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Archive for September 20th, 2010

What could be better for a Summer Sunday lunch on a scorcher of a day – a ‘too hot to cook’ type of hot day!  I was delighted when I discovered this recipe on the back of the pack of tuna and it was perfect for a busy day, just before we went on holiday, when lots of cooking was the last thing on my agenda.  (We followed it with an ice cream dessert).   Salad Niçoise is a specialty of the Côte d’Azur region of France, originating in and named after the Mediterranean port city of Nice.  Traditionally red peppers and shallots are used with the French insistent that no cooked vegetables be added, whilst it is not always usual to include salad leaves.   With these reservations, Salad Niçoise is usually understood to be a mixed salad which includes four essentials: tuna, egg, French green beans and olives mixed with other salad ingredients, all of which is tossed with a vinaigrette dressing.

My recipe starting point was found on the back of a pack of Finest Catch Frozen Tuna Steaks.  (This appears to be a small company without a website address, but their fish retails through a small nationwide chain of supermarkets and I have been very pleased with it, especially their Oak Smoked Haddock.)  I find frozen tuna steaks easy to use and relatively economical though if I was cooking for a special occasion I would choose fresh tuna steaks.  Alternatively, this can be served at a buffet with the tuna steak replaced with the contents of two tins of tuna chunks, which are placed on top just before serving at the same time as the eggs and olives.  (It should go without saying that Tuna should come only from a sustainable source and be line caught.)  I had all the ingredients to hand, the one exception being that I had a jar green olives already open, so decided to use these rather than the usual black ones.  I added a couple of additional salad ingredients which we usually enjoy: cucumber and pepper, this time orange.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Salad Niçoise
(Serves 4) 

4 Tuna steaks  (or 2 tins of Tuna chunks in brine, drained)
1tbsp butter
1tbsp olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
salt & black pepper

For the salad:
2oog small new potatoes (cook with a sprig of mint, optional)
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered
175g green french beans, topped & tailed
100g lettuce (original recipe suggests 1 head Romaine – I substituted a mixed bag)
150g cherry tomatoes, halved (or larger tomatoes cut into quarters or eighths)
1 small red onion, finely sliced
50g pitted olives, black (original recipe) or green or mixed colours
4inches/10cm cucumber cut into four lengthways and chopped
1 orange/red/yellow pepper diced (optional)
6tbsp vinaigrette dressing (have more available if needed)

1.  Scrub the potatoes and boil until soft.  Add a sprig of mint to the boiling water (optional).  Drain and cool.

2.  Hard boil the eggs in their shells.  Cool immediately in cold water to avoid a grey ring around the yolk.  When cool, crack and remove the shell, quarter and set aside.

3.  Blanch the beans by pouring over boiling water which should be just enough to slightly soften while they retain their bright green colour.  Immerse in cold water to stop them from overcooking, drain and set aside.

4.  Prepare the remaining salad items except for the olives and pieces of egg.  Stir in the cooled potatoes and beans.  Dress with the vinaigrette and gently mix together.

5.  Melt a little butter in a frying pan and add a little olive oil and heat until the butter has just melted.  Place the Tuna steaks in the saucepan, season with salt & pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice.  When the Tuna steak has a light colour on on one side, turn it adding a little extra olive oil if necessary and cook until the second side is also lightly coloured.  The fish should not be overcooked and should still be a little pink in the centre.  Alternatively, cook the Tuna steak in your own preferred way.

6.  Serve a pile of salad onto each plate, placing a still warm tuna steak on the top and decorating with the pieces of egg and olives.  Alternatively serve the tuna steaks separately, decorating one large dish of tossed salad with the olives and egg pieces so that guests can serve themselves.  Drizzle just a little extra olive oil over the salad if you wish, or have extra dressing and seasoning available for guests to help themselves.

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