A Tunisian Jewish Twist on a French Classic

The tuna is fresh and seared, sweet potatoes replace the regular potatoes and preserved lemons are added to the mix.

Vered Guttman

Tunisian fricassee sandwich is made with tuna, potatoes, hard-cooked egg, olives and harissa or filfel-chuma (spicy paprika and garlic sauce). All this goodness is stuffed into a small fried bun.

Does the combination of tuna, potatoes, hard-cooked egg and olives sound familiar? Looks like the French colonization of Tunisia left its culinary impression, and the Tunisian fricassee resembles Nicoise salad.

Tunisian Jewish immigrants brought the sandwich to Israel, where it became a much beloved street food. In Israel the sandwich got a few minor adaptations: the small bun grew to an enormous size and preserved lemons were added to the mix. Now the sandwich is even more pungent and bold and flavors moved even further from France and into the Middle East.

Taking the fricassee sandwich and Nicoise salad and making them into one just means you choose the best of both worlds. The important thing, as with any salad, is that the ingredients have to be fresh and the veggies in season, at the peak of their flavor. I cut the green beans into bite size pieces and mixed with shredded fennel, micro greens and cilantro (any other combination of greens would also work). I prefer mixing the anchovies - that traditionally go on top the Nicoise salad - into the dressing. The tuna is fresh and seared, sweet potatoes replace the regular potatoes, and from the fricassee I took the preserved lemons and added them to the salad. A full weekday meal.

Tunisian Nicoise Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 medium sweet potatoes
Oil spray
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ lb. fresh tuna steaks
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 eggs
½ lb. French or regular green beans
1 fennel bulb, cut into thin strips
½ bunch cilantro, leaves only
4 cups micro greens, arugula or baby kale
3 tablespoons sliced preserved lemons
½ cup kalamata olives or Middle Eastern bitter olives
1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, sliced (optional)

For the dressing

2 oz. can anchovies
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Directions

1. Oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with oil. Peel sweet potatoes and slice to ½ inch thick slices. Arrange in one layer on the baking sheet, spray with oil and bake for about 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender. Keep aside.

2. In a small bowl mix coriander, black pepper and salt. Pat dry tuna with paper towel, cut each steak to 2 inch wide sections and coat with spice mix on 4 sides. Put non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add teaspoon oil and sear tuna on 4 sides very quickly, about 8 seconds each side. Transfer to a cutting board. Let cool, then slice each section to ¼ inch think slices. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

3. In a small pot, bring salted water to boil. Once the water is boiling, add eggs using a spoon and cook for 6 minutes. Transfer to ice water to stop cooking.

4. To make the dressing, put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Boil salted water in a small pot and blanch green beans for 2-3 minutes, to keep them crisp. Transfer to ice water to stop cooking. Let cool, then cut to 1 inch sections and mix with fennel, cilantro and micro greens. Mix ¾ of the dressing into the salad.

5. Prepare 6 large individual bowls or plates. Arrange 4-5 slices of sweet potatoes on the bottom. Top with a pile of the green bean salad. On one side of the salad arrange a few slices of tuna, topped with a little preserved lemon. Put an egg and olives around the salad, drizzle the rest of the dressing on top and sprinkle with jalapeño slices if using.