Thursday, September 4, 2014

Classical Lettuce Play - Part 3

Niçoisities



I have to admit that before preparing this article, I knew next to nothing about Salad Niçoise other than the fact that it was French and that my sister in law ate it the last time she was in France and loved it. That being said, I did my homework. There are tons of recipes for Salad Niçoise out there, but they all seem to have the same common ingredients, namely green beans, potatoes, olives, fresh or canned fish (anchovies and tuna - though I'm told that the latter is a UK addition), and capers, all tied together with a buttery olive oil dressing. Everything else seems to be up to the cook. Some versions have salad greens, some have eggs, others have roasted peppers, and still others have artichoke hearts. I've opted to make my version as simple as possible so that it's both easy to make and on the budget. For the purists out there, you'll find a more traditional recipe listed first. I had my sister in law taste test both before publishing this, and I am happy to say they both passed with flying colours!

Serves 2 as a meal or more as an appetizer.

Here's how you do it traditional:

Ingredients

6 Red Skinned, Yellow fleshed, - peeled, rinsed and chopped into eighths OR 12 (as they tend to be much smaller) New potatoes

1 bunch of Green Beans (about 24) - the very ends removed and the beans rinsed to remove any dirt

2 - 3.5 oz Cans of Tuna in oil

10 Anchovy Fillets - You can find these in small jars or cans in the fish section of the grocery store - see the image below.


1/4 Cup Chopped Olives - the recipe calls for the Niçoise variety, but those aren't easy to find and tend to be pricey, so try pitted black olives instead -  sold in grocery stores with the pickled stuff - if you're feeling lazy or pressed for time, you can buy them already sliced.

2 Heaping Spoonfuls of Capers - also found in the grocery store with the pickled stuff - see the image below.
4 Hard boiled Eggs - to make the salad above, I cut the eggs into quarters length wise for a nicer presentation but you can just coarsely chop them - meaning you don't have to cut them up in any specific way, so long as they are cut up.

1 medium or large Tomato cut into six wedges OR 1/2 a basket of Cherry Tomatoes

Salt and Pepper - to Taste

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Herbs - about a teaspoon - Optional - Julia Child's recipe calls for herbs, but other traditional recipes I saw did not, so it's up to you - I'd go with the oregano you probably already have, to keep with the Mediterranean flavors of this dish

Equipment

1 Pot

1 Strainer

1 Metal Mixing Bowl or Heatproof bowl

1 pair of Tongs

1 Glass Jar or clean soda or water bottle with tight fitting cap or lid

Measuring Spoons

1 Knife

1 Cutting Board

1 Slotted Spoon

Put the Olive Oil, Vinegar, Dijon Mustard, Salt, Pepper, and dried herbs (if using), into a jar or bottle, seal it tight, and shake until the ingredients are combined.

You can now set it aside for a bit while you get other things ready.

Boil the potatoes until they're edible but not falling apart. See the instructions for potato salad in "Playing with Potato".

Dump them into a strainer to drain.

Refill your pot with water and bring it to a boil. While the water is slowly coming to a boil, fill your mixing bowl with water and ice.

Once the water is boiling dump in your green beans, wait 1 minute, and then carefully, without burning yourself, pull them out using your trusty tongs and dump them immediately into the ice water.  This process is called "blanching" and is a handy way to cook vegetables that not only tenderizes and brings out the best flavor, but also the best colour. Once a vegetable is blanched, you can either sauté, quickly roast, or stir fry it without worrying that it won't be fully cooked when your other ingredients are done, or you can serve as is.

Don't worry if the beans are a little crunchy. For this salad, you want them al dente.

Dump the ice water and beans into the strainer with the potatoes and drain.

Dry your bowl and toss in the potatoes and green beans.

If your dressing has separated, shake it up again to combine, and pour half of it over the potatoes and green beans.

Let them marinate for about 10 minutes, and then arrange them on two plates or in a salad bowl with the eggs, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies.

Carefully drain the oil from the cans of tuna and put them on top of each salad (or one large one, if making the salad in one bowl).

Pour the remaining dressing over the salad(s).

Sprinkle the salad(s) with the capers and you're good to go!

Serve immediately.

Doin't it MY WAY


I've never been a big fan of olives or anchovies. For me, the flavor of both are great, but the look of them is pretty unappetising. Though I managed to solve this problem with the first Niçoise recipe via some clever plating, I realise that some of my readers may share my squeamishness about  these ingredients. Mucking about in the kitchen, I found a way to get all those flavors into the salad without actually having to see them.

Serves 2 as a meal or more as an appetizer

Here's How You Do It:

Ingredients



2 Teaspoons of Jarred Black Tapenade - see the image above - Tapenade is a tasty spread made of Olives, Anchovies and Capers - nearly ALL the things that go into Salad Niçoise. I found my jar at an Indian grocer among the spreads and pickles for $1.99, but you can also find this stuff among the hummus and fresh pestos at the grocery store. Can't find tapenade? No problem! Get yourself some Olive paste (about a teaspoon) which can be found among the jarred pestos - see the image below - or Jarred Black Olives (about a teaspoon) - and mash with 2 anchovy fillets and a teaspoon of chopped capers et voila! Tapenade!


1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice or Vinegar - if using vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar is ideal, but if you don't have it, save a few pennies and use White Vinegar

5 1/2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil - one of beautiful things about Salad Niçoise is the oiliness of it. This comes from the fish and the dressing itself. I've upped the ratio of oil to acid in this salad dressing because using the tapenade removes some of that oiliness - and besides, this salad is French! It's supposed to be rich!

1 Teaspoon of Basil or Oregano - optional

Finely chopped or grated outer skin aka Zest of 1/2 a Lemon - Optional - there are a lot of fishy flavors in this salad, and lemon always pairs well with those and adds a note of brightness.

Salt and Pepper - To taste

6 Red Skinned or Yellow fleshed potatoes - rinsed and chopped into eighths OR 12 (as they tend to be smaller) New potatoes  - don't bother peeling 'em

1 bunch of Green Beans (about 24) - the very ends removed and the beans rinsed to remove any dirt

2 - 3.5 oz Cans of Tuna in oil - drained

2 Tablespoons of Capers

4 Hard Boiled Eggs - Peeled and coarsely chopped OR for a prettier presentation, cut vertically into quarters

1 Tomato cut into sixths OR 1/2 basket of Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

Equipment

1 Pot

1 Strainer

1 Metal Mixing Bowl or Heatproof bowl

1 pair of Tongs

1 Glass Jar or clean soda or water bottle with tight fitting cap or lid

Measuring Spoons

1 Knife

1 Cutting Board

1 Slotted Spoon

Put the Olive Oil, Vinegar or Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest (if using), Tapenade,  Dijon Mustard, Salt, Pepper, and dried herbs (if using), into a jar or bottle, seal it tight, and shake until the ingredients are combined.

You can now set it aside for a bit while you get other things ready.

Follow the instructions for the potatoes and green beans in the first Niçoise recipe.

Dry your bowl and toss in the potatoes and green beans.

If your dressing has separated, shake it up again to combine, and pour half of it over the potatoes and green beans.

Let them marinate for about 10 minutes, and then arrange them on two plates or in a large bowl with the eggs, and tomatoes.

Carefully drain the oil from the cans of tuna and put one on top of each salad.

Pour the remaining dressing over the salad(s).

Sprinkle the salad with the capers and you're good to go!

Serve immediately.

Next time I'll be showing you two ways of doing cole slaw, so keep on reading!

 -Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

 Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.


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