For a minute this past summer, we planned a European trip for when our son would be away at camp. Don’t you just hear ‘European’ and think of strolling, food, wine, scarves, American shaming? My more adventurous better half thinks more of conquering places we’ve never been, something say Berlin-ish. Side note about better-half travel: may I recommend to all couples that you do not take a ten-day/seven-country trip through Europe, in a Smart car. Liechtenstein and Luxembourg don’t count and are not worth a route diversion. We stayed married anyway. Back to Berlin…granted, I could find my German Dieter roots on a Sprockets sojourn, but it felt like more work than eating herb omelettes in the fifth arrondissement. Well, it was not to be because my dad was ailing and we had music video producers to feed, so we happily, most fortunately settled for California excursions to Napa – glorious – and to San Francisco for what will have to be an annual concert pilgrimage, Outside Lands.
Wait, it didn’t end there. So my sister and family are living for a year in Aix-en Provence. I cry for her daily. My favorite cousins (I tell them all they’re my favorites, as I learned from my mom) live in Tourves, and our son – in his second year of French – made a friend from Paris at that summer camp, and well, it just all begged for a Spring Break trip to France. Herb omelettes, strolling, wine, scarves, family, American shaming, and tuna niçoise salads – ah, there we are – I made it back to headline.
With France on the brain and herbes des Provence on the shelf, we made an already French salade, Frenchier and to make up for the missing key ingredient that better-half doesn’t like, niçoise olives. The traditional version relies mostly on tomatoes and eggs, with canned tuna and the olives taking a backseat and none of the vegetables were cooked. We’ve evolved niçoise salad to our liking and so should you.
All good meals start with good ingredients. I tend to shop first and concoct later, especially with fresh fish. Yet, I’d never wrestle you to the ground if you went to the store with tuna nicoise salad intentions. The salad components are easy to come by and canned tuna awaits down aisle 15.
Our salad platter earns crunchtime status from the do-ahead opportunity. I mean this entire thing can be prepared a day in advance, well preserved by plastic wrap and your willpower. Despite the varying cooked ingredients, it requires few pots and pans for preparation – and who doesn’t love a one dish meal. Potatoes and eggs satisfy heavy eaters, raw vegetables and light protein satisfy waistlines. Come on let’s get this platter started.
Potatoes, string beans, and eggs – in that order of succession – are boiled in one pot. My eggs were hard-boiled already, so they didn’t get to join the swim party. Plunge all vegetables into an ice bath after to stop the cooking process.
While the vegetables boil, the seasoned tuna filet sears. Topped with a mustard champagne vinaigrette we borrowed from Ina Garten, the flavors meld into a meal that make the pickiest eaters oblige.
seared tuna salade niçoise platter
Cooking the items in some coordination will give you the fastest preparation. Using one pot of boiling water, you will add each ingredient depending on the amount of time needed for cooking. Produce varies in sizes, so use your best judgement and test for doneness. Potatoes are done when a fork can easily poke into skin and flesh. Beans are best undercooked to retain snap; haricot verts will cook in 4 minutes, green beans take 6-8. Eggs, too vary in size, but my estimate is always 10 minutes in boiling water starting from cold water.
preptime 15 minutes serves 4
cooktime 20 minutes
1 lb fresh tuna or large can of white tuna in spring water (oil tastes better)
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 tsp canola or grape seed oil
1 lb baby potatoes
1 lb fresh haricot verts or green beans, trimmed
one large head of butter lettuce, washed and dry
4 medium sized tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
- Tools: cutting board, knife, 1 large pot, frying pan, large bowl with 2 cups of ice & a colander.
- Fill the large pot with cold water and 1 tsp salt. Add eggs & potatoes and place on burner on high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce to maintain steady, but not an overly rapid boil – don’t beat up your food.
- In the meantime, turn the frying pan on med-high heat, add oil.
- Sprinkle the herbs and salt & pepper on both sides of the tuna and place into a very hot fry pan – you’ll cook the tuna about 5 min per side, but will tend to the vegetables while the tuna cooks.
- After vegetables have cooked for 2-3 minutes, add green beans to the pot, cook all ingredients 7 more minutes. You may have to turn up the heat to get back to a steady boil.
- Test the potatoes and beans before the time is up. You don’t want to overcook.
- Remove the eggs at 10 minutes, less if you like a softer center.
- Add enough water to the bowl of ice to be able to submerge the potatoes and beans.
- When the vegetables appear done, gently pour them into the colander. Then quickly, but again gently, pour into the ice bath.
- Let the tuna rest, then thinly slice it.
- Drain the eggs, beans and potatoes after they’ve cooled a bit.
- Peel and quarter eggs.
- Arrange the vegetables on a platter and serve with vinaigrette.
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
- Collect a small bowl, measuring spoons, ingredients, and a whisk or fork.
- Whisk vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper together until combined.
- Slowly drizzle in olive oiltuna nicoise platter with Ina Garten vinaigrette provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com