Nancy Fitch, owner and chef at The Pomegranate, in Artisans Alley, says she has a special fondness for the Salad Niçoise on her menu. When visiting in France, this is what she orders in “just about every place I go.” The classic salad often has anchovies, and can have fava beans or other vegetables in it — each menu probably offers its own variations.
But Fitch, who also owns The Peach Cafe in Boerne, leaves off the anchovy and puts seared ahi tuna fillet on hers, along with slim, just-cooked green beans, hard-cooked egg, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, potatoes and radicchio lettuce. The result is colorful and delicious. Share the full-sized salad at lunch with a friend, and it sets you back a relatively slim $10. (We’d also suggest a cup of the Crawfish Bisque, if it is on the menu. It is excellent.)
The Pomegranate’s Salad Niçoise
2 fillets (4-6 ounces each) fresh ahi tuna
Herbes de Provence, for seasoning (see note)
1 head butter lettuce
4 leaves radicchio (use tender, inner leaves)
4 medium new potatoes, cooked, cooled, cut into large, bite-sized chunks and lightly tossed in dressing (recipe follows)
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
½ large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and cut into strips. Or, use canned red bell pepper
Handful of haricots verts (slim green beans) or 8 medium or small spears asparagus, cooked but not overcooked, cooled to room temperature.
2-3 artichoke hearts (not in heavy marinade), sliced in half
Cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or homemade aioli)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch salt and white pepper, to taste
For the Salad:
Lightly oil and season the tuna fillets with herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Sear them on both sides on a grill, a minute or so on each side. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Note: If you don’t have herbes de Provence, you can mix your own by using small amounts, in any combination, of sage, fennel seed, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, basil, lavender and thyme.
On plates, arrange leaves of butter lettuce and radicchio attractively. Mix potatoes with dressing and set in refrigerator until ready to put on the plate.
Slice tuna across the grain and put each sliced fillet on top of the lettuces on each plate. Slice hard-cooked eggs in half and put on plate. Put potatoes in center and add strips of bell pepper (keep them all together, not scattered over salad). Then, arrange the green beans or asparagus in another bunch on the plate. Place artichokes, cherry tomatoes and olives. It should look hearty and colorful (be sure the plate is large enough to comfortably eat from.)
Dressing for Potatoes (and more for salad, if desired)
Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients until well combined and smooth. Toss the potatoes in the dressing. If you want more dressing to serve with the salad, double the recipe and put the dressing on the side.
Makes 2 main-dish servings.
From Nancy Fitch, chef/owner, The Pomegranate, in Artisans Alley, 555 W. Bitters Road
Photographs by Bonnie Walker