I made this Nicoise salad the other night for our close friends Joanna and Marc Appleton. You might know Joanna from her salmon or for her 7 years as Maggie Seaver on Growing Pains — either way she and Marc are incredible, and some of the dearest friends we have. We often do easy dinners outside together and this is always a great go-to recipe for those hot summer nights when you want good flavor but not a super hefty meal. Joanna ended up calling me the day after our dinner for this salad recipe, so I though I would share it with you, too.
Though this may seem a bit labor intensive (ok, I admit it does have a lot of components) the nice thing about this salad is you can make almost every part of it in advance. For example, I have a business meeting here at the house today, so I poached the tuna, blanched the beans, made the dressing, and boiled the potatoes and eggs last night. I kept all the ingredients in the fridge overnight and will just take everything out before we eat to bring it to room temperature. The short answer is yes, this salad takes some advanced planning, but once you’ve got everything cooked, you can simply assemble your parts and voila!
Kalamata Olive Dressing
15 Kalamata olives
1 large clove of garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1/8 Tsp of red pepper flakes
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tb white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
2 Tb finely chopped flat leaf Parsley
Salt and pepper
In a mortar and pestle, mash together the olives, garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Next, whisk in the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, and parsley. Salt and pepper to your liking and set aside.
1.5 Lbs Baby Yukon gold potatoes
1 Garlic clove
Tomatoes–1.5 tomatoes per person
Blue Fin Tuna–1/3 pound-per-person
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Hard boiled eggs — 2 per person
Green beans–small handful per person
Avocado – ½ per person
Sea Salt and pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
These steps can be done in whatever order you choose, or all at once if you’re good at multi-tasking and your stove has enough burners
Hard boil your egg. Quarter the tomatoes and marinate them in a bowl with salt and a few torn basil leaves while you prep the other ingredients. Blanch your green beans in heavily salted water. Wash and dry the arugula, or greens of choice. Boil the potatoes in salty water for approximately 20 minutes. After the potatoes have cooked, slice them into quarters and toss with good extra virgin olive oil, parsley, and sea salt.
Make your Kalamata dressing. In a heavy bottom pan or poacher, heat equal parts grape seed oil and extra virgin olive oil to 127°F (use a candy thermometer). Poach the tuna for 10 minutes and let rest on a rack. This is how Thomas Keller does it, so I figure it’s good enough for me. Sometimes to get a bit of crust on the meat, I sear it with just a little salt and pepper in a cast iron pan just before serving. After it’s cooked, flake or slice the meat. You can also skip the poaching and just season with salt and pepper, then sear the tuna in a cast iron skillet.
Peel the eggs and serve sliced in half. Slice the avocado. Get out your bottle of cornichon (the hardest step). Lightly Dress the arugula with a bit of EVOO, lemon and salt and arrange a handful on each plate.
Next, mound each plate with sections of tomatoes, potatoes, avocado, green beans, reserving the tuna for the middle. Then, place the eggs around the plate and sprinkle on a few cornichon (I like the placement to have a sort of a casual feel so it doesn’t look too “done”). Dress the salad with spoonfuls of Kalamata olive dressing over the top of selected items – I usually add some to the tuna, beans and potatoes. Next, drizzle really good quality olive oil over the entire plate and sprinkle some extra sea salt on the potatoes, tomatoes and eggs just before serving. Enjoy!