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What Is Tuna Nicoise?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tuna nicoise is a French main dish salad that may be served warm or cold. Nicoise is French for "made in the city of Nice," which is in France. While fresh tuna steaks may be used for the dish, some people use the canned variety instead. The ingredients for tuna nicoise vary widely depending on personal preferences and where it is made, but typically this salad dish contains anchovies, eggs and vegetables.

Potatoes, green beans, red onions and tomatoes are the most common vegetables used in this tuna salad dish. Many cooks like to use early, or small, potatoes. They should be cooked until tender without being mushy. The green beans should also be tender, yet not overcooked, so they're still a little crispy as well as vibrant in color. The tomatoes and onions aren't cooked, but are left raw. Either cherry tomatoes or regular sized ones that are cut into wedges may be used, while the onions may be sliced into very thin rings. For cold tuna nicoise, the base could be a large chilled plate or platter to which cold salad greens such as romaine lettuce may be added.

The prepared vegetables may be tossed with a dressing of lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, anchovy paste, minced garlic, vinegar and seasonings such as basil and thyme before placing them on the plate. Fresh herbs such as tarragon or parsley may also be used in this main dish salad. The cooked tuna or canned fish, sliced hard boiled eggs, capers and olives are then added to the plate. More dressing is typically served on the side when the platter of tuna nicoise is brought to the table. This way, diners can add more dressing to the portions on their plates if it's needed as they enjoy the salad.

If tuna steak rather than the canned variety is used, it may be grilled or fried. Some cooks who make tuna nicoise prefer to simmer the fresh fish steaks in a little broth, or boullion. Poaching the tuna in this way can make it very soft and tender while still allowing it to remain firm. Although the ingredients for this dish are simple, the look of them arranged attractively on a platter can also be elegant. This main dish is ideal for warmer weather and can be rounded out with French bread, or baguette, and a pleasant wine.

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