It absolutely kills me to disagree with Julia. But when it comes to using canned tuna versus fresh, I simply cannot abide her near-holy directives.
After all, Julia cooked during wartime, when canned tuna was all a gal could come by. I live in a world where fresh fish is abundant - and in the case of my one little $4 tuna steak at Jewel - inexpensive.
Julia's Salade Nicoise calls for canned tuna - that's just how it's traditionally made. Not only did I use a fresh tuna steak, I didn't use Nicoise olives, ostensibly rendering this salad not a Nicoise salad at all! My friend and host Emily, into whose apartment I'll be moving in 12 days (she's moving out), had never had tuna that wasn't from a can, and isn't much of a fish lover at all. I wanted to take this opportunity to school her (pun intended) about the glories of tuna steaks, which in my opinion are a lot more like steak than tuna.
I got really excited to make this salad when I realized that almost everything in it is in season (aaah...late summer!) - the green beans from the market were exquisite, the salad greens were fresh, and even the little thin-skinned new potatoes had an uncharacteristically sweet, creamy taste.
When combined with the eggs I had, and the black olives Emily had, I knew that bringing the salad together would be a snap.
SALADE NICOISE A LA GREEN CITY MARKET
2 big handfuls mixed salad greens
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
big handful fresh green beans, cut into pieces and blanched
~12 black (or nicoise) olives
1/2 c. halved grape tomatoes, any variety (we used orange ones)
4 small thin-skinned baby potatoes, boiled until tender, then sliced
1 medium tuna steak, fresh
a few spoonfuls capers
1/3 c. cucumbers, sliced into half-moons
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 T. mayo
1 T. grainy brown mustard
juice of one Meyer lemon
1 T. honey
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a grill pan or a nonstick skillet until hot. Cook the tuna on one side, seasoning the side facing up, until it's nice and browned. Flip and cook the other side until it matches, or until the tuna is cooked to your liking. Slice and set aside.
Arrange all the elements of the salad in little side-by-side piles and place the tuna on top.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad. Serve and enjoy!
Emily also relished learning how to make a quick dressing out of just a few staple ingredients - this is truly the only salad dressing I ever eat anymore.
The salad came out great, and I think Emily may be inching closer and closer to becoming a fish-eater - here's what she had to say:
"Considering I don't like fish and had never had tuna not from a can, I thought it was really good. I couldn't finish all my tuna though - baby steps. It was really good - a lovely mix of flavors in my mouth."
Not too shabby! We spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and using her measuring tape to figure out how in the world I'm going to fit all my worldly possessions into the new place - check back in a couple weeks for pics of the new kitchen and dining area!
Thanks for reading! And thanks to my lovely host Em - more soon...