We are in a back-to-school moment for the world’s best chefs.
On June 1, Rene Redzepi reopened the doors to his groundbreaking Copenhagen restaurant Noma. In New York, Eleven Madison Park and chef/owner Daniel Humm introduced the public to a much-hyped vegan menu on June 10.
And on June 9, the current holder of the World’s Best Restaurant title, Mirazur in Menton in the south of France, also reopened. The idyllic Provencal dining room, run by chef Mauro Colagreco, will continue to be the No. 1-ranked restaurant in the world until Oct. 5, when the announcement for the 2021 winner will be made, if all goes according to plan, in Antwerp, Belgium. The awards were paused in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Colagreco’s cooking at Mirazur is informed by the beauty of nature, with such dishes as prawns arriving assembled into the shape of a rose. The restaurant also has a very serious garden, which the chef takes advantage of in almost all his dishes. But there’s nothing so basic as the region’s signature nicoise salad on any of the tasting menus, which start at $378.
But there’s a glorious take on it at Colagreco’s restaurant Florie’s, at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach in South Florida. It’s called the Riviera salad, and it’s got several of the signature ingredients of its Mediterranean ancestor, including tuna (albeit a fresh steak instead of canned), olives, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, roast peppers, and tomatoes. The jumble of other ingredients Colagreco adds, such as chopped herbs, lettuces, and cucumber, make it the kind of all-in-one salad that you want to eat throughout this hot season. Not to mention, a dish to commemorate Bastille Day on July 14.
“Florie’s Riviera Salad is a simple ‘summer-in-the-Mediterranean’ example of using the best and freshest produce possible,” said Colagreco in an email. “That’s always been one of primary inspirations in my cooking style. It uses a mix of local greens and a variety of fresh herbs and crisp vegetables which makes a colorful and refreshing arrangement.”
At Florie’s, the Riviera salad has been a best-seller since the restaurant opened in 2019. Even during the pandemic, when the Four Seasons was privately booked until April 2021, the dish stayed on the menu. Make it and you’ll see why. It features lettuces bathed in a bright lemon dressing, topped with an abundance of fresh vegetables that offer an array of textures when you take a bite, from salty olives to bright cucumber to pungent spring onions and a burst of tomatoes. Crowning the salad is barely cooked tuna steak, terrific with the savory tapenade crouton. If you feel strongly about canned tuna here, give it a shot. And if you must have the classic green beans and potatoes, you can, but it will slow the dish down.
“Simplicity is key. You don’t need to be overly fussy with preparation,” advises Colagreco. “I choose to focus on sourcing the best ingredients available and letting them shine on the plate with more natural presentation.” Still, his restaurant version is decorated with shelled fava beans and crispy fried artichoke leaves. If you have sous chefs on hand to prep and cook them, add them in. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. It’s summer!
The following recipe is adapted from Mauro Colagreco and Florie’s. Testers note: The ingredient list is long and you can take shortcuts, like buying roasted red peppers—but if you have time, roasting them yourself is worth it.
The Riviera Salad
1 small red bell pepper
1 lb (about half kilo) best quality tuna steak
2 or 3 garlic cloves
One-fourth cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
Half tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 diagonal slices of a baguette, toasted
About one-fourth cup olive tapenade
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups mesclun or baby lettuces
Half cup mixed chopped herbs such as basil, chervil, dill and chives
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 spring onions, sliced
3 radishes, sliced
Half cup black olives
6 oz white anchovies (optional)
Roast the red pepper by setting it directly over an open flame and cooking, turning occasionally, until blackened all over, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic, and let steam for about 30 minutes. Peel off the skin and discard the ribs and seeds; cut the pepper into chunks. Put in a bowl, add a crushed garlic clove, and drizzle with olive oil.
In another bowl, season the cucumber lightly with salt and let stand.
In a bowl, combine the lemon juice with the mustard. Whisk in the ¼ cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Season the tuna well with salt and drizzle with oil. Cook for about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side, until the outside is well seared. Transfer to a plate and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Slice the tuna against the grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Rub the baguette toasts lightly with garlic, drizzle with oil, and spread with the tapenade.
In a large bowl, mix the mesclun with the herbs and toss with 2 or 3 tbsp of the dressing. Divide among shallow bowls. Top each serving with the tomatoes, green onions, radishes, cucumbers, and olives. Garnish with the anchovies, if using. Top each salad with tuna slices. Drizzle a spoonful of dressing over each salad and serve with the tapenade toasts and any leftover dressing.