Saturday, August 15, 2009

Salade Nicoise

Happy Birthday Julia Child!! To celebrate, find some old episodes of the French Chef from PBS and learn the difference between the types of chickens. (Man, could she ever throw around a chicken. Curtis and I laughed so hard at the chicken episode a couple of weeks ago...). Then, once you've been motivated, make this Salade Nicoise for dinner. It's not too complicated and a wonderful summer salad. It features summer vegetables--tomatoes, potatoes, green beans--and is very refreshing on a hot summer's day. For the kids, put the toppings on a plate on the side if they won't eat lettuce. M and J had a wonderful meal of deviled eggs, tomatoes, black olives, tuna, green beans, and potato salad. (a picture of their plate is included)

The most time consuming aspect is blending the oil into the dressings. This needs to be done very slowly (either a very slow stream or in droplets) so the oil emulsifies and creates a creamy dressing that doesn't quickly separate. Before putting the salad together, have the eggs hard boiled, potato salad made, and green beans blanched. Then the salad goes together in a snap. (You could even do these things hours before you were going to serve the salad). Don't be scared of the anchovies. The saltiness adds a nice flavor to the salad. I chopped the anchovies so they weren't too overwhelming (especially since I am just starting to cook with anchovies).

This recipe serves 6 - 8 people---however, as a meal, Curtis and I ate half a recipe all by ourselves.

Salade Nicoise
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

French Potato Salad
1 lb boiling potatoes
2 T dry white wine
1 T wine vinegar
1/2 t prepared mustard
dash of salt
3 T olive oil
1 T parsley, chopped

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water to cover, and boil until the potatoes are jsut tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into slices 1/8" thick. Place in mixing bowl. Pour wine over warm potato slices and toss very gently. Set aside a few minutes until the potatoes have absorbed the liquids. Beat the vinegar, mustard, and salt in a small bowl until the salt has dissolved. Beat in the oil by droplets. Season to taste. Pour dressing over potatoes and gently toss to blend. Sprinkle parsley over top. Yields 3 cups.

French Dressing
4 T (1/4 c) wine vinegar (or a mixture of white vinegar and lemon juice)
dash of salt
12 T (3/4 c) olive oil

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the salt until the salt is dissolved. Beat in the oil by droplets and season with pepper. (Alternatively, place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds to blend thoroughly. This method worked great for me). Yields 1 c

The Salad
3 c cold, blanched green beans
3 or 4 quartered tomatoes
1 c French Dressing (see above)
1 head Boston Lettuce (I actually used mixed spring greens--I am not sure how much)
3 c cold French Potato Salad (see above)
1 c canned tuna chunks, drained
1/2 c pitted black olives (preferably Nicoise olives)
2 - 3 hard boiled eggs, cold, peeled and quartered
6 - 12 canned anchovy fillets, drained
2 - 3 T fresh green herbs (thyme, parsley, etc), minced

Just before serving, season the beans and tomatoes with several spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Toss the lettuce leaves in a salad bowl with 1/4 c vinaigrette and place the leaves around the edge of the bowl. Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of the bowl. Decorate with the beans and tomatoes, interspersing them with a design of tuna chunks, olives, eggs, and anchovies. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad, sprinkle with herbs, and serve.

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