in half and put them into a large saucepan filled with temperate salted water. Set the pot over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Allow the potatoes to cook for about 30-45 minutes until the tip of a knife slides in without resistance, but do not over cook.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the cauliflower and the beans. Fill another large saucepan or dutch oven with water and bring to a boil. Generously salt the water and add the beans. Cook for about 3 minutes or until they turn a bright vibrant green. Remove from the heat and strain the beans in a large colander. Rinse with cold water and pile a couple handfuls of ice cubes onto the beans. This is called shocking and will keep the beans from cooking further.

Use the same saucepan or dutch oven to steam the cauliflower. Fill water in the pan about 3/4 of an inch deep. Put the prepared cauliflower into the pan sprinkle with sea salt and cover. Steam for about 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender but not falling apart. Remove from heat and transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl.

Drain the potatoes and drizzle with a teaspoon or so of extra virgin olive oil while they are still warm. Add them to the cauliflower. Add in the prepared green beans, cannellini beans, and a teaspoon of tarragon and use a large spoon or your hands to gently toss the ingredients together. Set aside until ready to use.

Prepare the dressing by combining the mustard, remaining tarragon, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. If you wish, squeeze in about a 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste. Set aside until ready to use.

Prepare the eggs by submerging them in cold water in a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set a timer for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, rinse the eggs in cold water and peel. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the tuna by seasoning the fillet with sea salt and freshly ground pepper on all sides. Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of cooking oil such as refined canola (olive oil is fine) and lay the fish into the heated oil. If the fish is roughly 1 1/2 inches in thickness, allow it to cook for about 3 minutes. Turn the fish and sear the other side for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from the pan to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice the fish into 1/4 to 1/2 in thick slices. Just like with meat be sure to slice across the grain of the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use or serve immediately.

Assemble the salad on individual plates or on a large platter. If you are using arugula or baby lettuces, lightly dress them with the vinaigrette and use them as a bed to lay the other ingredients upon. Add the bean and potato mixture and arrange the tomatoes, pickles, olives, eggs, and tuna. Serve with a small pitcher of remaining dressing for those who desire it.

Categories: Beans & Legumes, Fish and Seafood, Salads, Vegan Entrees, Vegetables

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