Nicoise salad makes ideal summer meal
With the tomato harvest coming soon, I am revising my recipe for Nicoise salad, which is one the most refreshing dishes to eat in the summer heat.
Salade Nicoise (pronounced nee-suaz) originates from the Cotes d'Azur in the town of Nice in southern France. As salads go, it probably has the most complex flavor and is very versatile.
Green beans and red onions are in season now and the tomatoes will be within a week. When preparing this recipe, if possible, use farm-fresh eggs, the best extra-virgin olive oil and Meyer lemon juice, and you well end up with a magnificent summer salad.
Whether you use the tuna really depends on your taste. I grew up using albacore tuna canned in extra-virgin olive oil. It is hard to get anything comparable to it today, so I recommend curing your own albacore tuna. If stored correctly, it will keep in good condition for weeks.
Anchovies bring more complexity to the salad's flavor, but you can omit them if they are too salty for you. The capers and olives as well as the basil pesto definitely make this dish a complete meal.
At Café Collage, we will be serving this salad for the summer season.
NICOISE SALAD WITH BASIL PESTO
2 pounds fresh albacore tuna, seared or cured, see cook's notes
6 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled (optional) and quartered
2 pounds French green beans, ends trimmed
6 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
1-1⁄2 cups kalamata olives
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
6 hard-boiled farm-fresh eggs, cut into four wedges each
1⁄4 cup capers
For basil pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, blanched
1⁄2 cup toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1⁄4 cup Meyer lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more to cover stored pesto)
Cook's notes: To cure albacore tuna, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a deep pan. Cut the tuna into 1-inch slices. Season the tuna steaks with salt and ground pepper. Heat 1 cup of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the tuna pieces and sear them on both sides for about one minute per side. Add 1⁄2 cup Meyer lemon juice and cook for two minutes. Remove the tuna from the pan and let it cool. Using a sharp knife, slice the tuna against the grain in thin pieces.
Prepare basil pesto: Place all pesto ingredients except for the oil in a food processor. Pulse while adding the oil in a thin stream until the texture is smooth.
To store any leftover pesto properly and keep it green, you need to place it in a glass jar and cover it completely with extra-virgin olive oil. Then cover the jar and refrigerate.
Prepare tuna: Rub the tuna with sea salt and select a strainer or colander that fits over the top of a large pan of boiling water. Place the tuna in the colander and set on top of the pan of boiling water and cover it. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the tuna is fully cooked. Make sure the tuna gets steamed with no direct contact with the water. Let the tuna cool then place in a dish and cover with olive oil. Refrigerate, covered, and cut into thin slices before serving.
Prepare salad: Bring two pots of salted water to a boil. Blanch the quartered potatoes in one pot and remove from the water once the potatoes are tender but still firm. Blanch the green beans in the other pot until tender and still firm. Let both potatoes and green beans cool.
In a bowl, toss the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives and onions with the pesto.
Distribute the salad equally into six 8- to 10-inch salad bowls. Arrange 4 egg wedges on top of each portion. Scatter the capers over each serving. Arrange 5 anchovies on top each salad. Arrange 6 tuna slices on top of each salad and serve.