Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Salad

Tuna SaladLet’s just agree that you forgive me for calling a pan seared piece of fish “grilled.” I used a grill pan so it is really just pan seared with pretty lines. But, it is still hot as heck here and we are now back in the land of homework and puppy training and pan fried with pretty lines is passing my “good enough” test this week. A grill pan and a strong vent can be your friend on a week night. Go outside and grill the heck out of your fish if you have the inclination. Take a beer, as well as mosquito spray if you live around here.

This salad was originally invented and tested for use with grilled swordfish. And, truth be told, I prefer the swordfish just slightly over the tuna, but they are both fantastic. Many of you will look at this salad and say, “ah, it is a Salad Niçoise!” to which I would respond, “sort of.” It is a Salad Niçoise in all respects except those that I suspect are truly the definitional elements of that dish. I’m not an olive person. Olive oil, yes. Olives, not so much. And, I didn’t employ anchovies, either. To truly call a salad an inspiration of the South of France region for which the Niçoise Salad is named, the French Riviera city of Nice to be exact, I believe one has to pay homage to the olives and to the fact of the Mediterranean Sea. I, however, don’t want to. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. Further, you might find questions as to whether a truly Provençal dish would be laden with steamed potatoes, as mine is. I really cannot be sure. I am also too busy at the moment to keep finding the “ç” character on my word processor. It is irritating me greatly, actually. And, I’ve never been to Nice, or further in France than the admittedly impressive Charles de Gaulle airport where I was stuck for 24 hours on my way to La Tavola Marche last year. So, I will not pretend that my culinary exploits with regard to this dish are anything other than a product of Google, heavy daydreaming, and childish aversions to certain things. So there…”grilled tuna salad” it is. Onward.

Grilled Tuna Salad DressingIf you use swordfish, you will cook it slightly longer. I tend to overcook fish, on purpose. I’m sorry. So if you use tuna, you might choose to cook it less than I did. And if you use swordfish, more. I’m repeating myself, but someone once made a joke about cooking fish by walking it quickly through a hot kitchen…I go a little longer than that.

What a dreamy salad, though, whatever you choose to call it. I love all of these things: artichokes, steamed new potatoes, lemony vinaigrette, a hint of garlic, great fish. And, while it makes a lovely salad assembled, my son will actually eat 90% of the food as long as it is not in the shape of a “salad.” That the ingredients are so easily prepped and chilled ahead of time, and can be displayed beautifully until serving, makes it perfect for last minute assembly wherein you can cater to the whims of certain smallish people. Prep all things vegetable and keep them cool. Room temperature is perfect, actually. When everything is chopped, prepped, shaken, drained and cooled, simply throw the fish in the pan and assemble the salads while the fish cooks. Top the salad with slices of tuna or swordfish, drizzle dressing on top of it all. Serve. It is complex in that there are a lot of ingredients, but it really is quite a simple dish. I think you will love it.

Grilled Tuna Salad Veggies PreppedSeared Tuna Salad (Serves 4)

⅔ cup olive oil
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 can (15 oz.) quartered artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 bunch green onions, sliced, white and light green parts only
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
10 to 12 new potatoes, halved
8 ounces haricots verts, trimmed
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
5 ounces mixed spring greens
1 pound yellowfin tuna
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Place the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a jar. Place a lid on the jar and shake the dressing until it is thoroughly combined. Set aside.

2. Thoroughly drain the artichokes and leave them to drip on paper towels. Canned artichokes hold a great deal of water. Chop and prep the remaining vegetables. Place the halved tomatoes on paper towels to drain, also.

3. In a steamer basket over boiling water, steam the haricots verts until just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove them immediately to a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove them from the ice bath to a towel to drain thoroughly. Steam the potato halves until just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the potatoes to a dish to cool. Once cool, place all of the chopped vegetables on a serving platter. If not serving immediately, cover and place in the refrigerator.

4. Heat a non-stick grill pan over medium heat. Brush the pan with olive oil. Divide the tuna steak into 4 roughly equal portions. Season each side with salt and pepper. Place the steaks into the grill pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on your preference. Tuna is traditionally served quite red in the middle. Remove the fish from the pan and allow it to cool for 4 to 5 minutes. Slice the tuna portions.

5. Assemble the salads by placing greens on each of four plates. Top the greens with an equal portion of each of the vegetables. Place a serving of tuna on each plate. Drizzle dressing over the tuna and vegetables. There will likely be leftover dressing. Place the remaining dressing on the table with a serving spoon. Serve. Grilled Tuna Salad PlatedNotes:

“Les Haricots Verts” (something roughly close to “lay ha-re-ko-vayrs”) is French for “green bean.” But, more descriptively, you are looking for the beans that are thin and tender not big and fat. Also, feel free to be more generous with the tuna. If you buy 1.5 pounds, it is a much more protein oriented salad.

The dressing and the vegetables can all be prepped ahead of time. It is imperative that you drain as much water from the artichokes and tomatoes as possible to prevent a watered down salad.

For more information on Yellowfin tuna, see this post on Tuna Tartare. I bought this tuna at Whole Foods and it was apparently fresh, never frozen. This is a good spot to remind you that frozen is not a naughty word where fish is concerned. The type of fish, the intended use, and where you live relative to where the fish is traveling from all dictate whether or not you should opt for fresh or previously frozen fish. I typically buy my tuna from a spot here in Dallas called Rex’s that sells previously frozen “sashimi grade” Yellowfin tuna. This is what I buy for Tuna Tartare which is consumed totally raw. If you are confused, welcome to a very large club. Read the Tuna Tartare post and see if that helps any.

To hard boil eggs: Place the eggs in one layer in a pan and cover with water by an inch. Bring to a boil. Turn off the burner and cover. Let the eggs remain in the hot water for 10 minutes. Remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking and cool the egg. Peel the egg and proceed with the recipe. Older eggs seem to be easier to peel. I love tips about hard boiled eggs so if you have a favorite egg tip…share it in the comments.

Finally: Now that I’ve finally trained Poppy to not eat my meals when I place them on the floor to take photos…meet Sally.

Sally(To get decent light on a dish I often have to place my big cutting boards on the floor by my kitchen door and take the photos with the plate sitting on the board on the floor. Poppy now knows not to mess with it…not that I’d walk away for a split second. But Sally…let’s just say she almost had her first experience with the cost of fine dining.)


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