Sunday, 7 June 2015

Salad Nicoise and Meinklang Grüner Veltliner

Summer's here! And with it asparagus! And all the wonderful fresh herbs! And new potatos! We've even booked our days off for summer holiday (though, having only just started our respective new jobs, our budget might only stretch to a last minute deal somewhere in Albania...)

But in the meanwhile there's no reason to celebrate summer with this summer classic from South of France. This version is an ode to all the fresh produce markets are heaving with right now and a slightly better version of the original. Instead of a tinned tuna this uses herb crusted fresh tuna and tomatos, too are elevated to a whole new level by slow-roasting them in the oven. Instead of limp, lifeless, watery haricots verts I used asparagus because... well, why not?

It's roasting of the tomatos that takes up most of the time, but that can well be done the day before. If you live somewhere in the South of Italy (or France...) your tomatos are probably bursting with flavour already as it is, so you can just use them as they are (in which case half of the amount listed below will do).  You could of course just steam the potatos and asparagus, too.

Serves 3-4, as a starter 4-5

Salad Nicoise with herb crusted tuna and slow-roasted tomatos

Slow-roasted tomatos:

500 g cherry tomatos
a couple of tsp oil
1 tbsp thyme leaves
a couple of cloves of garlic
salt, pepper

Roasted new potatos:

500 g new potatos
2 sprigs of rosemary

Roasted asparagus:

bunch of asparagus
salt, pepper

Herb crusted tuna:

350 g piece of fresh tuna loin
salt, pepper
1 heaped dl of chopped fresh herbs (I used a mix of tarragon, thyme and rosemary)


1 small red onion, cut into thin rings
4 eggs (boiled to the preferred hardness)
handful of olives
a couple of handfuls of basil leaves

Salad dressing:

5 anchovies
1 clove of garlic
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 dl oil
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
(salt, white pepper)

In a bowl combine oil, finely chopped garlic and thyme leaves. Cut the tomatos in half and toss in oil. Place on a parchment-lined tray and roast at 125° for 3-3,5 hours (depending on the size). Leave to cool and prep the rest of the salad.

Increase the oven temperature to 225. Brush the potatos and cut in half (if they're bigger, cut in 4). Place in an oven proof dish with rosemary, season with salt and drizzle a couple of glugs of oil on top. Toss together and roast for 30-40 minutes until done (depending on the size), tossing every now and then. About 10 minutes before potatos are done, start roasting the asparagus, too.

Trim the dry stalks, place in another oven-proof dish, drizzle a couple of tbsp oil on top, season with salt and roast for 10-15 minutes (depending on their size). Let potatos and asparagus cool and prep the sauce.

Mix everything together using a small food processor or using a pestle and a mortar, first rub anchovies and garlic clove into a paste. Add lemon juice, stir until smooth and add oil and balsamico. Check the taste and season if needed.

Then prep the tuna. Pat dry, brush with oil, season with salt and pepper and press minced herbs onto the fish. Sear on a hot frying pan for 1/2 min - couple of minutes/ side (depends on the thickness, you want it to remain very rosé in the middle!) and leave to rest for a while. In the meanwhile combine the ingredients for the salad and add dressing. 

Cut tuna into slices of your preferred thickness and add into the salad. Serve.

A classic companion for this classic dish would be a nice little bistro overlooking a marina somewhere in French Riviera and a glass of chilled local rosé. But here's another, not so traditional, but a very nice wine pairing.

Grüner Veltliner is the best known grape in Austria and this biodynamic wine from Meinklang is a great specimen. It's got a great, aromatic fruitiness to it, followed by mineral notes and peppery acidity. So it can take on the tanginess dressing and the acidity of the tomatos and the onion, while balancing the richness of the tuna and eggs.

The herby quality of the wine pairs well with the summery herbs of the dish and this is a particularly great wine  for dishes containing tarragon of basil. 

A great recommendation to summer's picnics and parties - superb value for money and suitable for those vegan guests, too...!

Roasting brings such wonderful depth to veggies, especially tomatos. Just try this sublime roasted tomato soup with basil oil!




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