Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 14, 2010

Salade Niçoise

On my farm, salade Niçoise doesn’t mean tuna salad on a bed of iceberg lettuce with some tired kalamatas keeping it company. In fact, salade Niçoise on the menu is cause for general rejoicing. Why is that? Well, first you have to think like someone from Provence with too much produce coming out of the garden. This puts the nice in salade Niçoise.

Take a bunch of baby beets. Save the greens, boil the beets gently in water to cover for thirty minutes. The greens are yummy sautéed in sesame oil (or olive oil) with some garlic, and the chopped cooked beets served on top. Dress this with a little French or Italian dressing, or some balsamic-mustard vinaigrette.

In another pan, sauté a couple of shallots. Add eight or ten mushrooms, sliced. Add a half pound of green beans cut into one inch lengths. Add a couple of spicy peppers (or mild, if you prefer), chopped up. Season this with salt and pepper.

Make Pesto Potato Salad with fingerling potatoes, and only half smash them before adding the pesto dressing. Make Thai Cucumber Salad, too–this can be done well ahead or even the day before.

Sauté a large onion in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add several squash, seeded and sliced. Add several tomatoes, peeled and seeded and chopped. Cook this until it’s fairly dry. Season it with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

For every two cans of tuna fish, make one egg’s worth of mayonnaise. Take an egg yolk, at room temperature. To this add one teaspoon of dry mustard, one tablespoon of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste (start with 1/4 tsp salt and a fat pinch of pepper–white pepper is especially nice here, or a small one of cayenne). Beat it all well. Then add olive oil, up to two thirds of a cup. Add it drop by drop at first, beating each drop in completely before adding the next. Do this for several minutes. Then let the oil increase to a very thin, broken stream. The mixture should become fairly thick about now. Increase the flow of the oil to a steady thin stream–always beating. See? Mayonnaise.

Drain the tuna well. Chop finely a small stalk of the inner part of a bunch of celery (tops too). Mince a shallot or 2 green onions, tops too. Add a tablespoon of capers and a few chopped cornichons. Stir this all up with the olive oil mayonnaise.

Arrange the tuna on a small bed of fresh lettuce. Alternate the salads around the plate to make the most of the different textures and colors. Now throw a few Niçoise olives on here and there for accent purposes. Niçoise olives are small and brownish green. Their taste is nutty and rich. They are worth the trouble of a special shopping expedition.

Serve this with a coarse red table wine, or maybe something semi-sparkling and white from the Pyrenées–whether French or Basque is up to you.

I promise that this version of salade Niçoise will convert all and sundry from a ho-hum attitude to one of reverent expectation and delight.


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