Tuna Niçoise with Fava Bean Pesto

July 24, 2011

One of my favorite things to make with fava beans is pesto. It’s got a brighter flavor than the standard pesto, and is a lovely spring green color. I’m always looking for ways to cut down on fat in typically rich dishes, so there are a couple of things I do with this pesto. First, I use pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. Pumpkin seeds have about a third of the calories and only a fifth of the fat of pine nuts. Second, I use just a fraction of the olive oil in traditional pesto, and add a small amount of vegetable broth to thin the pesto out (since it’s much thicker without the huge amount of oil). So the overall reduction in calories and fat is enormous. But the great thing is, this pesto still tastes magnificent! Fresh ingredients are key, but because everything in the recipe is already pretty rich and bold tasting, I don’t think you lose a thing. The garlic was nowhere to be found during the ingredient photo shoot – what a diva!

Pesto Ingredients (not pictured: garlic)

Fava Bean Pesto
1/2 cup peeled, blanched, shelled fava beans
1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 c tightly packed basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
3/4 oz grated pecorino romano (or parmesan)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto has the desired texture (some graininess, but not too much).

Fava Bean Pesto

So – what to do with the pesto? I’m really not very good at planning what I am going to make before I buy things at the Farmers’ Market, so I always end up having to brainstorm on Sundays before we go shopping for the week. Since the pesto would be enough for at least two dishes, I decided that tonight I would make a salad with potatoes, green beans, and pesto, inspired by a recipe in Vegetarian Times’ Farmers’ Market edition. While I was out running errands, I splurged on a great piece of maguro tuna at Whole Foods, announcing to my husband that he was on grill duty this evening. I made my salad, and when my husband brought in the tuna, he said ‘hmmm – that really looks like a niçoise – we could almost put the fish on top’. I questioned, ‘does tuna go with pesto?’, and was answered with ‘EVERYTHING goes with pesto’. So – there we have it – a re-invention of niçoise!

My husband doesn’t measure when he cooks, so the amounts for the marinade in the recipe are approximations. You can see what it tastes like and adjust as you’d like. I put the potatoes and beans with pesto on top of arugula, which we felt didn’t quite fit, so in the future will probably either sauté it briefly, or at the very least, toss the arugula with the pesto as well.

Salad Ingredients

Tuna Niçoise with Fava Bean Pesto
serves 4

marinade
1+1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste

16 oz maguro (bluefin) or ahi (yellowfin) tuna
1 lb new potatoes, chopped in even bite-sized pieces
1 pt string beans
4-5 Tbsp fava bean pesto, at room temperature
1 large bag of arugula
1 tsp olive oil

You’ll want to coordinate things so that the potatoes, beans, and tuna are done at about the same time.  It’s easiest to do this dish with 2 people – one to handle the grill and one to handle the potatoes and beans.  Timing is going to depend on your method of parboiling and steaming, and how done you like your tuna, but here is the sequence we used:

Mix the ingredients for the marinade, and then marinate the tuna for about 20 minutes, turning it over at 10 minutes. After you turn the tuna, preheat the grill, and then a couple minutes later, start parboiling the potatoes, either in a pot of boiling water on the stovetop or in a glass bowl of water in the microwave until they are tender (about 12 minutes in the microwave).   Preheat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  When the potatoes have about 3-5 minutes left, sear the tuna on a hot grill – about 2-3 minutes a side, depending on the size and thickness of the tuna.  (And grill it longer if you don’t like your tuna rare or medium rare).   While the tuna is grilling, steam the green beans (about 3 minutes in our steamer in the microwave), and sauté the arugula in the olive oil for about 2-3 minutes until wilted.

Make a bed of the arugula in 4 bowls.  Toss the potatoes, green beans, and pesto separately, then put on top of the arugula.  Slice the tuna into several pieces per salad, and place on top.

Tuna Niçoise with Fava Bean Pesto

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