Our July cooking column features three fantastic summery cookbooks, including Patricia Wells' 12th book, Salad as a Meal. It includes over 150 recipes that each challenge and expand the definition of a salad, and this recipe is a great example of her creativity and the heartiness of her dishes. For those of us who are trying to eat healthier but finding it leaves tummies a little empty, this book is just great.
The modern salade Niçoise can be many things. I like mine with grilled fresh tuna, green beans and steamed potatoes, multicolored heirloom cherry tomatoes, a few nicely dressed greens, and a soft touch of anchovy. 4 servingsEquipment:
- A 10-quart pasta pot filled with a colander
- A steamer
- A wood or charcoal fire
- 9 quarts water
- ¼ cup coarse sea salt
- 1 pound slim haricot verts (green beans), trimmed at both ends
- 1 pound yellow- fleshed potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)
- Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing
- Four 6-ounce, 3/4-inch thick tuna steaks
- Fine sea salt
- Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups firmly packed buttercrunch lettuce
- 8 ripe heirloom cherry tomatoes, preferably green, yellow, and red, halved
- 4 Hard- Cooked Eggs, quartered lengthwise
- 8 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
- ¼ cup chives
Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
Fill the pasta pot with 8 quarts of water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the salt and beans and cook until crisp- tender, about 5 minutes. (Cooking time will vary according to the size and tenderness of the beans.) Immediately remove the colander from the water, allowing the water to drain from the beans. Plunge the beans into the ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible. (The beans will cool in 1 to 2 minutes. If you leave them longer, they will become soggy and begin to lose flavor.) Drain the beans and wrap them in a thick towel to dry. (Store the beans in the towel in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.)
Prepare a wood or charcoal fire. Set the grill rack about 5 inches from the heat. The fire is ready when the coals glow red and are covered with ash.
Scrub the potatoes but do not peel them. Bring 1 quart of water to a simmer in the bottom of a steamer. Place the potatoes on the steaming rack. Place the rack over the simmering water, cover, and steam just until the potatoes are fully cooked, about 25 minutes. While still warm, place the potatoes in a small bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat them.
Season the tuna lightly with salt and pepper. Place the tuna at the 10 o’clock position on the hot grill rack. After 1 minute, rotate the tuna a quarter- turn to the right, to 2 o’clock. One minute later, flip the tuna over to the uncooked side, grill marks up, pointing to 10 o’clock. Grill for 1 minute and rotate to 2 o’clock again, cooking until the tuna is done to your liking. Transfer the tuna to a platter, season again with salt and pepper, and cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat the lettuce. Place the tomatoes in another bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat them. Place the green beans in another bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat them.
Set a tuna steak at the edge of a large dinner plate. Arrange the lettuce, green beans, potatoes, eggs, and tomatoes alongside. Arrange the anchovies in a crisscross pattern on top and sprinkle with the chives. Serve.
WINE SUGGESTION: I never tire of one of our longtime favorite rosés, the legendary Bandol Rosé from the Domaine Tempier, a mineral- scented wine that is as versatile, and pleasing, as they come.