One of the reasons I love traveling is because of the exposure to new cuisines. It wasn't until I visited Japan that I learned what true ramen should be and the same goes for every country I visit. The most recent trip was to Spain where I discovered the joy of tapas. Weeks later and I am still incorporating Spanish staples into my own cooking. Today's tuna nicoise is inspired by a tuna sandwich I had in Madrid. Spain knows how to prepare all kinds of seafood right, even tuna sandwiches. To recreate the best tuna sandwich I had, I put together olive tapenade with tuna confit, lemon aioli, and piquillo peppers all on a crusty baguette. And you know what? It was pretty darn tasty.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
When you buy a tuna sandwich in the states, it will most likely be made from canned tuna. Spain sticks to the real deal so I decided to do the same.
Make the tuna confit for the tuna nicoise sandwich by simmering fresh tuna steaks in olive oil and aromatics. You want enough olive oil to cover the tuna by at least ½ inch. It seems like a lot of olive oil but the fat will make the tuna oh so tender and flavorful. As the tuna cools in the oil, it will continue to cook in the hot oil so make sure not to overcook it while on the flame.
While the tuna cools, make the remaining components including the olive tapenade and lemon aioli. To make the olive tapenade, pulse together the olives with anchovies, lemon juice and zest, garlic, red peppers flakes, red wine vinegar, and olive oil until smooth. If you need to pit your olives, use a cherry pitter!
Now that you have all of the toppings ready, it's time to assemble the tuna nicoise sandwich. First, spread the olive tapenade on the bottom slice of the baguette and lemon aioli on the top slice. Top the bottom slice with piquillo peppers, slightly overlapping the peppers.
Break the tuna into smaller chunks and stack them on top of the piquillo peppers. Season the tuna with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Finish the sandwich with capers, thinly sliced shallots, fresh arugula, and the top slice.
This may be the most elegant tuna sandwich I've created and it sure tastes like one. It's a bit different than my Mediterranean tuna salad with egg sandwich but equally good.
Spain would be proud!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.