Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recipe: Salad Nicoise-ish

I like to cook. I love to cook. But I've come to one of those places in my life where I've realized that I don't actually cook much. Huh.

Let's see -- I...
  1. Lived in NYC and talked about food incessantly in addition to eating out whenever possible
  2. Went to a fancy French cooking school
  3. Worked as a personal chef for 8+ years
  4. Opened a recreational cooking school of my own
  5. Got so darn busy that I stopped cooking for myself and my family
I fell into that trap of getting busy and hiring other, wonderful folks to work with me and to broaden our class offerings at The Kitchen Studio, and in the meantime, got sucked into working at night, working during the day, shuttling teens from track practice and softball 7 days a week and, well, I'm sure you know the drill.

But I really, really like to cook. So I've decided to do just that, and gear up for a summer of lovely vegetables and herbs.

To start things off, I'm going back to my beginning (cooking school) -- Salad Nicoise. Ish. Because this is traditional in feel, but not all the way across the board. I made it the way I like it, and I'll tell you, it's pretty darn fantastic, and not at all difficult to make, though it can be a bit of a process.

Salad Nicoise-ish
Serves 4-6
  • 1 pound baby potatoes, any variety
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and quartered
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 or 2 heads of butter or Boston lettuce, your choice, washed, dried, & torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon good quality Dijon or grainy mustard
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup good quality olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Excellent quality canned tuna in olive oil, 265 ml (not the cheap stuff)
  • Optional: Nicoise Olives, green beans

Scrub your potatoes and place in a medium pot. Cover with cold water, plus another 2" or so, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes. Remove one from the pot to test that it's cooked through. If not, add a few minutes until tender. Drain in a colander and cut potatoes in half. Place hot potatoes in a bowl. Pour white wine over potatoes and allow to rest for 10 minutes. The potatoes should soak up a bit of the wine, which is yummy. Trust me.

In a separate bowl, add the chives, thyme, parsley, mustard and vinegar. Whisk well to combine, then drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a lettuce leaf, taste the vinaigrette to see if you like it. I tend to the vinegary side, so you may want to add a little more olive oil -- your call. I used this fancy-pants mustard that I bought this past weekend in NYC. Isn't it cool? And yes, it's delicious as well. :)

Like your vinaigrette? You're set then. Add about 1/3 of the vinaigrette to the warm potatoes and toss gently to combine, taking care not to smash the potatoes. At this point, you can refrigerate the potatoes and hold off on assembly until you're ready.

To assemble, place the washed and dried lettuce in the bottom of a large, flat bowl or on a platter. Add quartered tomatoes, quartered hard-boiled eggs, red onion, and if you're using them, the olives and green beans. (Note: I totally bought green beans to go into this salad at Costco today, but when I cooked them they tasted rotten and disgusting and weird, so into the trash they went. Not that I'm angry or anything. But I am. Harumph.)

Drain the tuna, and please, please, please, no Chicken of the Sea here. You've got to use the best quality you can find.

I'm thinking that Juliet's Italian Market on Church St. in Frederick must have some of the good stuff. This tin cost $10.99 at Fairway in NYC, which it totally how much I thought it would be, but may freak you out price-wise. A little goes a long way.  Mmmmmm. 

Check it out. How gorgeous and summery and lovely is that?

Assemble right before serving, and drizzle with as much of the remaining vinaigrette as you like. You may have some left over, but you can save it in the fridge for up to a week to use in something else if you like.  I also love to serve this with a crusty baguette to sop up any dressing left pooling on my plate. Now, doesn't that sound nice?

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