Nicoise Salad

April 8, 2012Katie

I love this salad.

I soooo love this salad!

After visiting Coolgreens last week, I knew I had to try to make this at home.

Nicoise Salad (pronounced nee-swaz) is a concoction of some sort of bean, hard boiled eggs, and its star ingredient – olives.  Originating in Nice, France, their salad was a deconstructed plate, with each ingredient by itself and without lettuce at all.  This version has been adapted over the years to include many other ingredients including potatoes and tuna and while purists may criticize these recipes that wander off the path, I tend to lean towards my own preferences as well.

Typically, canned tuna packed in olive oil is the standard fare, but inspired by Coolgreens salad, I opted for ahi.  I think artichoke hearts would fit nicely in this equation also and will add those in my next-go-round as well.

The key here is to do all your prep work ahead of time and then sear your tuna.  Slice it and serve it warm and drizzled with a kiss of the garlicky vinaigrette.  This is something to long for on a hot summer day.

To begin, take some fingerling potatoes and drizzle them with olive oil and a foil-line baking sheet. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and pop them into a 350ΒΊ oven to roast for 30 minutes, or until the skins are beginning to crackle and you can stick a fork into them easily.  Let them cool a bit and then slice them into thirds. I supposed you could use any potato you have, but fingerlings are so buttery and wonderful, try to find them.

Next, you’ll need to boil 4 eggs.  Start by putting four eggs into a saucepan and just barely cover them cold water.  Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat and set a timer for exactly 12 minutes.  This results in perfect hard boiled eggs.  The yolks will be hard but not overcooked with that nasty gray ring around them.  Read my tutorial here for hard boiled eggs.  After 12 minutes, drain them and dump them into an ice water bath.  Let them sit for 10 minutes and then peel them and slice them in half and then in half again to make nice little wedges.  Don’t throw out your ice water, you can use it again in a minute!

Pour a little water into your pot again and add in 2 cups of sugar snap peas.  Pop the lid on and steam them for no longer than 3 minutes.  Then drain them also and plunge them into the ice water bath.  This will keep them bright and green and crisp by stopping the cooking and chilling them down for the salad.  If you use frozen snap peas, you’ll have to cook them a few minutes longer.

Slice up several slices of red onion, as thinly as you possibly can.

Slice up a couple of gorgeous ripe tomatoes that sing summer.

Then make the dressing.

This dressing is going to become our house favorite. It’s that good.  I am going to double the recipe quantities for you because we actually wanted more than what I made.  Just telling you so you won’t see tablespoons instead of cups and wonder what’s going on.

In a mixing bowl, add in 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar, 4 cloves of garlic, and 2 tablespoon each of dijon mustard and honey.

You can use whatever herbs you’re partial to, but I used basil, oregano and dill and it was fantastic.

Roll your basil up in a cigar.  Slice across it very thinly.  Pull the oregano leaves off their stems.  Put it all together in a pile and chop away.

Toss it into the dressing and mix it up.

Drizzle in about 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of olive oil while whisking like crazy.  I leaned towards 1/2.

Then add in 1/4 cups of sour cream or plain yogurt.  Both work really well to make a creamy vinaigrette.

Dump your onions and potatoes right into the dressing and stir them up and coat them well.  Let them marinade for awhile and get all yummy and wonderful.

Now let’s cook our tuna.

Simply season two beautiful pieces of ahi tuna with salt and pepper.  Bring 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pretty high heat and then add in the tuna, only cooking each side one and one-half to two minutes.  Remove it immediately from the pan and slice it across the grain in thin slices.

Properly cooked ahi tuna will have a nice rare center.  If you can’t stomach this, what’s wrong with you!?

Just kidding!  Just cook it till it’s cardboard and then continue on.

Now let’s assemble this masterpiece shall we?

The bottom layer is your lettuce of choice.  I used spring mix.   I love me some spring mix!  Then randomly lay your wedges of egg around.  Next, layer on some sugar snap peas.  Sprinkle on a few capers.

Let’s talk olives.  This is not a salad for canned olives. Pick up your favorite brined and jarred wonderful olives.  Most recipes I saw called for Nicoise olives (which I’ve never seen in central Oklahoma) or Calamata olives, so I chose the latter.  Slice them in half and sprinkle them over the salad.

Author’s note:  Mr. Wonderful wouldn’t touch these with a ten-foot-pole, so I left his off.  (Psst…he has no idea what’s he’s missing!

Now, dollop on some of your red onion and potatoes.

Layer your tuna on top.

And drizzle a little more of the dressing over top.

P.S.   Add on the tomatoes.  I forgot to do this until after pictures were done!

Oh mama mia! This was scrumptious! The garlic of the dressing went so well with the other ingredients.  I will be making this again and again.

It’s truly a labor of love, but the end result is pure bliss.

Katie’s Printable Recipe – Nicoise Salad

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