Food You Can Eat: Barcelona’s Version of the Salade Niçoise

Perfect for fans of FC Barcelona ("Barça")

Forgot to write down the image source, sorry. For that matter I couldn't find an image of what you would find in Barcelona but this comes close.

Greetings from New York everyone. As you all know today is the 20th anniversary of the attacks. There is absolutely nothing I could say that would be worth reading.

However. Today is also the National Day of Catalonia. The Catalans are a feisty bunch (not to be confused with Marky Mark’s Funky Bunch), forever chafing against the central government in Madrid, never quite wholly assimilated and with a large independence faction, and the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, especially its capital, Barcelona, is beautiful and wealthy and large and industrious. It is a lot like New York but far more civilized. Just don’t talk about politics or fútbol.

I thought that in honor of the National Day of Catalonia I would present you with this. I cannot for the life of me remember what this is called in Catalan. In any event, it is my version of a Catalonian version of a salade Niçoise. The only real difference is that there is no tomato or anchovies and there are fava beans. This is a cold salad, so it’s mostly assembly.

This recipe is per person, so scale up.

3 steamed asparagus spears

1 hard-boiled egg, sliced in half or quartered

1 cup (about 6 oz.) fava beans, rinsed and drained. If you are all in, buy the beans in their pods from a farmers’ market and shell them yourself. This is a PITA. Use canned or dried in packets. You can also use cannellini beans.

4 oz. of tuna. It’s best if you can get a cooked tuna steak but canned is fine, especially if it is Mediterranean tuna. That will most likely be from Italy and will not be cheap. Get the dark in oil, not the albacore in water. Drain but maybe save the oil. Flake this.

1 or 2 scallions, diced

1/2 lemon

A little salt

Steam the asparagus and let it dry and cool on some paper towel. Hard boil the egg, move it to a bowl of icy water, and peel. Slice it in half or quarter it.

[Remember, this is per person. Scale up!]

Make a layer of fava beans on each plate. Break each asparagus spear in two and create a hexagonal border (this is what I do, because I am Cartesian) or do whatever you want with them. Scatter the flaked tuna over the fava beans, then the scallions. Arrange the egg in whatever formation sparks joy. Shake some salt over all of this, then as hard as you can squeeze the juice of a half lemon, watching out for seeds. If you want, if you used canned tuna, spoon its oil over this too.

Now there you are, in Barceloneta, watching the waves of the Mediterranean breaking gently upon the shore, listening to the gulls and the laughter of children on the beach…



  1. Unrelated to tuna but speaking of Catalonia, this story about a recently resigned bishop in Catalonia is loaded:

    The story is he left because he fell in love with a woman who writes erotic fiction, but all kinds of other issues are looming.
    He was a Pope Benedict appointee, and incredibly conservative on gay rights issues, and there’s a possible subtext that Pope Francis is cleaning house.
    But he’s also a big backer of Catalan independence, and it’s possible the establishment in Spain wanted him out.
    A paper owned by Conrad Black (calling it a newspaper would be a stretch) hinted that Pope Francis actually wanted him to stay and cited supposed church insiders who said the Pope was encouraging him to get an exorcism, which suggests that right wingers in the church are trying to smear the Pope.
    I think it’s fair to say that nothing at that level is free of politics, but how it all shakes out is usually impossible to really know.

  2. One more thing: Even if you have no desire to travel to Barcelona and aren’t even quite sure where it is, I highly recommend Robert Hughes’s Barcelona. Hughes was a very gifted writer and was Time Magazine’s art critic, back when people read Time Magazine.

    Barcelona is a loving (and long) tribute to Barcelona. It is a history, but there’s lots of social history and tons of art and architecture thrown in. The last two chapters are devoted solely to Antoni Gaudí, and you can tell Hughes can’t get enough. It’s also very, very funny in parts. It reminded me of Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates

    One thing that was interesting concerned when the Romans arrived. They came down from the north, through present-day France. The people already living there took to the mountains and harassed them to no end. The Romans didn’t really consider it worth fighting over so they skipped right past and founded what is today called Tarragona, because that is where gold, silver, and especially tin could be mined.

    That’s a big reason why Catalan is its own language, rather than a dialect of another Latin-derived language, like Spanish. Catalan is not like Basque, though, which is entirely not Latin in the least. If you can read Spanish and get a basic grasp on vowel and consonant shifts you can read Catalan, but it sounds nothing like Spanish.

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