I WAS TRAVELING IN FLORIDA recently when I ordered a salad that was a game changer for me. The back story: I grew up thinking tuna was a terrible, Miracle Whip-laden spread placed squarely on a piece of whole wheat bread. There was nothing appealing about it in the least. So, I decided then and there (mind you, I was 10), I would never have anything to do with tuna EVER again.
That was until I tried a grilled nicoise salad. Sounds fancy. Even intimidating. It is a fresh tuna salad with seasonal vegetables, baby potatoes, olives and green beans, drizzled with a bright vinaigrette. Pure genius! It's like eating springtime from a plate. The best part is that you can make this salad for one or serve on a platter to feed a crowd. Versatile, elegant and guaranteed to be beautiful.
The secret to this salad is getting the freshest ingredients possible. There are no rules. I have even branched out from the traditional nicoise by adding roasted red and golden beets, cucumber, heirloom tomatoes and grilled lemons. Pick what you like and you will fall in love with this salad just like I did!
Grilled Nicoise Salad
1 lb sushi grade tuna steaks
3 lemons, cut in half
10-12 fingerling potatoes, boiled, drained, cut in half
6 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half
½ lb nicoise olives
3 T capers
1 bunch red and yellow beets, roasted and cut in half
1 head Boston Bibb lettuce, leaves washed, dried and torn into large pieces
5 radishes, sliced thin
1 hothouse cucumber, sliced thin
4 heirloom tomatoes, cut into quarters
½ lb green beans or haricots verts, parboiled
¾ c olive oil
½ c pomegranate red wine vinegar
2 shallots, minced
3 T honey
2 T Dijon mustard
sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat grill or grill pan until it is smoking hot. Brush tuna steaks and lemons with olive oil and place on the hot grill. Grill for 5 minutes each side. Do not cook the tuna all the way through or it will be tough. Cook it medium rare and then remove from grill to rest.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add some salt and the potatoes. Cook until they are just cooked through, which only takes about 6-8 minutes. Remove the potatoes and save the water. Allow potatoes to cool and then cut in half. Using the reserved boiling water, drop in the green beans and cook for 3 minutes ‚Äì no more! Remove from the water and place in a bowl filled with ice water. Allow to chill and then drain and dry the green beans.
In a small bowl or quart Mason jar, combine the olive oil, pomegranate red wine vinegar, shallots, honey and Dijon mustard. If you are using a jar, shake well, or whisk in a bowl until the oil is emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large metal bowl, toss the torn lettuce with some of the dressing until it is lightly dressed. Cover the bottom of a platter or individual plate with the dressed torn lettuce. Then dress the potatoes the same way. Place them on the plate in a row. Follow with the green beans, roasted beets, radishes, and cucumbers. Now add the eggs, grilled lemons and olives. Cut the tuna into ¼ inch slices and place that in the middle of the salad. Sprinkle with capers. Serve the salad with a drizzling of the pomegranate vinaigrette.