Next week is my favorite week of the year: my annual family trip to Provence. Every year it’s a different town—some by the sea, some tucked into the little mountains. But there’s always the same punch flavors of olives, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
Salade Niçoise is the requisite seaside order for hot days when the sun is beating down. But, as perfect as it is to order when you’re out, it’s a pain to make at home. I make this version when I want to evoke the flavors of Provence—and the rocky beaches, cliff-tossed breezes, and mile-high blue skies—without having to boil eggs, potatoes, and green beans. I sear tuna crusted in herbes de Provence on the grill until it’s rare, thinly slice it, and fan it out over a delicate bed of finely sliced tomatoes and silky butter lettuce. A quick dressing of basil, olive oil, vinegar, and black olive tapenade evokes all the traditional flavors. And, to gild the lily, it’s crowned with fried (or fresh) capers instead of croutons.
Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.
- 8 ounces fresh tuna steak
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- 1 tablespoons dried herbes de Provence
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons, plus more for frying the capers
- 2 tablespoons capers in brine, rinsed and meticulously dried
- 2 tablespoons bought black olive tapenade
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 to 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus extra for the salad
- 1 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
- 1 head Bibb lettuce, torn
- 1/2 lemon, halved
Preheat a grill pan over high heat. Season the tuna liberally with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over the outside of the seasoned fish. Grill 1 minute on each side, and set aside.
To fry the capers, heat a shy inch of oil in a small saucepot until it shimmers. Carefully add the capers (they will splatter) and fry until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel. You can also just add the capers as they are, without frying.
To make the vinaigrette, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the tapenade, vinegar, garlic, 10 basil leaves, and salt and pepper.
To assemble the salad, arrange the tomatoes on the bottom of a serving dish. Scatter the lettuce on top, and then some whole basil leaves. Slice the tuna about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and arrange over the lettuce and basil. Drizzle the vinaigrette all over, and crown with the capers. Serve the lemon quarters on the side, and maybe some good warm Poilâne-style bread.print this recipe