Friday, August 26, 2011

Salade Niçoise

A great meal salad...
It's light in comparison to many other things, but it's filling.
As a meal, it has a very colorful eye-appeal and includes a lot of flavor and texture variety.

This salad comes from the south of France- in Nice.

I'm not going to tell anyone that I know the version here is completely authentic. Apparently the subject of "authentic" Salade Niçoise is a touchy one.
To purists, there are very strict rules which delineate what is proper for this salad.
Not being a "purist" in regard to this salad, it's quite possible that I have made a mistake or three...

One thing I can say is that anchovies are obligatoire, tuna is traditionally canned, and potatoes are not traditonal. Oh, well.
But, things can be changed depending on tastes...
And are the salad police going to come knocking at your door? Probably not.

Let's talk tuna.
Not all canned tuna is bad, and not all "fresh" tuna is good. It's very much up to you what you do with your fish here.

Good, fresh tuna is not "fishy" in flavor, but rather "clean" and meaty. If you want to use fresh tuna, you're able to grill or pan fry it to your preference. If you want your tuna to be less rare than what I've shown, (of course) cook it a little longer or cut the tuna loin into smaller pieces before cooking. That way you have more surface area and less center.

However, if you want to just use canned, be my guest. If you do end up using canned tuna, try to find some good tuna, perhaps something that's oil packed and imported.
Tip: try a higher end grocery store (I know I've seen it in St. Louis for those of you who are here).

I like this salad in a semi-deconstructed version so you can re-construct each bite as you eat.

Salads can be served individually plated, or laid out on a large platter with the salad and tuna in the center, and all the other components circling it in (decorative) small mountains. This way, when the platter is served, people are able to put together their own salads.

I figure each salad breaks down into about:
1/2 to 1 ounce of mixed spring greens
1/5 to 1/4 lb tuna
4 olives
small handful of green beans
a few potatoes
a few cherry tomatoes
a bit of onion
2 anchovies
3/4 to 1 whole egg
1/2 t capers

Salade Niçoise
Serves 4-5

2 T sherry or red wine vinegar
1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
7 T olive oil
3 T fresh parsley, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

3-5 oz. Mixed spring greens
1 lb. very fresh tuna loin (or a couple cans good-quality tuna, oil packed if possible)
4 oz Niçoise olives (or Kalamata if you can't find the Niçoise)
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 lb. new potatoes
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
4-5 eggs, hard boiled*, peeled and quartered
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
10 anchovies
scant 2 oz. capers, drained

To make the vinaigrette:
Place minced shallot and a couple pinches of salt in a small bowl along with the vinegar. Let the mixture sit about 10 minutes. Add the Dijon mustard and whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the parsley and stir to combine.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well, bring back to a boil and add the green beans. Cook about 5 minutes. While the beans cook, prepare an ice water bath. Once cooked, add the beans to the ice water to stop the cooking. When the beans are cold, drain and moisten with a couple tablespoons of vinaigrette.
Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook for about 15 minutes, or until they yield easily when pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain and let cool at room temperature until you can handle them easily but while they're still warm. Halve or quarter the potatoes (depending on their size) and toss with about 1/4 c of the vinaigrette.
Season the tuna with salt and pepper. To sear the tuna, heat a pan with 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. For very rare tuna, cook the tuna for about 1 minute and 15 seconds on each side. Remove the tuna loin to a plate to rest and cool.
Just prior to serving, divide the greens among the plates and mound them in the center. Arrange the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs, olives, capers, onions, and anchovies around the little hill of salad greens. Drizzle the plate with vinaigrette and place tuna atop the greens. Serve immediately.

* To hard-boil eggs:
Place eggs in a pan and just cover with cool water. Bring to a full boil, turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit in the water for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Crack the eggs from the large end and peel under cool running water.
Note: Extremely fresh eggs do not peel well. Egg shells are porous, right? Older eggs develop air inside of them, which makes peeling the shell and membrane from the egg easier.

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