Spring is finally here and even if the thermometer is still fluctuating , I am ready to transition away from the longest stew/soup season in memory and wake up my taste buds with some fresh cuisine. Salads are always more appealing in sunnier weather and this salad is bursting with flavor, color and interesting texture. With protein coming from the tuna, eggs and white beans, it is hearty enough for dinner and to satisfy the men in the family. It is a great option for a meat-free Lent meal.
To add some spark to the traditional Niçoise salad, I roasted the fingerling potatoes and used fresh tuna, not canned. I pan-seared the fresh tuna with lots of garlic and freshly ground pepper. Wow! Is it good! Because I love them and because they offer an additional and unexpected textural element, I roasted the red peppers for this salad. You can substitute raw peppers or omit them if you prefer.
Just thinking about warm weather sets me longing for juicy tomatoes. Although too early in the season for home grown tomatoes, go ahead and indulge with cherry tomatoes which are a pretty decent subsitute. I was lucky enough to find heirloom cherry tomatoes at my market.
The pièce de résistance of this salad comes from the lusciously, creamy lemon aïoli dressing bursting with tangy, bright, citrusy notes that will surely lift you out of the winter doldrums! This is a recipe passed on to me by my 2 dear friends, Cathy and Kathy, gifted cooks, which I have made over and over. Love it!
The crunchy bite of the salad comes from barely cooked haricots verts. I love serving this deconstructed salad in a large rectangular platter with tongs so everyone can dig in.
SEARED AHI-TUNA NIÇOISE SALAD
1 lb of fingerling potatoes,halved, lengthwise
1 T olive oil
1 14oz can of white kidney beans, rinsed, drained,seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, 2 T fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice
1 lb of fresh Ahi tuna steaks(about 2)
2 T butter
2T olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c black olives(I used kalamata but Niçoise- in-oil are traditional)
2 roasted red peppers cut in 1/4 inch strips(canned is fine)
1 lb haricot verts, blanched and drained
1/4 c non-pareil capers
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled, halved lengthwise
In a frying pan, melt butter and oil and sauté garlic for a minute then add tuna steaks. Sear on each side for 2 minutes for rare or 3 minutes for medium doneness. Remove from pan, rest, then slice into 1/2 inch thick slices across the grain while maintaining shape of steak. Hold until ready to assemble salad.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss the potatoes in 1 T oil then spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast about 15 minutes, stirring once to prevent sticking. Generously sprinkle with sea salt. Reserve.
Divide the green beans in 4 portions and place in 4 corners of the platter.
CREAMY LEMON AÏOLI DRESSING
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 t Dijon mustard
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 c olive oli
1/2 c sour cream
salt and pepper
Mix lemon juice, zest, garlic and Dijon together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. incorporate the sour cream. salt and pepper to taste. Serve alongside the salad.
Bring spring to your table with this visually stunning salad which will stimulate your palate out of winter dormancy and usher in a new season of fresh eating! Bon appétit