My parents used to take us to Europe for two or three weeks during the Summer. My brother and I are three years apart. I’m the older one. A typical day would involve some sightseeing, lunch at a pre-arranged serious restaurant, shopping, resting and a serious dinner for which we had to “dress”. When I think of it, we were pretty much “dressed” all the time. No jeans in our luggage! Occasionally, my brother and I had a few hours off and we would go touring by ourselves. We split the responsibilities of travel. Martin was the navigator and I was the interpreter if French was needed.
Food was not taken lightly on these trips. Every restaurant was carefully chosen and every meal was savored. Lunch was not eaten on the run. It was a three course meal-linen napkin event. Dad truly reveled in these meals. He loved the pomp and ceremony that surrounded his choice of wine; he loved the food and he loved that he was able to take his family on these amazing trips.
One of Dad’s favorite lunches was a Salade Nicoise. He loved it so much that either he or Mom, I don’t remember which one, found a recipe for it and Annie Mae began making it for us at home. It doesn’t seem unusual as I write about it now; but back in the day- it was. Every time we would have a Nicoise Salad at home, Dad would reminisce about where we had eaten it in Paris and then would plan the next trip.
The way we were served a Salade Nicoise in Paris was the way Julia Child described it in her many books. It is a composed salad; by which I mean a salad made up of many ingredients prepared separately and arranged on a platter. Ideally, you will enjoy all the components; but serving it this way also gives the “picky” eaters a chance to take just what they like. Today, many restaurants make this salad with fresh tuna. My personal preference is to use canned dark Italian tuna packed in oil. I also urge you to serve this dish at room temperature and let the flavors really shine. Plastic wrapped, ice cold bowls of salad taken from the fridge just don’t do it justice. You can prepare all the components of this salad a day in advance. Remove them from the fridge, arrange the platter and let the salad come to room temperature before serving.
To this day, whenever I make a Salade Nicoise, I think of those trips and what wonderful family experiences they were.
Prep time: 30 minutes
By May 29, 2014Published:
- 8 Servings
- 2 cups Vinaigrette
- 2 pounds fresh haricots verts or green beans washed and trimmed
- 1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes cleaned-not peeled
- 1 small Red Onion minced
- 8 large ripe plum tomatoes (3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes) rinsed
- 4 large eggs
- 24 ounces dark canned tuna packed in oil
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata Olives
- 1 large Boston lettuce washed and well dried
- 2 ounces anchovies-drained optional
- medium saucepan with cover
- medium mixing bowl
- large serving platter
- Steam haricots verts/green beans. Drain them in colander. Rinse with a lot of ice cold water, pat dry and set aside.
- Boil potatoes about 10 minutes until they are tender yet firm. Let them cool somewhat before cutting them into quarters and placing them in mixing bowl. Add minced onion to potatoes with 1/3 cup of vinaigrette. Toss gently. Set aside.
- To boil eggs so that they retain a bright yellow yolk: Cover eggs with water to cover in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover eggs, remove from heat and let them steam in the water for 12 minutes. Drain eggs, rinse under cold water and peel.
- Choose the most delicious tomatoes available. If Jersey tomatoes are available-use them, and cut them into attractive wedges. Do the same with plum tomatoes if they are running better. Another option is to use a pint of cherry tomatoes on the vine or pear tomatoes. Slice tomatoes and set aside.
- Drain anchovies if you are adding them to salad.
- To assemble salad: Line serving platter with lettuce leaves. Drain oil from tuna and arrange down the center of the platter. Arrange sections of beans, tomatoes and marinated potatoes around tuna. Arrange quartered eggs (and optional anchovies) over the tuna. Scatter olives over the entire salad. Serve remaining Vinaigrette on the side.