Two old friends

salad-nicoise2Some things seem like they have always been with me. My stuffed dog Muggs, my recipe for Salade Nicoise and my friend Rene are a few of these. I don’t remember a time that Rene wasn’t my friend. We have known each other since kindergarten. We were in the same high school French class that gave us a recipe for Salade Nicoise. It was one of the first recipes that I learned to make and it was, bien sur written in French. We don’t remember what the assignment was that included a recipe for Salade Nicoise, but Madame Cueno provided one. This ultimate salad was served to me by Rene the other day at Sunday dinner at her Seattle home on Lake Washington. It was the best Salade Nicoise I’ve ever had.

Salade Nicoise is a classic composed salad comprised of tuna or anchovies, hard boiled egg, small potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and Nicoise olives. When I was quite young, and didn’t know any better, or didn’t have any better, I used things like canned new potatoes and bottled vinaigrette. The best thing I can say about that is that at least I was trying. Now I would only make this salad in the spring or summer when the freshest vegetables are available. Only canned ingredient I would recommend is very high quality tuna canned in olive oil. You could always use grilled albacore tuna as well. Of course make the salad with canned albacore in water if you wish. Don’t pass on this salad if you don’t want to use expensive tuna. Or omit the tuna if you are vegetarian. Do what makes sense to you. Julia Child recommended that each ingredient be dressed separately. While I respect this I haven’t the patience for it, preferring to drizzle dressing over the completed salad. Over all I think the distribution of the dressing is better Julia’s way, so please be a better person than me and toss each separately. It doesn’t take that much longer. Do not dress the eggs. That would cause them to break apart. Potatoes should be warm when dressed to absorb the vinaigrette.

2 cans highest quality canned tuna, packed in olive oil
4 large hard-boiled eggs, quartered
10 small boiled new red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size.
2 medium heads Boston lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
3 small vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces green beans, cut in half
1/4 cup niçoise olives

1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 or 3 lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Wisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in small bowl. Set aside.

Using a large plate place lettuce on plate with a little more towards the edges. Arrange green beans, cooked potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs in mounds on lettuce bed with tuna in the center. Scatter red onion and Nicoise olives over top of salad. Serve immediately.
Serves 6


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