All Garden Dinner, Almost

Salad Nicoise detail

Elegant looking but soooo easy.

I’m talking Salad Niçoise (pronounced nee-suaz) a classic from the city of Nice on the French Mediterranean coast. This is a hardy composed salad much like the American Cobb Salad but with tuna, green beans and potatoes instead of chicken, bacon and avocado. It is also Americanized because the French would use anchovies and raw vegetables but we use tuna canned in oil, and we boil or blanch the vegetables.

To begin, gather your vegetables. If you don’t have a garden or a farmer’s market your local grocery store’s produce section will be just fine. Or if you have a friend with a great garden tell them if they give you vegetables you’ll prepare them a French dinner. Oui!

Some good choices are green beans, yellow beans, green onions or sliced red onion, baby carrots and peppers (red or yellow are best for color but if you only have green,  green will do). Potatoes should also be part of your salad and fingerlings like Russian Banana are perfect. We used small yellow beets and tomatoes (we used red and yellow cherry and a green fleshed variety) as well. I think cherry tomatoes are fine but wedges of a red ripe tomato are just beautiful in this salad.  Marinated artichokes are a welcome addition too.

You can stop there but a true Salad Niçoise should have some protein and as I mentioned earlier we use canned tuna. A light tuna in oil is what I prefer and I don’t even like fish but for some reason this is one of my exceptions. Another fine addition is hard-boiled eggs; one egg per diner. While you are at the store pick up some pitted olives, we prefer Kalamata; they are a nice salty addition and their dark purple color give a good contrast to all the reds and yellows and greens.

Once you’ve decided on your vegetables, blanch the beans until tender-crisp.  Boil potatoes, beets, carrots till tender (peel all after cooking) and hard-boil the eggs. Cut your tomatoes into wedges, peel and cut your eggs into halves. We roasted a red pepper and then cut it into strips or you could use jarred roasted peppers if you’d prefer not to roast them yourself.

Arrange everything, artfully on a large platter. You could put down a bed of nice lettuce, although we didn’t.   I usually put the potatoes in the middle and arrange the other vegetables in groups around the perimeter, put the tuna on top of the potatoes and strew the olives over the entire shebang.  Drizzle a vinaigaratte dressing over the top and voila! dinner for 4 or a smaller version can make for lunch a Nice lunch.  Nice, get it!

Salad Nicoise

Salad Niçoise

This can be expanded or contracted to suit your occasion, platter size or the availability of ingredients.

An Expanded Vinaigarette

1 tsp dry mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 small Roma-type tomato, seeded and diced
3 green olives, minced
2 Tbs flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt/freshly ground pepper to taste

Put mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar in a bowl and whisk together. Continue whisking while slowly adding the oil until the dressing blends. Add the shallot, tomato, parsley and olives and whisk to combine.  Taste and adjust salt or pepper if needed.

Serve the salad with a nice Sauvignon blanc or a Petit Syrah. Your guests will love you for being so Nice to them.

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