Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad
The first time I tasted Tuna Nicoise Salad I was in Paris with my Mom. The weather was perfect and we were thrilled to be lucky enough to be there. Thrilled as we drove into the city from the airport and get our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Thrilled to visit the Louvre and finally see the Mona Lisa for real (it’s so much smaller than I had imagined!). Not so thrilled to be yelled at by a taxicab driver because our French wasn’t as fluent as it should have been. At least in the driver’s opinion.
So there we were in a French cafe in that marvelous city and having the time of our lives and eating Tuna Nicoise with tiny little black olives and perfectly cooked eggs, crisp green beans and grilled tuna.
When we got back home and I looked at the cookbooks I owned then, there weren’t very many recipes for Tuna Nicoise and all called for canned tuna. I didn’t own an outdoor grill or a grill pan at the time and I was young and single and didn’t care so much about dinner then, so Tuna Nicoise made with canned tuna was (still is) pretty good, assuming everything else is fresh and the dressing is homemade.
But I do own a grill now. And a grill pan. And maybe it’s just me, but I think canned tuna ain’t what it used to be. It’s way too salty and the fish isn’t as firm as I remember.
So now I make Tuna Nicoise with fresh, grilled fish. It’s so refreshing, the perfect dish to welcome spring and enjoy throughout the summer. For me it also brings back some wonderful memories of Paris and my Mom.
Fresh Tuna Nicoise Salad with Feta
16-20 ounces fresh tuna, 1-1/4” thick
12 small new potatoes
20-24 slim asparagus, cut up (2 cups)
12 grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup imported olives, cut in half if large
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
radicchio leaves, optional, rinsed and dried
6 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, marjoram or thyme
2-4 hard cooked eggs, cut into 4 wedges
Preheat a grill, broiler or grill pan. Brush the tuna with a film of olive oil and grill, broil or pan-broil the fish about 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked but still rare. Remove the fish from to a cutting board and carve into slices. Set aside to cool slightly. Cook the potatoes in simmering water for about 15 minutes or until they are tender. About 2-3 minutes before they are done, add the asparagus. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain the vegetables under cold water. Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces and Place them in a large bowl. Add the asparagus, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese. Toss gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Line 4 plates with the lettuce leaves and radicchio, if used. Combine the 6 tablespoons olive oil, wine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and oregano and mix well. Pour most of the dressing over the vegetable mixture and toss the ingredients. Spoon equal amounts of the vegetable mixture on the plates. Top with the tuna slices. Surround with the egg quarters. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the tuna and egg. Makes 4 servings