I just returned from a trip to the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market which is the largest farmer’s market in Canada. The area is fascinating. If you’ve never visited, in addition to the market there’s a quaint village and some outlet shopping in an area with a strong Mennonite heritage. There are hundreds of vendors, inside and out. I love the sounds, sights and smells of markets and prefer to visit when the late summer harvest is in full swing. With so much fresh produce to choose from and even a seafood vendor that sells fresh tuna, Salad Niçoise is a perfect recipe to enjoy your purchases.
I’d been wanting to check out Caudles Catch Seafood for ages. When I found out they actually have a stall at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, I thought what a perfect excuse to go on a little excursion.
So what exactly is Salad Niçoise? Well for starters it’s pronounced “knee swaz.” After that it gets fairly complicated. I did a little research and discovered there’s quite the debate about what should and should not be included in this salad. Quite entertaining reading actually. Some versions say canned tuna. Some say never any cooked beans or potatoes. Experts even disagree on how to serve the salad – tossed or plated in arranged order. So, just for clarification, this is MY VERSION of Salad Niçoise. I don’t want to get beat up. Over a salad.Jump to Recipe
My perfect salad starts with a base of mixed greens.
I add cooked potatoes and green beans that have been marinated in some of the dressing. They can be cold or room temperature. Mini baby potatoes look best but you can quarter or eighth a regular potato.
Then I top with hard boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes.
Add to that some olives – Niçoise olives would obviously be the best choice but Kalamata are great in this too. And capers. I love the salty briny taste these add to the salad. Most “authentic” recipes call for anchovies but I skip them. Feel free to add them if you like. If your olives have pits, crush them with the side of a knife, they (usually) split open so you can take the pit out easily. You can cut them in half or leave them whole.
Finally, sear a thick good quality tuna steak in a really hot pan. Make sure you season both sides with salt and pepper, and add a bit of olive oil so the tuna doesn’t stick. This is what real tuna looks like.
You want a really nice crust on the outside and rare inside. If you aren’t comfortable with rare tuna, go ahead and cook it through. But trust me, if you haven’t tried it this way you really should! I serve about 1/4 pound of tuna per person.
It looks really nice with slices of tuna fanned on top of the salad. Cut it against the grain so it looks like this.
Finish with a good drizzle of dressing. A basic oil, vinegar, dijon dressing with tarragon is perfect on a Salad Niçoise. If you add some thinly sliced red onion to the dressing and let it marinate for a while before serving, the onion mellows a bit.
If this doesn’t make you salivate, we can’t be friends.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 oz mixed greens 1 large handful per person
- ½ lb fresh tuna steak
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 8 mini potatoes
- 2 handfuls green beans
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- 12 niçoise or kalamata olives
- 2 tsp capers
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon or 1 tsp dried
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced red onion soaked in cold water or dressing for milder
- salt and pepper
- Combine dressing ingredients and shake well in a container. Chill. Onions can be added at this time or pre soaked in cold water to make them less pungent.
- Place eggs in pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 13-17 minutes depending on desired yolk consistency. 13 minutes will give slightly softer yolks and 17 will be fully cooked. Drain and cool in ice water.
- Scrub potatoes. Rinse beans, cut in half and remove stems. Boil potatoes until just fork tender, adding beans for last 2 minutes. Drain well. Add about 2 Tbsp of dressing and toss. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Rinse, drain and dry greens well. Arrange on 2 large plates.
- Prepare other salad ingredients. Remove pits from olives and cut in half if desired or leave whole. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Peel and quarter boiled eggs.
- Pat tuna dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Sear in a hot pan with olive oil. Depending on desired cook, anywhere from 1 minute per side for rare to 4-5 minutes per side if cooking through. For well done, reduce heat after searing to prevent drying out. Rare or medium rare is highly recommended for this salad. Allow tuna to rest while plating salad.
- Arrange marinated potatoes and beans over greens, including any dressing. Lay eggs, tomatoes, olives and capers over salad.
- Slice tuna and divide between 2 salads in a fan pattern or other presentation. Drizzle with dressing, including on top of the tuna. You may not need all the dressing.