On a long ago vacation in the South of France I came across a dish that I brought home with me and made it a standard. Salad Nicoise is one of the easiest and most appealing salads I know. Chef Jerry Pellegrino says, even though we can't always get those classic tiny nicoise olives, we do have everything we need right here. But one thing I thought you needed, isn't one of the classic ingredients: lettuce!
This is a great salad that has been interpreted many ways over the years. We like to keep it simple using just potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and olives. We prefer using fresh tuna that has been seared as opposed to canned tuna and we forgo using any greens…they’re just not necessary!
1 pound new potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
10 ounces haricots verts or thin green beans, trimmed
4 large eggs – hard boiled and cut into wedges
8 cherry tomatoes or small cocktail tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup niçoise olives
4 – 6 oz. pieces of fresh ahi tuna
Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl
Meanwhile, bring a separate saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with salted ice water. Add the haricots verts to the boiling water; cook until crisp-tender and bright green, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water to cool; drain and pat dry.
For the dressing
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
6 whole garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a small sauce pan set over low heat, allow the olive oil, garlic and shallot to cook until they are soft and aromatic. Let cool to room temperature.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and shallot from the oil and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add all of the other ingredients except the flavored oil and pulse until well combined. With the machine running add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified. Keep refrigerated until use.
To sear the tuna
Season each piece of tuna with salt and pepper and rub them generously with olive oil. Place a skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot place a piece of tuna in the pan, allow to cook for one minute, flip the tuna and repeat on the other side. Remove the tuna and continue until all of the tuna has been seared to rare.
Toss all of the ingredients except the eggs and tuna in a bowl with the dressing and divide evenly onto four plates. Place 4 egg quarters on each plate. Slice and place a piece of tuna on each salad.