French in a Flash: Seared Rare Niçoise Tuna Lettuce Cups


[Photograph: Kerry Saretsky]

Nothing makes me run for salad like the first sight of springtime sunshine. All I want are bright, light things that still fill me up after a day at the office. I love a classic, but a classic can be so much more fun when you have a little irreverent play with it.

Take the Niçoise salad: torn leaves topped with potatoes, egg, green beans, tomatoes, and canned tuna and anchovies. My favorite restaurant in Paris has a perennial dish on the menu called "Niçoise à Ma Façon," or, "Niçoise Salad, My Way." It's a life-altering tumble of baby gem lettuce, slightly soft French green beans, new potatoes, crumbled purple potato chips, caper berries, anchovies, canned albacore, slivered pickled garlic, fried shallots, and hard boiled egg, tossed in a creamy, soft lemon dressing. A Niçoise salad is the kind of quotidian dish that you eat without consequence at a million other places, but you come back from Paris talking about Niçoise à Ma Façon.

Inspired, I took a shot a trying Niçoise à My Façon. I bag the canned fish for barely seared rare fresh tuna and good white marinated anchovies, dice them up with fresh, crisp haricots verts and baby grape tomatoes and hearty purple or golden potatoes, and then hit it with briny olives and capers, fresh basil, and bright lemon and olive oil. I spoon the mixture into delicate lettuce cups and eat them like tacos. Provençal at its best!

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