Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tuna Niçoise Salad

This weekend was full of beautiful ladies, gifts and delicious food for the celebration of my friend Lane's wedding shower.  I wanted to bring a nice salad for lunch and thought that a Tuna Niçoise would be the perfect elegant choice for such a party. The Niçoise is very similar to the American Cobb Salad, where each ingredient is placed separately on the platter.  The only main difference is that it uses tuna, potatoes and green beans where the chicken, avocado and bacon would be. Traditionally in Nice, France (where the salad originated from), the Niçoise Salad is served with canned tuna that has been packed in oil and then drained.  More and more recently it is common to see grilled tuna as well.  For my own ease of preparation, I went the traditional route and used high quality canned tuna.  Once all presented on the platter, the salad looks incredibly impressive, but it is actually quite simple to prepare.  It is colorful, full of flavor and the perfect dish to serve for any summer party.

Tuna Niçoise Salad

4 cans high quality Tuna packed in oil, drained
1 lb baby red skinned or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or quartered if too large)
3/4 lb green beans, ends trimmed
8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered in wedges
2 heads Romaine or Bibb lettuce, washed, well dried, and chopped into 1" pieces
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup niçoise olives (I used an assortment of marinated olives)
several anchovies (optional)

1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine lemon juice, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl. Slowly whisk while pouring the olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon (do not discard boiling water). Lightly coat warm potatoes with vinaigrette; set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, toss lettuce with 1/4 cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter (I used two serving platters, so everything would fit nicely on each). Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Arrange reserved potatoes in a mound on the lettuce.

Return water to boil and add green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans, transfer to reserved ice water, and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry beans well. Toss beans in 3 tablespoons vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste; arrange in a mound on the lettuce. Next arrange the cherry tomatoes in another mound on your lettuce. Place the hard boiled eggs around the outside of the salad and lightly drizzle them with the vinaigrette.  Sprinkle entire salad with the red onion, olives and capers. Place the anchovies (if using) on the top of the salad. I bought anchovies that were rolled around capers. They looked very pretty on the plate and I felt they were much less intimidating served this way.

Serve Immediately.

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