Throwback Thursday: Tuna Salad

Because I'm somewhat known in my social circles as a fairly accomplished home chef, I'm often asked what's for lunch or dinner. Sometimes the shortened version of an answer is "tuna salad". However that can sometimes cause confusion when someone imagines a creamy spread over slices of bread and this is actually what I mean:

Tuna salad is a term that isn't clear enough for what I'm talking about here, although this version isn't quite niçoise salad since it doesn't include niçoise olives. That said, I'm far more likely to have a sense of understanding from others when I call it that, so that's what I've called it below, even though any variety (including a variety) of olives will do just fine on the plate. If you come up with a better way to describe it, please let me know!

While the ways I've referred to it focus on the tuna and the olives, I actually think the star of this amazing, colorful salad is the fun potato salad that fills anywhere from a quarter to a third of the plate. I also love that making that part of the salad involves pulling out a steamer (one of my favorite kitchen tools) and layering several ingredients into it and carefully pulling them out in reverse order. It means there are fewer dishes to clean later, they aren't as dirty as they might be if you boiled the veggies, and the veggies themselves retain brighter color and texture when cooked this way.

Of course, by placing a green layer on the bottom of the plate and then making a beautiful pallet of color to enjoy, this dish asks you to be a bit of an artist in your kitchen. Few dishes get as much oohs and aahs as those assembled in this manner. But fear not, this salad is both beautiful and delicious. Sometimes you really don't have to sacrifice anything when you're putting dinner on the table, even if you're not entirely sure what to call it!

Niçoise Salads

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. baby potatoes, scrubbed and (if needed) sliced in half
  • 1 c. green and/or yellow beans, cleaned and ends removed
  • 1 c. finely chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. mixed gourmet salad greens
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced into coins
  • 1 small tomato, sliced into wedges
  • About a half dozen gourmet olives of your choice — I used feta-stuffed green olives
  • 1 (5 oz.) can high-quality chunk-style tuna in oil, drained
  • 2 oz. chèvre, crumbled

Prepare a steamer basket over a pot of water. Carefully place the eggs, potatoes, and beans in the steamer basket. Cover the steamer and boil for 6 minutes. Using kitchen tongs, carefully remove the beans to a bowl. Replace the lid on the steamer and, once the beans are slightly cool, cut them into bite-sized pieces and return them to the bowl.

After another 8 minutes, carefully remove the eggs using the tongs and place them in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. When the hard-boiled eggs are cool; peel and slice them into quarters.

Check the potatoes in another 5 minutes by carefully piercing them with a wooden skewer. If they are soft throughout, remove them from the steamer basket and place them in the bowl with the cooked beans. Add the spinach and red onion on top of the potatoes.

In a small resealable jar, combine the mustard, vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil. Shake vigorously to combine. Pour the dressing over the beans, potatoes, spinach, and red onion. Toss well to coat.

Divide the salad greens evenly among two serving plates. Spoon a generous portion of the potato mixture onto one side of the greens. Arrange the remaining ingredients on the plate, grouping them together in small piles. Sprinkle the entire plate with crumbled chèvre.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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