I have been meaning to post this forever. But the recipe seemed daunting to recreate here, so I've been putting it off, but it's time. Because this one made me quite proud. It's just a freaking salad, I know, but it looked so pretty in its platter. And was perfect for a blazing hot day LAST Sunday when the last thing I felt like doing was slaving over a hot stove. While there is some stove-topping required, it's just a little blanching and boiling here and there. Nothing you have to babysit while your face melts.
For this I turned once again to my trusted America's Test Kitchen Compendium: The Best Recipe. I don't know where I'd be without this book. I have never, NEVER made anything from here that didn't turn out just like I breathlessly anticipated. If you're looking for an all-purpose staple cookbook (that also provides detailed, scientific accounts of why alternate cooking methods just don't work), this is the one. And while there are no great photos to salivate over, the detailed illustrations more than make up for it.
This recipe seemed a little fussy when I first looked at it, but of course they provided a compelling rationale for dressing everything separately, so I went ahead and did it that way. I think it made a difference, As far as the explicit iinstructions for where to place each ingredient on the lettuce mound, well, I think it's safe to say I ignored most of that completely.
1/2 cup juice from 2-3 large lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and ground black pepper
1/1/4 pounds red potatoes (about 10 small), scrubbed and quartered
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
ground black pepper
2 medium heads Boston or Bibb lettuce, leaves washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 6 oz cans olive-oil packed tuna, drained
3 small vine-ripened tomatoes, each cored and cut into eighths
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
8 oz green beans, stem ends trimmed and halved crosswise
4 hard boiled eggs (peeled and quartered lengthwise)
1/4 cup nicoise olives
10-12 anchovy fillets (optional)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed (optional)
1. For the vinaigrette: Whisk lemon juice, oil, shallot, herbs and mustard in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
2. For the salad: Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until the potatoes are tender when poked with a paring knife, 5-8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl (do not discard the cooking water). Toss the potatoes with the vermouth and salt and pepper to taste; let stand one minute. Toss in 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Set aside.
3. While the potatoes cook, toss the lettuce with 1/4 cup of vinaigrette in a large bowl until coated. Arrange a bed of lettuce on a large, flat, serving platter. Place the tuna in the now empty bowl and break up with a fork. Add 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and stir to combine. Mound the tuna in the center of the lettuce. Toss the tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste in the now empty bowl then arrange this mixture in another mound at the edge of the lettuce bed. Arrange the reserved potatoes in a separate mound at the edge of the lettuce bed.
4. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Return the water used to cook the potatoes to the boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and the green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3-5 minutes. Drain the beans, transfer to the ice water and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds. Dry the beans well on a triple layer of paper towels. Toss the beans, 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in the now empty bowl; arrange in a separate mound at the edge of the lettuce bed.
5. Arrange the eggs, olives and anchovies (if using) in separate mounds at the edge of the lettuce bed. Drizzle the eggs with the remaining 2 tablespoons vinaigrette, sprinkle the entire salad with capers (if using) and serve immediately.
1. I am fatigued by the number of times I just had to type "lettuce bed" "vinaigrette" and "mound" in one entry
2. I have never been a big fan of anchovies straight-up so I left out this optional ingredient out, (but I did use the capers).
3. I actually halved this recipe successfully, but made the suggested amount of dressing so that there would be leftovers. It was a very delicious dressing, one that I might use over and over.
4. The vermouth seemed like a weird thing to add to potatoes, but it made them so tasty. Who would have thought?