Grilled Tuna Salad Nicoise is welcome at the summertime table
Peggy Lampman | Contributor
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Composed salads that include grilled proteins and vegetables are such a welcome addition to the summertime table, and certain meats, seafoods and vegetables lend themselves particularly well to these types of salads. And don’t forget the lettuce.
Grilled lettuce—really? Absolutely. Certain heartier lettuces hold their shape and are marvelous when exposed to the heat of a grill. Raddichio, for instance, loses some of its bitter edge sweetening into a unique, nutty flavor, as does endive or escarole. Any of those three lettuces would be great substitutes for the more delicate greens I used (not grilled) in the following recipe.
If you plan to make the substitute, simply halve or quarter the heads, ensuring the leaves remain connected at the stem end, brush with olive oil, and sear next to the tuna or alongside the potatoes when grilling. The lettuces will cook quickly and you’ll know they’re ready when softened and lightly charred. Then, chop and toss with the vinaigrette, right before making the platter.
There are many ways to for the grillmeister to approach the potatoes in the following recipe. I took the easy route and par-boiled them first, otherwise they’d take much longer to soften. With quick cooking tuna, extra grill time would be inefficient. Then, I cut my par-boiled potatoes in half (but you could also cut them into wedges or slices) before grilling. To add an extra flavor boost, place in a foil package over a bit of butter and herbs, before grilling.
Like an exquisite, top-drawer steak, I insist ahi (the Hawaiian word for tuna) be served seared on the outside and lukewarm—close to raw—through the center. If you’d prefer your tuna cooked medium-well, save your money and purchase a lesser grade of tuna. In fact, grilled salmon could substitute for the tuna if desired. You will want your tuna steaks to be a solid inch thick; no thinner. Get your grill as smoking hot as possible, then—after seasoning—grill the tuna about 2 minutes per side, keeping the grill covered.
This recipe spells time and money, but for me it’s worth it. It takes a good hour to assemble the ingredients before composing the platter, and if using sushi-grade tuna, be prepared to open your wallet extra wide. Some folks enjoy shopping for shoes, I save my nickels for ahi.
(The following recipe was inspired by a recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine. I made several small changes, the most notable using my own preferred vinaigrette.)
Yield: 6 servings
Time: 1 1/2 hours
Ingredients for Vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon minced shallot or garlic
3 tablespoons good French wine vinegar such as red, white or champagne
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-4 teaspoons chopped anchovies, optional
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
Ingredients for Salad:
1/2 pounds haricot verts (thin, French-styled green beans), stems removed
18 small potatoes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons honey
4 (1-inch-thick) fresh yellowfin tuna steaks (about 2 pounds)*
5 cups spicy green lettuce such as watercress or arugula
5 cups leafy lettuce such as red leaf or bibb
Vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 pound small red, yellow, and orange tomatoes cut into wedges
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered
1 cup Nicoise or Greek black olive, pitted
*Yellowfin tuna is expensive; you could get away using 1 1/2 pounds
1. To make vinaigrette, macerate (soak) shallot or garlic in vinegar 30 minutes, if time allows. Whisk mustard, olive oil, anchovies (if using), and tarragon into vinegar. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. Refrigerate and reserve.
2. Bring two pots of salted water to a vigorous boil. In one pot blanch green beans about 2 minutes or until crisp tender. Drain in ice cold water to zap color. Reserve. Cook the potatoes in the other pot until just tender when pricked with the prongs of a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain, cool, slice in half, lightly season with kosher salt and reserve.
3. Bring a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Combine mayonnaise and honey and brush over tuna steaks. Season both sides of tuna with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill tuna, covered, 2-2 1/2 minutes per side for rare. Remove from grill and reserve. Grill potatoes over medium heat about 5 minutes on each side.
4. Thinly slice tuna steaks diagonally. Toss lettuces in half of the reserved vinaigrette and place on one large platter or individual plates. Arrange potatoes, beans, egg, tuna, tomatoes and olives around greens and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Serve.
Peggy Lampman is a real-time food writer and photographer posting daily feeds on her website and in the Food & Grocery section of Annarbor.com. You may also e-mail her at email@example.com.