Since so many of you asked for recipes that include the bounty of the garden and a fish recipe, this is my proposal for today. This is The Other Half's all time favorite recipe, even nudging out the roast chicken that he will tell people is the reason he decided to date me in the first place - but that is another story and recipe for another day. This recipe comes from Ina Garten's "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" - in my opinion a work of culinary genius in it's simplicity of style and big impact of flavor.
Couple of notes:
Get a nice piece of tuna - it can be pricey I know, but it is worth it. And I will jump up on my environmental stump for a minute and say that if you can get wild caught friendly-to dolphin tuna your karma will be much better and, I like to believe, you will have a better tasting meal just for your good deed. But I digress...
This meal is definitely better in the summertime when you can get fresh herbs, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes and arugula. And though it might seem like a lot of prep work it just requires a little time management to have an amazing meal. The vegetables can be swapped out for what is fresh at your farmer's market - just try to have a variety of texture, color and taste of your plate. I have used asparagus in place of the green beans when it was in season and also added grilled zucchini or squash a couple of times.
I make one batch of vinaigrette and use 3/4 in the potato salad and the rest to dress the meal but that is up to your discretion - we tend to like things lighter in the sauce department. If you think you might want to have more vinaigrette, just double the recipe. Add the olive oil very slowly to the other ingredients, whisking as you pour to make sure everything binds. You will know it is time to add more olive oil when you vinaigrette is milky looking.
Final note - this really is best eaten freshly made so if you think you might be pressed for time, try it on the weekend when you can hopefully carve a little time out with a glass of wine and some music going, to enjoy this process. The outcome is well worth the effort.
Grilled Tuna Nicoise
1 (1-inch-thick) fresh tuna steaks per person
Good olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 lb string beans, stems removed and blanched, per person (to blanch drop beans in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes then take out and drop immediately in a bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking process)
French Potato Salad, recipe below
1 small ripe tomato per person, cut into wedges
1 hard-boiled egg per person, peeled and cut into slices
Blanche beans and prep your other vegetables. To grill the tuna, get a charcoal or stove-top cast iron grill very hot (I use my trusty cast iron pan). Brush the fish with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, both sides. Grill each side for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for rare adding a 25 seconds for each level of wellness desired. (Be careful not to overcook the tuna or it will get tough.) Arrange the tuna, green beans, potato salad, tomatoes, eggs, olives, arugula on a plate.
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
Combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.
French Potato Salad
1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine (cook with what you are willing to drink)
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger, but try and keep the piecs a similar size) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes for the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.
Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Add vinaigrette to the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.