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Cooking With Myra: Tuna Nicoise Salad great summer meal

Sept. 6, 2010 at 4:06 a.m.
Updated Sept. 7, 2010 at 4:07 a.m.

Tuna Nicoise Salad

Tuna Nicoise Salad18 small (baby) red potatoes (about 11/4 pounds)

Kosher salt

12 oz thin green beans, trimmed

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

2 tsp. honey

11/2 pounds 1-inch-thick fresh tuna steaks

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tsp. Dijon mustard

4 oz small inner leaves of red leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces (41/2 lightly packed cups)

4 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry

16 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1 recipe Basil Vinaigrette (see below)

2 pounds. small ripe red, yellow, and orange tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 cup Nicoise olives (or other black olives)

3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered

Boil the potatoes and green beans:

Put the potatoes and 2 tsp. salt in a large saucepan, add enough water to cover by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until easily pierced with a wooden skewer, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Fill the saucepan three-quarters full of fresh water and bring to a boil. Add the green beans and 1/2 tsp. salt to the water and cook until you can just bite through a bean with little resistance, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking and set aside.

Grill the potatoes and tuna:

Heat a gas grill to high or prepare a hot charcoal fire.

Combine 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise and the honey in a small bowl. Season the tuna steaks with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and coat both sides with the mayonnaise mixture. When the grill is hot, then put the tuna on until dark marks start to show. This will only take about 3 minutes per side. If you want it rare, then grill for 1-2 minutes. Remember, the inside should appear to be raw and the outside cooked. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

Cut the potatoes in half and toss them in a mixing bowl with the remaining 2 Tbs. mayonnaise, the mustard, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Turn the grill to medium high or let the fire die down some. Grill the potatoes without disturbing except to flip, until brown grill marks form on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Assemble the salads:

Prepare the large dinner plates next. Put the red leaf lettuce, the arugula and half of the basil in a large mixing bowl and toss with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.

Divide the lettuce among the plates, piling it in neat, tall mounds at the top of the plate. Combine the tomatoes and basil and then toss with the vinaigrette. Place the tomatoes to the left of the lettuce and then the tuna. (See photo) Place olives in the middle of the plate and then toss the green beans in the vinaigrette and arrange. Place the grilled potatoes at the bottom of the plates. Tuck in the hard-cooked egg quarters wherever they look best. Drizzle a few teaspoons of the vinaigrette over the tuna and the potatoes on every plate. Serve immediately.


3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


5 Tbsp. finely chopped basil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. honey


Put all ingredients in a blender or jar and process together. This can be stored up to five days in the refrigerator. The basil will turn brown, so add it at the last minute if you plan to store and not use right away.

Focaccia is an Italian flat bread. It is also known as schiacciata and, in France, as fougasse. It is basic dough, which is pressed onto a baking sheet and topped with olive oil and herbs and garlic. The dough can be sliced through and served as sandwich bread or served as a snack and dipped in oil.

This dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days before baking. It is a great bread to serve with an Italian dinner. Your guests will think you kneaded for hours. It is easy to make and doesn't require a lot of kneading.

This bread recipe will make one 11x17-inch rectangle or shape it into a flat circle.

Focaccia Dough4 tsp. active dry yeast

Pinch sugar

2 cups warm water (105 degrees to 110 degrees)


5 cups unbleached all purpose or bread flour

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cornmeal for sprinkling

In a two cup measure, sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water and let stand until dissolved and foamy. This should take about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine salt and 3 cups flour. Stir in yeast mixture and olive oil and beat hard for 3 minutes. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough clears the sides of the bowl.

On a lightly floured surface, knead briefly to form a springy ball, adding only a tablespoon of flour at a time as needed to prevent dough from sticking to work surface. Dough will remain very moist and pliable. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until tripled in bulk. This should take about 11/2 hours.

Spray jelly roll pan (cookie sheet) with cooking spray. Sprinkle pan with cornmeal (about 2 Tbsp.) and place dough on pan. Use heel of hand to flatten dough. You can make into a 11x17-inch rectangle or a circle.

Let dough rise on cookie sheet for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

With fingertips, make indentions in the surface of dough. Drizzle olive oil over dough and let it pool in the indentations. Bake in oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.


Garlic focaccia: Add 3 cloves of minced garlic to dough during mixing.

Herb focaccia: Add 1/2 to 2/3 cup of finely chopped fresh herbs to dough during mixing or sprinkle top of dough with choice of herbs. Use basil, rosemary, oregano or marjoram.

Whole wheat focaccia: Substitute 21/2 cups of whole wheat flour for 21/2 cups of the unbleached flour.

By Myra Starkey

With looming Labor Day holiday deadlines, I racked my brain for a recipe.

Ordinarily the pace of our week is frenzied with work and all the other activities of maintaining our empty nest.

We were busy when we had our kids here, and we have remained busy with them gone.

It is holidays, such as this, when we can all get together and catch up and catch our breath and just relax. It is just the quick formalities of "How is school?" "Fine." And in return, "How is work going?" "Fine." And then we can just proceed with plans for meals, between meal activities and more meals.

It is sort of funny that people often ask me how Taylor and I stay so slim because they assume that I must be preparing magnificent meals every night.

First, let me admit that I appreciate their thought that I am slim. The truth is that no one would stay thin if they frequently consumed the plentiful bounty for supper.

In reality, we often eat only cereal for our evening meal since the kids are gone. We are both tired after work, not all that hungry and a bowl of cereal is plenty. And after a long day, it is nice to not have to clean up the kitchen mess that the preparation of a full meal creates.

This light evening meal only is going to be adequate if you have eaten a good breakfast and lunch. Otherwise you will likely be starving by night fall. I am not saying that we always have cereal for supper. In fact, just last night we went to the movies, so we shared lightly buttered popcorn for our meal.

When we have guests over, I never serve cereal. I bet that would surprise them if I did. "Would you like Kashi Go-Lean Toasted Berry Crumble, Fiber One Honey Clusters or Raisin Bran? And for dessert, you'll have a choice between Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops."

When I do choose to cook after work, I am always looking for easy meals to put together.

Since the temperature outside resembles an oven ready for bread baking, I am usually craving something cool, like a summer salad. I came across an old favorite and thought I would share it with you. The salad is fancy enough for company, but requires only a last-minute grilling of the tuna. All the other ingredients are readily available or can be prepared ahead.

I am also including my Focaccia recipe since it is frequently requested by friends. The smell of this bread baking is divine.

Pair the salad with this bread and you'll have a summer feast fit for a king.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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