Servings: 2 entree-sized portions
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Why is it called a Nicoise Salad?
The Salade Nicoise is the most famous of all French salads. It’s named for the city where it originated – Nice. Nice is located in Provence, home of my favorite Rose wines. I cannot wait to visit one day! Traditionally, a Nicoise Salad was served as a first course or appetizer, ahead of the main meal.
What is in this Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad with Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette?
A Nicoise Salad typically contains tuna, haricot verts, black Nicoise olives and often has boiled potatoes and eggs. And aside from the dressing and the seared tuna steak vs. the traditional canned variety, this Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad stays pretty close to the original French recipe.
The red-skinned potatoes get a quick drizzle of olive oil and bake up crispy in the oven, and you’ll sear the tuna in a cast iron skillet to whatever doneness you prefer. You only need a few slices of tuna per person, so splurge on a good quality tuna steak. We also have green beans growing like crazy, and they add some good crunch to this salad. My favorite way to eat green beans is in their raw state. If you like them better cooked, just blanch them in a pot of boiling water for one minute, then plunge them into a cold water bath. It will make them super green and pretty.
I decided to use red leaf lettuce as the base for this salad. It’s the prettiest lettuce out there, and even prettier when you see it before it’s picked. The base of the leaves start out green, and the color kind of morphs into a purplish-red towards the top. They also have a pretty ruffled shape to them that’s just beautiful in salads like this one. Red leaf lettuce is supple and mild in flavor, not as crispy as romaine but not as soft as bibb or butter lettuce. Since it’s on the more delicate side, I like to dress red leaf lettuce with vinegar-based dressings vs. creamier ones. That said, I did sneak a little buttermilk into the Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette, and I’m not sorry about it.
The Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette
Tarragon gets less attention than the big summer herbs – ahem, basil – so I’m glad it gets the spotlight in this dressing because it deserves it! Tarragon is a natural complement to fish and seafood, so it was an easy choice for dressing this tuna-centric salad. It is also a great marinade for shrimp and really nice when gently tossed with lump crab meat and avocado.
Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad with Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette
- 1 head of red leaf lettuce leaves washed and left whole
- 3 eggs hard-boiled
- 1/2 lb. ahi or yellowfin tuna
- 1 cup green beans
- 3 cups red-skinned potatoes sliced into rounds and/or wedges
- 3/4 cup pitted black olives
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon minced
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes, leaving the skins on. Slice into rounds and/or wedges and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, make the vinaigrette: Whisk the lemon juice, tarragon, buttermilk, shallot, Dijon, fish sauce and honey in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until incorporated.
- To prepare the tuna, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Using your fingers, press a generous amount of salt and pepper into both sides of the tuna steak. Sear 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and slice into strips.
- To assemble, arrange the lettuce leaves in a large bowl or serving dish. Top with tuna, eggs, green beans, potatoes and olives. Drizzle with vinaigrette.