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Stacked Salade Niçoise with Seared Fresh Tuna and Creamy Vinaigrette
Abandon the classic canned tuna altogether for the fresher-tasting sashimi-quality tuna, typically seared on the outside, and raw or rare on the inside. Beautiful presentation, light and healthful, this salad is ideal for a lunch with friends.

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, very finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
8 anchovy filets
2 pounds fresh tuna steaks
coarsely cracked black peppercorns to taste
1 pound haricot verts (thin French green beans) or green beans
8 plum tomatoes
coarse salt to taste
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
8 small red new potatoes, peeled and cooked
6 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
32 niçoise olives, pitted

1. Prepare dressing: In a medium-sized bowl, add mustard, then vinegar. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in olive oil a little at a time (the dressing should have a creamy consistency). Add garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a small bowl of cold water, soak anchovy filets for 5 minutes to remove excess salt and oil. Cut each fillet into 4 pieces.
3. Brush tuna with a little olive oil, then press cracked peppercorns into the tuna. Grill over an open fire until seared outside and still raw inside (you may cook it further, but not more than rare). If no grill is available, cook the tuna under a broiler. Brush tuna with a little of the dressing, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large handful of salt. Cut stems of beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Refresh in ice water. Strain, cut each bean into 3 pieces, and reserve.
5. Cut tomatoes into large dice. Sprinkle with coarse salt and set aside.
6. When ready to assemble the salad, cut the strips of green and red pepper into 3 pieces each. Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and then cut each slice into 4 chunks. Cut the eggs into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and then cut each slice into 4 chunks. In a large bowl, mix together the anchovies, tuna, beans, tomatoes, green pepper, red pepper, potatoes, eggs, parsley, and olives. Mix with dressing. Taste for seasoning. Divide among 8 plates, stacking the salad in as high and narrow a tower as possible on each plate. Serve immediately.
Note: For an even trendier presentation, drizzle a little extra vinaigrette around the tower, and scatter finely minced parsley leaves around the plate and its rim.

Many restaurateurs today, both in the United States and France, have abandoned the classic canned tuna altogether and are making a fresher-tasting salade niçoise with very trendy pieces of sashimi-quality fresh tuna, typically seared on the outside, and raw or rare on the inside. We've made the following version even more of a departure from the original. There's no lettuce in this very chunky salad, and the ingredients are stacked (New American restaurant style) on dinner plates; it's a beautiful presentation. Furthermore, the dressing contains such un-niçoise elements as Dijon mustard and sherry vinegar -- both of which contribute to a new taste that is utterly delightful with the tuna. Serves 8