Friday, August 31, 2012

Salade Nicoise Californian with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

Two Bowls of Salade Nicoise Heaped with Veggies and Fish and Eggs
All This and Romaine Too

Recipe inspired by the Lunch Box

Oddly enough, American versions of Salade Nicoise have evolved so much that they’re no longer Nicoise. Readers who are versant in French (I’m not) know that Nicoise means from Nice, the largest city on the French Riviera. In Nice, Salade Nicoise always contains local Cailletier olives, cured in a salty olive oil brine. The original recipe that I altered, like many American recipes, contains no olives at all. So I needed to add some high quality, salty, oily olives.

What about the classic American ingredients: cold boiled potatoes and blanched green beans? Wrong! The classic Nicoise contains no cooked veggies. It’s a bed of lettuce topped with mixed chopped raw vegetables, canned tuna, and anchovies. But some sources say to use either tuna or anchovies, not both. What’s a confused cook to do?

Bowl of Salade with Dressing
Salade Dressed
Let’s simplify. The Lunch Box, a now defunct deliver-lunch-to-you-at-work service made a Salade Nicoise that I loved, cooked potatoes and green beans notwithstanding. I’ve put together a similar salad, except with less lettuce and more variety of chopped veggies. Artichoke hearts, while a traditional raw ingredient in France, are cooked for my Californian style salade. Capers are eliminated in favor of the traditional olives. I don’t have a local source for Nicoise olives, and forgot to order online. In the meantime I substituted (Greek) Kalamata olives, similarly bold in flavor and color.

Bowl of Salade with Substituted Veggies
Another Day, Another Salade:
Peppers & Heirloom Tomatoes Replace Artichokes
I made a creamy Dijon vinaigrette dressing, another not-traditional idea from the Lunch Box. A non-creamy vinaigrette would be more traditional, especially with Dijon mustard. If you want to enjoy your salad like Nice natives, just drizzle a bit of good olive oil over the salad and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Your choice!

Note that cooked eggs and veggies require time to cool before you can make the salade, so prepare them in advance.

Bowl of Salade with Dressing
Different Salade, Same Dressing
Salade Nicoise
serves 2

2 eggs
¼ - ½ lb. green beans
2  small red or yellow potatoes
1 (8 oz.) pkg. frozen artichoke heart quarters
Romaine or other lettuce for two
12 Nicoise or Kalamata olives
6 oz. can albacore tuna
~ 10 cherry tomatoes

Hard boil the eggs and chill. Cut potatoes in half or thirds. Boil in salted water until just tender, about 8 – 10 minutes. Drain and chill immediately.

Cook artichokes lightly in the microwave or boiling water according to instructions on package. Steam green beans about 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Chill artichokes and beans.

Line two salad bowls with torn lettuce leaves. Arrange green beans on top of lettuce. Add potatoes.

Cut cherry tomatoes and eggs in half and add to salade.

Top salade with drained tuna and Nicoise olives. Serve with dressing or olive oil and pepper.

All Ingredients for Dressing Ready to Mix
Dressing Ingredients Prepped
Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette
makes ¾ - 1 cup

½ cup nonfat thick yogurt
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Stir together yogurt, mayonnaise, and mustard till smooth and well mixed. Stir in lemon rind.

Combine lemon juice and white wine vinegar to yogurt mixture a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in salt and pepper.

Stir olive oil into dressing and serve.

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