Ahhhh, the early days of summer and a dj's mind turns to thoughts of...Salade Nicoise. I just came back from a week at the beach, renting a lovely little shack with the tiniest kitchen, where merely boiling water felt like making entrees for ten. To overcome the need to cook daily I did most of my cooking the first day and nibbled off that for nearly the rest of the tour. Many versions of fresh salads followed, relying heavily on the farmers market and dried/canned accesories. Loads of fresh lettuces are cluttering up the aisles right now, along with young squash and cukes. Use 'em or lose them.
My secret ingredient, which is not for purists, is french lentils. De puy lentils boil up quickly with a bay leaf or two for flavor. Drain them and while warm coat with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and fresh herbs and they are ready for any salad making jobs you might present them. Eat them like this or you can add lemon or tarragon vinegar to the mix.
As a seasonal dessert accompaniment chez moi, we are starting a Fourth of July/14th of July tradition of red, white and blue, berry shortcake. I am lucky that our patriotic colors overlap with our friends the French, where my heart truly lies. O' for the good old days when their government punished les traiteurs, with a visit to the guillotine, instead of a patriotic commuting of prison sentence.
Salade Nicoise: The basics, serves 6
Lettuce, any style or color
One pound of green beans, stemmed, steamed, then cooled
Tomatoes 3-4, quartered, or a dozen or more cherry tomatoes
Red potatoes, small and evenly sized, 8-10. quarter, boil and cool
6-8 hard boiled eggs, cut into 8 piece
1/2 cup Nicoise olives
3 Tbl capers
1 can chunk tuna, packed in oil
Freshly opened, small can of anchovies
This is the traditional base, but variations I include: cooked french lentils, asparagus, pickled beets, cornichons, cukes, pickled carrots, roasted zucchini, sunflower seeds, canned garbanzos, you name it.
Arrange the lettuce on a platter and ring the platter with all of your lovely ingredients. Make a concentric pattern, or not. Curl the anchovies atop the egg pieces. Drizzle shallot vinaigrette on top.
1/2 Tbl finely minced shallot or scallion
1/2 Tbl dijon-style mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbl wine vinegar
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
Shake up all the ingredients together in a screw top jar. Correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or drops of lemon juice. Can be refrigerated, covered, for a few days.