Summer is in full swing, and we are trying to make the best of it! One of the high points of my summer so far has been teaching one of my favorite classic dishes: the Niçoise Salad in a recent virtual class.
I remember when I was in culinary school in Germany many years ago, we learned about the classic dishes, and being able to make this salad was part of our exam. While it’s pretty simple in the assembly, it's composed of a lot of different ingredients: green beans, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, anchovies and Niçoise olives, which give the salad its name.
The salad originates in the French city of Nice on the beautiful French Riviera or Côte d'Azur. I re-encountered this salad a couple of years ago at Toni Patisserie in the loop, just a couple of blocks away from Millennium Park. Toni Patisserie serves great coffee and French pastries. It's also a great spot for meeting friends, having lunch, and picking up a picnic basket if you’re heading to Millennium Park. I love the summer music festivals, especially the classical music concerts on Wednesdays!
I encourage you to make this salad because it's not only delicious but easy to execute. The best part is that you can substitute ingredients, or leave them out completely if that's your preference. For example, if you don't care for anchovies or capers, just omit them. You could also substitute the watercress for kale, which is plentiful at farmers markets right now. I love the texture of kale because it remains nice and crisp, even when dressed with a vinaigrette.
The green beans in this salad are lightly blanched. So, what does that mean? Over medium heat, place a pot filled with water and add salt. Once the water is boiling, add the beans and blanch for about one minute. Have a bowl of ice water ready as you need to “shock” the green beans which will stop the cooking process. Drain the beans and place them in the bowl with ice water. They will remain crisp and green!
This salad is mainly served with canned tuna. I prefer grilled tuna, although you can also sear it. I recommend serving the tuna rare to medium rare. If you’re looking for quality seafood, check out Hooked On Fish which has weekly offerings that you can safely pick up at our Lincoln Square location on Tuesdays. Another local place for quality seafood is Dirk’s Fish in Lincoln Park. They have been around since 2003, and they know what they’re doing!
This is a perfect salad to serve family style, or even "deconstructed" by separating the ingredients to be combined at the time of eating. It would go lovely with a Rosé wine from Provence, France or our Babich Sauvignon Blanc which is available for curbside pickup from our store. I hope you will make this salad and enjoy it with friends and family this summer.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
For the tuna:
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, rough chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Four 4- to 5-ounce tuna steaks
Garlic salt to taste
Pepper to taste
For the dressing:
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Niçoise salad:
1/2 pound new potatoes, boiled until tender and halved
1/4 pound haricots verts or green beans, blanched, shocked and drained
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup Niçoise olives or other small black brined olives, pitted
2 cups watercress, stem ends removed
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered (see note, below)
1 tablespoon capers
4 anchovies (optional)
- To prepare the tuna, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, cayenne pepper, garlic salt and pepper. Place the tuna in a baking dish and pour the marinade over the steaks, coating it evenly. Allow to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. While the tuna is marinating, prepare the vinaigrette and vegetables.
- For the vinaigrette, whisk together the shallot, vinegar and mustard in a medium-size bowl. Slowly pour in the oil while whisking rapidly to create a temporary emulsion. Whisk in the chives, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives and watercress in a large bowl, and dress with just enough of the dressing to coat. Set aside.
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the tuna on each side until caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and set aside. The tuna should be rare to medium rare in the center. Allow the tuna to rest for 2 to 3 minutes, and then cut into slices.
- To assemble the dish, spoon a small amount of the salad onto each plate. Top with slices of the grilled tuna and the hard-boiled eggs, and lightly drizzle with the vinaigrette.
- Garnish with capers and anchovies, if desired.
In our virtual classes, we cover everything from grilling to baking. We are also slowly and safely returning to in-person classes at our Lincoln Square location starting this weekend. Join us for Backyard BBQ, a grilling demonstration on our outdoor patio on Saturday, July 11 at 4pm. This class is limited to just eight people so we can maintain proper social distancing.