If you're ever fortunate enough to go to Paris, you are bound to walk by many sidewalk cafés, brasseries, bistros and the like. As ubiquitous are the chalkboards that guard the entrances to these eateries, calling out the specials of the day. On almost all of them, you will find salade niçoise.
This is not the tuna salad that one traditionally finds in America, slathered in mayonnaise and sweet pickles. Salade niçoise hails from the Côte d'Azur; region of France, and is named after the city of Nice. It is a combination of tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, eggs and canned tuna packed in oil. It is typically topped with anchovies and Dijon vinaigrette. Like many French dishes, the name may evoke visions of elegance and glamour, but in reality the dish is the result of the vegetables and proteins available in that region of France. Put another way, it's really just a fancy way of describing a tossed salad from Nice.
I personally love this dish, because it is easy to make and perfectly captures the flavors of the Mediterranean. It won't replace the traditional American-style tuna salad, but instead provide you with a healthier alternative.
Yields: 6 servings1 dozen baby butter lettuce leaves
1 dozen baby Yukon potatoes, washed and peeled
1 dozen black olives, sliced
2 dozen cherry tomatoes , halved
1 dozen quail eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 dozen green beans
12 ounces white Albacore tuna filet, shredded in small chunks
1 tablespoon curly parsley, finely chopped
1 dozen anchovy filets (optional)
1-1/3 cups Dijon champagne vinegrette
For the butter lettuce: Wash and spin dry the whole butter lettuce leaves. Set aside.
For the green beans: Wash the green beans. Blanch them for about 4-5 minutes in boiling water and transfer into an ice bath. Drain thoroughly of all water, then pat dry on a paper towel. Do not overcook the green beans; they should still be tender and crisp, not mushy, or you will have depleted all the healthy nutrients. Trim the ends of the beans. Cut the beans into 2-inch long pieces. Set aside.
For the steamed potatoes: Fill a pot with cold water until it barely touches the steamer level. Place the peeled potatoes in the steamer, bring to a boil, add 2/3 teaspoon of salt, then reduce the heat to medium-high. Steam for about 8-9 minutes. The potatoes should be fork-tender. Remove from the steamer. Let them cool completely. Halve or quarter them depending on the size of the potatoes.
Pickling the shallot: Peel and thinly slice the shallot; mince finely. Place the minced shallot in a bowl, sprinkle with some brown sugar and drizzle with the lemon juice. Set aside.
Hard-cooked quail eggs: Place the eggs in a saucepan. Cover them with water. As soon as the water reaches a full boil, add 1/3 teaspoon of salt. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and let the quail eggs sit for about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath. Cool the eggs completely. Peel and halve them.
For the Dijon champagne vinaigrette: The recipe is the same as the one used for my savory goat cheese panna cotta with beluga lentil relish.
Assembly time: Use butter lettuce leaves as bowls. Place them on a serving platter. Combine all the ingredients and distribute them evenly into the lettuce bowls. Drizzle with the Dijon champagne vinaigrette. Garnish with curly parsley.
Accompany with a grilled pain de campagne (fresh artisan bread) and of course a little butter .
I picked all miniature ingredients for an aesthetic, appealing presentation. If you like, you can use traditional-sized ingredients.
It's almost the end of tomato season. Lulu planted 5 varieties of cherry tomatoes last February and I was able to gather Sun Gold, Sun Sugar and Sweet 100 tomatoes for this dish.
I couldn't find any haricots verts which are more delicate and tender, at my local market. I used regular green beans. Just look for the thinnest young fresh green beans. To check for quality and for freshness, just break one in half; it should snap and be crisp.
You can find quail eggs at the Asian market. 10 eggs cost $0.99.
This dish is perfect if you're hosting a buffet-style party. It's a time saver. You can prepare all the ingredients in advance. Refrigerate them and drizzle the vinaigrette when you're ready to serve.
For the salad dressing, it's essential to add mustard, which is a great binder (it contains some lecithin) for a smooth-textured vinaigrette.
Published By: on September 2, 2009.