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.
Tuna Nicoise Sandwich
- 1 lb tuna steaks
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 3 garlic cloves smashed
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 chili de arbol
- olive oil
- 1 cup nicoise olives pitted
- 3 anchovy filets packed in oil
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- salt and pepper
- 1 baguette or 8 slices crusty bread
- 8 ounces piquillo peppers
- 2 tbsp capers
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 2 cups arugula
- Prepare the tuna confit. Combine the tuna steaks with 2 sprigs oregano, 1 sprig rosemary, 3 garlic cloves, 10 black peppercorns, and 2 chili de arbol in a small pot. Add enough olive oil to generously cover the tuna. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the tuna starts to turn grey. Simmer for another 5 minutes then turn off the heat and let the tuna cool in the oil.
- Meanwhile, make the olive tapenade. Use a food processor to pulse 1 cup olives, 3 anchovy filets, zest and juice of 1 lemon, 2 garlic cloves, ½ tsp red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp red wine vinegar until it forms a paste. Stir in 2 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Make the lemon aioli. Whisk together ¼ cup mayonnaise with 1 tsp lemon juice, ½ tsp lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
- Assemble the sandwiches. Lightly toast the bread and spread the olive tapenade on one slice and the lemon aioli on another. Top the bottom slice with piquillo peppers followed by the tuna. Season the tuna with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Top with capers, thinly sliced shallots, and arugula. Top with the remaining bread and serve.
**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!
For more sandwich inspiration check out this crab croquette sandwich!