So, why a ‘deconstructed’ Tuna Nicoise? Uh – because I wanted to?! Because I have a gorgeous piece of fresh tuna in my fridge? And well, because it looks really pretty on the platter! Plus other reasons, like, it meaning that people can take just the pieces they like, and leave the egg or the beans, or the onion, or whatever to one side. And lastly – because I can! I think it will really highlight the fresh fish here too. Did I mention I have fresh tuna?
Like most of my recipes on here, some of the ingredients are either optional, or can be swopped out for whatever you have on hand. Here, I am using quail eggs that they had in my local Asian market. They are really cute – and taste the same as regular eggs – but since I wanted it to be a centerpiece, I thought it was worth the effort of cooking them. Plus they cook insanely quickly. Put them in a cold saucepan of water, bring to the boil, and heat for just one minute longer. Quickly remove them from the pan and pop them in cold water and peel when cool. I find them a little fiddly to peel – you just need a light touch so you don’t pick off any of the white with the shell. They have quite a thick membrane, so if you can pinch that off with a little of the shell – they peel really easily.
For the veggies, I am simply using French Beans that I blanch for one minute, and then quench in iced water to retain their gorgeous bright green color. Drain and pat dry when completely cold. I am also using some cute little organic cherry tomatoes and some organic cucumber. You can peel it or not – up to you. If you are lucky enough to get some Jersey Royals, that would be my potato of choice. In the US, the concept of ‘new potatoes’ isn’t one I’ve come across. Perhaps the closest would be tiny creamer potatoes. However, they are not lovely and waxy like the European potatoes. I’m using some small organic baby potatoes here – and I like to leave them unpeeled.
For the herbs – well, you can go with anything that takes your fancy really. I am particularly fond of Tarragon for a tuna nicoise. Chervil is another typical herb used in this type of salad. I am using a mustard and tarragon dressing, which is quite heavy on the lemon side of things. Again – just a preference. I think it’s a great balance with the olives. For me the only olives for this recipe are dried, cured olives. They have a robust flavor that compliments the aniseed of the tarragon. A Nicoise salad typically calls for those gorgeous, briney olives from – you’ve guessed it – Nice, in Provence. They are very mild and silky. However, I am all about mixing different ingredients, and going against what would normally be used. I think calling this a ‘deconstructed’ salad, kind of gives me extra license to try out a couple new flavors. Not too much of a license though, I am still including capers – I think a lovely component that really helps tie in the briny olives and the acidic dressing. I am leaving out the typical anchovies though on this occasion – if I was using tinned tuna, I’d likely add them in, but on this occasion, this dish is really all about that fresh tuna.
And with all that said – a Nicoise in different towns in France would give you many different versions anyway. Some would not even include lettuce – just various types of beans. Some would give you a crisp cos (romaine) lettuce, and others artichokes and no fish. Of course, eating it outside in the sunshine goes down pretty well too!
- 1 large, fresh tuna fillet - seared to your liking, rested and sliced
- 8oz (approx) dark, mixed salad leaves
- 10 small new or baby potatoes, cooked and cooled
- 4oz fresh french beans, blanched
- 6 quail (or 2 regular) eggs, boiled and halved (quartered if regular eggs)
- ½ red onion, sliced
- About 10 baby red tomatoes
- ¼ cucumber, cut in half horizontally, and sliced
- ½ avocado, sliced
- Handful dry-cured olives, unpitted
- About 2 T Capers, Drained
- 2 Lemon Slices
- For The Dressing:
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 T Champagne Vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- Juice Half a Lemon
- 1 t Mustard
- 2 T Orange Juice
- 1 T fresh tarragon or chervil, chopped fine
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Extra 1 T fresh tarragon or chervil, chopped fine, to serve.
- Make the dressing: Place all the ingredients in a jam/mason jar and shake well to combine.
- For the Salad:
- Dress the leaves with 2 T of the dressing. Taste, check seasoning and add more dressing to the leaves if desired.
- Arrange on a platter.
- Arrange the rest of the ingredients around the platter, placing the sliced tuna down the center.
- Serve with more dressing on the side.