Great Food Fast: Niçoise Salad for a Leisurely Summertime Lunch

A salad Niçoise, of course, simply means a salad in the style of Nice, that French city whose culinary tradition owes more to its Greek and Roman heritage, to its Mediterranean port and climate and to its proximity to Italy than to classic French cooking. Traditionally, a Niçoise salad consists of fresh, seasonal vegetables, hard-cooked eggs, olives and anchovies or tuna with a vinaigrette dressing, accompanied by good bread. I served this full-meal salad to some friends for a leisurely Sunday afternoon lunch with thinly-sliced, seared ahi tuna on the side to top it all off. If you are organized and shop well, this can be put together with a minimum of fuss.

SALAD NIÇOISE

Blanched Green Beans–snip off the stem ends, cook briefly in rapidly boiling water, allow 2-3 ounces per serving.  Raw cucumber, radishes and fennel would also be appropriate.

Tomato wedges, simply slice, allow one-half large tomato per person

Hard cooked eggs–choose organic eggs, place in a pot, covered with cold water, bring to a boil, boil softly for just a minute, cover and turn off heat and let sit for six minutes, drain and cover with cold water to cool. Peel and cut in half.  Allow one egg per person. (If there’s a blue-greenish color to the edge of the yolks, your eggs are over-cooked, better luck next time!)

Olives, any quality, black olive will be good.  I used pitted Kalamata olives. Allow 6-7 olives per person.

Although not strictly traditional, I added a marinated chick pea salad and a simple red potato salad dressed with the same vinaigrette I made for the rest of the salad. Allow about one-half cup chick peas and three small red potatoes per person.

Seared ahi–also not strictly traditional, but a great addition if you eat fish. Just brush the ahi streaks with olive oil, sprinkle on lemon juice and salt and pepper and cook in a hot cast iron skillet 2-5 minutes  per side depending on how thick your steak is and what degree of doneness you like, then slice thinly. Allow three to four ounces per person.

Romaine lettuce–I served all of the above on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce.

Vinaigrette dressing

1/2 cup apple juice

1-2 cloves garlic

salt to taste

black pepper  to  taste

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste

1 t. dried Italian herbs

2 teaspoons dijon-style mustard–or to taste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1-2 tablespoons fresh herbs, parsley and/or basil

1/4 cup  olive oil

1/4 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except the oils and the fresh herbs in the jar of a blender.  Blend briefly, then with the “trap door” of the top of the blender open, gradually pour in the oil until you have  a creamy emulsion. Add the fresh herbs and blend very briefly. Taste, and adjust the seasonings.  Store dressing in a screw-top jar in your fridge.  Shake jar before each use. Keeps ten days or  more. Yield: About 1 1/4 cups.

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