Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Version of Salade Niçoise

When it gets so hot that one doesn't feel like grilling, a good dinner salad is a good solution. Light, colorful, with bright tastes of fresh garden vegetables, and big anough to serve as an entree. It does require some cooking - you still have to boil the eggs and the potatoes, and sometimes I like to fire-roast and peel the bell peppers - but you don't have to watch the cooking, just time it, so go sit in the garden while the hot stuff is boiling on the stove.

Recently, in fancy restaurants in the States it became fashionable to make a vegetable salad with fresh blackened tuna on top and call it niçoise. This is a way it's never made in Nice and around. The tuna has to be canned, it has exactly the right texture that carries the dressing well and provides contrast to the vegetables. And it's bistro food, after all! Canned tuna in olive oil is generally better quality than tuna in water, and you also get the oil for the dressing.

The yellow bell peppers and heirloom tomatoes that I planted in containers grew very flavorful, but rather small. This is why the recipe calls for a whole pepper and 3 tomatoes per serving.
I had my homemade anchovies cured in salt, so I had to do additional work of soaking and filleting them, but I like their taste and texture much better than of the canned anchovies in oil.

For the lack of Niçoise olives I used Gaeta. Please, please, if you are reading this, don't buy pitted olives! They are mushy, tastless, and they are taking over the market! It is becoming increasingly difficult to find olives with pits. Well, I still have my Greek and Persian grocery stores.

The nasturtium flowers are from my garden and are used just for the show. Actually, their taste compliments the salad well too.

The other ingredients that are sometimes added are green beans, cucumber, onions and garlic.

Salade Niçoise
for each serving:
2 small potatoes, boiled, peeled and quartered
1 egg, boiled for 9 minutes, peeled and quartered
4 anchovy fillets
4-5 leaves of lettuce, torn or cut into squares with a very sharp knife
1 small or 1/2 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into long thin slices
3 small or 1 large ripe tomato, sliced
1 can tuna in olive oil (or in water), drained, oil reserved
8-10 small black olives, with pits

for the dressing:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp EVOO + oil from the tuna
salt, pepper, (optional) sugar to taste

On a large plate, arrange the lattuce, scatter the tomato and pepper slices. Mound tuna in the center. Arrange egg quarters on the sides, place an anchovy fillet on each. Scatter olives on top.
In a small bowl mix the mustard with the vinegar. Slowly wisk in the oil. Adjust the seasoning.
Pour the dressing over the salad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even if you are probably right about canned tuna in Nice (never been there), I do think that seared tuna is a valid and attractive option for this type of salad. Although it could be the way I eat salads -- I always save meats and fish till the end, probably a result of bad upbringing :-).

So to me eating Niçoise is more about EATING the right mix of vegetables, potatoes and eggs with distinct dressing while WATCHING the perfect color and texture of lightly seared tuna and then finishing it. You should agree that it looks much better than the canned one :-)