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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Niçoise salad

A salad to end all salads. Seriously. This is not your average, girly, anemic "I'm on a diet" kind of salad. It's chock full of hearty vegetables and topped with lots of protein in the form of eggs and fish. It's French. It's Mediterranean. It's delicious.

Originally popularized in the U.S. by Julia Child, niçoise salad is a favorite in our house. You have my permission to skip the anchovies, but I hope you'll give them a chance. Chop them up in small pieces, if distributing the flavor around the salad helps you to eat them. And remember how essential those Omega-3 fatty acids are for optimal brain and body function.

But enough of that. If you won't eat your oily fish, then I guess there will be more for me (yum).

This recipe is my adaptation of the one found in America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. My changes? Kalamata olives instead of Niçoise; Boston or baby romaine instead of Bibb lettuce; and canned tuna in place of foil pouches. In other words, this recipe is good enough that I don't mess with it. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Niçoise salad

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoons dried (optional)
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 pounds new red or gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
2 heads Boston or baby romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
3 (5-ounce) cans of tuna in olive oil
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
Kalamata olives to taste -- I think I use 3/4 cup
1 small tin of anchovy fillets

1. Shake all of the dressing ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. Shake vigorously to recombine before using.

2. Bring 4 quarts of water, the potatoes, and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a large bowl (reserving the boiling water). Toss the cooked potatoes gently with 1/4 cup of the dressing and set aside to cool. Return the water to a boil, add the green beans, and cook until they are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans thoroughly, toss with 1/4 cup of the dressing, and refrigerate to cool.

3. Arrange lettuce in a bed on a large platter (or individual plates). Layer the remaining ingredients evenly, one on top of the other: cooled potatoes, cooled green beans, tuna, tomatoes, eggs, olives, and anchovy fillets. Drizzle some of the remaining dressing over the salad (but go easy). We find it's best to be conservative with the dressing and keep it on the table in case someone wants more.

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