Sunday, January 22, 2012

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Salad Nicoise

Nicoise Salad is one of my very favorite dishes.  It is light and healthy, but still quite filling. Traditional Nicoise is made with canned tuna, Nicoise olives, French green beans (haricots verts), cherry tomatoes and red potatoes.  My version substitutes seared Ahi Tuna in place of the canned stuff and uses the olives, tomatoes and potatoes I had on-hand.  I also used regular green beans (even though I much prefer their skinnier French counterpart) because our local store happened to be out.

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice + 3 tbsp-2/3 cup extra for marinating fish
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 6 tbsp more for marinating and cooking fish
1 pound fingerling potatoes
8 ounces French green beans (haricots verts) or regular green beans, trimmed
1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated (Butter Lettuce works great here too)
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
4 small/medium pieces of Ahi Tuna
4 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and each cut into quarters
1/2 cup olives (preferably Nicoise - I used a Mediterranean mix)

Note: To hardboil eggs, place the eggs in a a sauce pan with enough cold water to cover by at least 1".  Heat just to boiling; remove from the heat and cover.  Let the eggs stand for fifteen minutes.  Carefully pour off the water and rinse the eggs with cold running water to cool them and stop the cooking.  To peel, gently tap a cooled hard-cooked egg against a hard surface until the shell is cracked all over.  Starting at the rounder end (where the air space makes peeling easier), peel the egg under cold running water.  Unpeeled eggs keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Prepare the dressing: In small bowl, with wire whisk, mix vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, mustard, anchovy paste, sugar, and pepper until blended.  In thin, steady stream, whisk in oil until blended.

In 3-quart saucepan, combine potatoes and enough water to cover; heat to boiling over high heat.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet, heat 1-inch water to boiling over high heat.  Add green beans; heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to low and cook until tender-crisp, 6 to 8 minutes.  Drain; rinse with cold running water.  Drain.  (Note: most supermarkets sell greenbeans in a plastic bag that can be microwaved; Trader Joe's Hericot Vert in a bag are superb)

While your potatoes and greenbeans are going, heat 3 tablespoons oil (olive or canola) in a 10-inch cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat just until oil shimmers but is not smoking.  Add tuna steaks and cook until pale pink in center, about 3 minutes per side.  The fish will release from the pan when it's ready to flip.  If you are trying to scrape fish off pan, give it another 30 seconds-to-one minute to release.

Note: If time permits, it's great to marinate your fish steaks in lemon juice and olive oil; place steaks in a bowl, cover with 2/3 cup lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper.  Toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.  If you are rushed, just squeeze some bottled lemon juice right on top of steaks and add salt and pepper immediately before cooking. 

To serve, line 4 individual large plates with lettuce leaves (think of placing them outwards, like the petals of a flower).  Arrange potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs, olives and tuna in separate piles on lettuce.  Drizzle with dressing.  Top with ground pepper to taste.  Makes 4 main-dish servings.

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