Monday, March 29, 2010

Salade Niçoise

I have been wanting to make this salad forever and could never find an excuse or occasion to do so. Hard boiled eggs, tuna steak and olives all have the potential to put off a picky eater/dinner guest. I like to avoid sticky situations so I have shied away from this dish and making it for myself seemed a little too indulgent. Ok, fine, it's a lot of work for just little ol' me and I can get one heck of a stand-in at the Nordstrom Cafe which is located 10 minutes from my place. They make theirs with salmon instead of tuna and the results are also fantastic. On a side note, the Nordstrom Cafe is an awesome lunch spot and you can head over to the shoe department to drain your wallet after you eat that fabulous lunch.

So, about the taste. I absolutely love dishes that have flavors that are interesting when they come together. Some examples are raspberry and chocolate, goat cheese and honey, chocolate and cinnamon, balsamic and get the idea. This salad has those same interesting qualities with the dill, basil and parsley playing wonderfully with the vinegar, wine and dijon mustard as the dressing. Add in the salty olives, seared tuna steak, sweet tomatoes and meaty eggs and you have one hearty dish. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten


1 (1-inch-thick) fresh tuna steak
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound French string beans (haricots verts), stems removed and blanched
1 recipe French Potato Salad, recipe follows
2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in 1/2
4 to 5 good black olives, pitted
1 bunch watercress or arugula

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil


To grill the tuna, get a charcoal or stove-top cast iron grill very hot. Brush the fish with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill each side for only 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The center should be raw, like sushi, or the tuna will be tough and dry. Arrange the tuna, haricots verts, potato salad, tomatoes, eggs, olives, watercress, on a large flat platter.

For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.

French Potato Salad:

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/3 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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