Thursday, July 31, 2008
White Trash Nicoise
Salade Nicoise is one of those classic summer recipes. It exemplifies the more approachable side of French food: simple to make, not fancy, just really good. You can pay $15 for a plate of it in a bistro or you can make it yourself for a lot less. The basic ingredients are potatoes, green beans and tuna - you don't have to use tuna; I know one excellent food blogger who likes his with grilled swordfish - but this is my Nicoise. And we are not using the grill, we are going with canned tuna. You can feed up to six people with one can of tuna! Here we go:
First start with the dressing. Get a jar and put in some olive oil and red wine vinegar - or you can use lemon juice. Proportions should be about twice as much oil as vinegar. Peel a garlic clove and cut in half and add to jar. Add some pepper and mustard (either dry or prepared is fine). Shake it up and set aside. You do this first to allow the garlic to infuse the dressing.
Get the potatoes boiling. For four to six people I'd suggest five medium potatoes. Give them about 20 minutes (you don't want them too soft), drain, cool and peel. Slice them up and throw in a bowl.
Prep the green beans while the potatoes are cooking, cut in bite size pieces and steam until done. You will want about three generous handfuls of beans, depending on how many you are feeding and how much you like beans. The balance of the salad can be either in favor of the starch (potatoes) or the green (beans); it is up to you. When beans are done, cool under running water, drain and throw in the bowl with the potatoes.
Somewhere out there I hear a voice raised: "Isn't a proper Salade Nicoise plated?" Indeed yes, it is what is known as a composed salad, and you can take the time to build a pretty construction out of it if you like. We are not going to do that. Now drain the tuna (12 ounce can), flake it and add to the bowl along with some freshly ground pepper. Put several spoonfuls of capers on top. The capers really make the salad. Now get your dressing and dress the salad somewhat generously. You don't want to drown it, but the potatoes will drink up a fair amount of dressing. Start low and then add a little more if you need to. Toss the salad (gently! You don't want to mash the potatoes) and serve.
A classic Nicoise contains anchovies, but I really don't like them, so I left them out. It will also contain hard boiled eggs, which I didn't bother with today - it was just me for lunch - but I do think the eggs are a good idea as they will stretch the salad. Just serve a halved egg on the side of the plate. You can also serve the Nicoise on salad greens, which will stretch it further and up your vegetable intake. Leftover salad makes a great work lunch for the next day.
Some thoughts on capers: I love them and they are a great addition to this salad. If you like capers, try to buy the biggest jar you can find and you'll save money. I actually found a one-quart jar of capers at Surfas, a restaurant supply store. It will probably take me the rest of my life to finish it, but hey! Cheap capers!