Salade Nicoise is a classic Southern French concoction of excellent canned tuna on greens with hard-cooked egg, steamed green beans and potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and black olives (usually nicoise olives, of course). This version takes two turns away from the classic preparation: first, it uses fresh tuna instead of canned; second, it makes a quick warm potato salad, dressing the potatoes in an olive-laden dressing. The result, though I say it myself, is divine. Feel free to play with proportions and ingredients. The classic may be a certain, defined thing, but there are no rules saying you can't leave the egg out of the picture or use iceberg lettuce or add a bit of chile here or there if that's what sounds good to you.
These portions will yield 4 light meal-size portions. Scale up or down as needed.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: Makes 4 servings
- 1 lb. fresh albacore tuna (feel free to substitute in other fatty fish)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil for the dressings, plus more for poaching the fish (up to about 1 cup)
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 6 black pepper corns (optional)
- 4 eggs
- 4 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold potatoes are particularly yummy here)
- 1 lb. green beans
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup black olives
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic or shallot
- 4 cups salad greens
- 4 small to medium tomatoes
- Salt and pepper at various points and to taste
- Cut the fish into 4 equal portions. Set the portions in a medium saucepan - you don't want them too crowded. Cover them with olive oil, put the bay leaves and peppercorns in the pot, and gently heat over medium heat, don't let the oil boil, just start to simmer a bit around the edges. Cook until the tuna has firmed up just a bit, about 5 minutes once the oil is heated. Take the pan off the heat and let the tuna cool off in the oil - it will also finish cooking as it cools.
- Put the eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cover, take off the heat, and let sit for 14 minutes exactly. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool. (See How to Make Hard-Boiled Eggs for more detail.)
- Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and chop them into bite-size pieces. Put them in a small pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, add 1 Tbsp. salt, and cook until the potatoes are tender to the bite, about 10 minutes. While the potatoes cook, make their dressing: Pit and mince the olives (see How to Pit Olives if needed); in a large bowl combine the minced olives with 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil, the red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. When they're cooked, drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Shake the pot over medium heat for a few minutes to dry out the potatoes a bit. Transfer the potatoes to the bowl with the dressing in it and gently toss until the potatoes are well coated. The warm potatoes will absorb the dressing. Set the potatoes aside.
- Trim the green beans. Cut them into shorter lengths, if you like. Bring about 1/2 inch of water to boil in a frying pan, add 1/4 tsp. salt and the green beans, cover, and cook until the beans are tender to the bite. Drain the beans, rinse with cold water to cool them off and set the green color, and lay them out to dry on layers of paper towels.
- Make the dressing for the rest of the salad: Peel and mince the garlic and shallot and put them in a large bowl with the lemon juice, remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together. Remove about 1 Tbsp. of dressing from the bowl and set aside. Add the greens (make sure they are washed and dried - see How to Clean Greens if needed), and toss gently until the greens are evenly and lightly dressed.
- Divide the greens evenly between 4 plates. Cut the eggs into quarters and set them on the side of the salads. Put a portion of the potatoes on each plate and a portion of green beans. Drizzle the remaining dressing lightly over the beans. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and put them on the plates as well. Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt. Transfer a piece of tuna - letting as much oil drip off of each piece as possible, perhaps even patting oil off of each one, if you like - onto each salad.