Seattle on a sunny spring day is one of the most beautiful places to be, colorful daffodils and cherry blossoms brighten everything up. You will have a clear view of Mt Rainer and the Olympic mountains over the Sound. Unfortunately, we don’t always get a lot of those types of days – I mean, it is Seattle; and spring can sometimes feel like an extension of winter. Whenever we do a get a day (or couple of days) of true Spring, it seems to inspire everyone: parks are full of happy kids, the favorite hiking spots are packed, any restaurant with a good view of the water will be very busy, Farmer’s Markets are bustling, it’s an amazing place. All this activity inspires me to cook food that matches the settings: colorful, vibrant, healthy, something you would enjoy eating on the patio or as a picnic. But at the same time I want to prepare dishes that can be prepped ahead of time and are not too time consuming, because I also want some time to go hiking, or just sit on patio and enjoy the sunset with a glass of Washington wine.
I wanted to make a salad that would be delicious and refreshing, but also have enough substance to be a satisfying meal. A nicoise salad would be perfect: its colors match the spring colors and it has a great variety of flavors. This classic French salad originated in Nice (supposedly) and has many variations, but most include tuna fish, potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, Nicoise olives and capers. If you have time and want to give it a fresh twist you use fresh tuna – grilled or seared – or even cure your own. One of the best nicoise salads I had was in Walla Walla at small French restaurant called Brasserie Four, they cured their own tuna and it was spectacular.
Of course, I had to mess with a classic and add some non-traditional ingredients to my nicoise salad: avocado slices, lime marinated onions, and yes, cilantro and Serrano peppers in the vinaigrette. This nicoise salad is also great for parties; salads are must-have whenever I have a lunch or dinner party. I like to have a large salad platter that is colorful and inviting, people should be excited about eating a salad. Since I served it on a platter, I didn’t want people to worry about having to toss the salad, so I mixed part of the vinaigrette with the lettuce and potatoes before arranging them on the salad platter. The quantities in this salad will serve 8-10 people.
Classic Nicoise salad recipe - tuna fish, potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, olives and capers - with a Latin twist by adding avocado slices, lime marinated onions and a spicy serrano cilantro vinaigrette.
- ½ red onion, sliced thinly
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1 head of lettuce, washed and cut into medium sized pieces
- 3 5 oz cans of tuna fish
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
- 1 ½ lbs. of fingerling potatoes, peeled
- 12 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in halves
- 8 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in quarters
- 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
- ½ cup olives, technically they should Niçoise olives
- 2 tbs capers
- 4-5 radishes, thinly julienned
- Juice from 2 lemons
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp mustard
- 1 tbs finely chopped parsley
- 1 tbs finely chopped cilantro
- 1 serrano pepper, finely diced
- 3 tbs olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Marinate the red onions slices in the lime juice with ½ tsp of salt for at least 30 minutes.
- Cook the fingerling potatoes in boiling water and boil until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes. Drain and let them cool down.
- Cook the green beans in boiling water until they are bright green and slightly tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain them and let them cool down in ice cold water to keep from overcooking and turning brown.
- To make the vinaigrette for the Nicoise salad, combine the lemon juice, crushed garlic cloves, mustard, chopped parsley, chopped cilantro, diced Serrano pepper, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl or container with a tight lid. With the lid on shake the bowl until all the ingredients are blended together.
- Toss the lettuce with ¼ of the vinaigrette and place on a large platter. Toss the fingerling potatoes with another ¼ of the vinaigrette. Arrange the cherry tomato halves, the hard-boiled eggs, tuna fish, potatoes and green beans on the platter.
- Arrange the avocado slices around the edges of the salad platter, add the olives and capers. Sprinkle the marinated onion, julienned radish bits, and the rest of the salad dressing over the salad.
- Serve immediately.