A little French, a little Asian, and a lot delicious!
I love a composed salad! It is like creating a miniature salad bar on a platter, everyone gets to pick out what they like best, take a little of this or that, and make their own creation. These salads are also quite beautiful!
The classic, with a twist or two
The classic Niçoise uses straight little French haricot vert or green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, and oil-cured jarred or canned tuna, decorated with what else was on hand such as tomatoes, artichokes, and radishes, all served with a classic French white wine vinaigrette.
This salad is served at room temperature
My first big swap one Sunday brunch for guests was using soft boiled eggs rather than hard. I love the flavor much more than hard-boiled, which can be a bit dry. These were an instant hit, with drippy yolk and appealing taste.
I used one pan to boil my heirloom fingerling potatoes of multi-colored flesh – blue, pink, and yellow, my eggs and my green beans. These potatoes have considerably more minerals and vitamins than white-fleshed varieties, and they are quite tasty as well.
Fresh tuna is best!
But perhaps the biggest change was using lightly seared fresh, line-caught tuna rather than jarred or canned! It made this an instant crowd pleaser and transformed the dish into something really special.
Rather than serve with a traditional vinaigrette, my starting point was a beautiful fresh ginger from a local farm. I look forward to these treasurers every year, and tuck a bunch in the freezer to grate throughout the winter. The ginger asked to be used with some toasted sesame oil, wasabi, and other Asian flavors to create a dressing that would be lovely on a piece of tuna, especially if crusted with a few more sesame seeds. Of course, I still used the capers I always add to the traditional vinaigrette I usually use on this salad!
On any particular day, it depends on what else you want for accessories. Here, I made a bed of arugula, and used regular old blanched local green beans, jarred seasoned artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, eggs, and some luscious black olives.
I have to confess, I forgot to add the potatoes to the dish and we had half eaten dinner before we realized they were missing!
Salad Niçoise with Sesame Ginger Dressing
- 1 lb. fingerling potatoes, multi-colored if possible
- 3 large local organic eggs
- 1/2 lb. green beans, stem end cut off
- 2 sushi-grade, line-caught tuna filets
- 1 -2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
- 3 cups arugula or other greens
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- A few olives of choice
- Artichoke hearts, quartered
Place your potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8 minutes, depending on size, or just until tender. Remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge in your room temperature eggs. Set your timer for 5 1/2 minutes. Remove the eggs and place in iced water for another five minutes to chill.
Immediately submerge the green beans in the water and blanch for two to three minutes, or until the color has deepened and they are crisp/tender. Rinse and submerge them in iced water as well.
Peel the eggs, pat the green beans dry, and set everything aside.
Heat your cast iron or other heavy frying pan over high. Sprinkle your sesame seeds on a plate. Rub the tuna with olive oil and press into the sesame seeds.
Place fish in the heated pan, pressing down. Sear the first side for about a minute and a half, flip and sear another minute. You want the fish to be well seared for flavor, but the interior still rare. Remove from pan and set aside.
Now you are ready to assemble. Make a thick bed of greens of choice. Arrange the selections any way you like, in blocks of color. Slice the eggs in half just before you plate, and I always add the tuna last.
Dress, and sprinkle all with some coarse sea salt or flakes and nice grinds of pepper to taste.
Sesame Ginger Dressing
In a canning jar place:
- 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
- 3 tbsp. fruity olive oil
- 2 tbsp. rice vinegar or mirin
- 1 tsp. wasabi paste
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
- 2 tbsp. capers
- 1 tsp. caper brine
Shake well and pour over salad.
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