A Twist on Salad Nicoise for Monthly Mingle – April in Paris, and Part 10April 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Dinner, Healthy, Lunch, Rainbow, Salads, Seafood, Vegetables | 55 Comments
Tags: Anchovies, Bell Peppers, Blue Potatoes, Carrots, Dole baby spinach leaves, eggs, French, garlic, Grape Tomatoes, Green Beans, Haricots Verts, Herbs, Monthly Mingle, Nicoise Salad, Olive Oil, Olives, Purple Potatoes, Rainbow Salad, Salad, Salad Nicoise, Seared Tuna, Vinaigrette
So, here I am again. Life has thrown some nasty curveballs at me and loved ones the past month, so I haven’t been able to concentrate on cooking, baking, writing, and really LIVING. Simply put, I’m on auto-pilot (last time I was on auto-pilot was when I was 16, if you’ve been reading BBFL) - functioning as best I can.
However, I managed to take some photos of lunch, a lunch I made intentionally to take part in Monthly Mingle, founded by the lovely Meeta, of What’s for Lunch, Honey? This month, my friend, the equally lovely, Jamie, of Life’s a Feast, is hosting Monthly Mingle, and the theme she chose is April In Paris, which basically means – make something French, sweet or savory.
Initially, before everything happened, visions of profiteroles filled with a unique mousse, or crepes suzette, danced through my head. I wanted to keep it classic, but I was going to go completely postal on the fancy factor. As mentioned above, life got in the way, so I needed to keep it quick and simple. I’ve existed on take-out, oatmeal and yogurt the past 3 weeks or so - except for the occasional salad I whip up, only because it’s easy. Outside of searing the tuna for this salad, I haven’t cooked or baked in a month. Last time that happened, was after my knee surgery a few years ago, and many, many years before that.
So, here’s a salad, a classic French salad called a Salad Nicoise (Most commonly called Nicoise Salad in the US). It’s pronounced Ni-Swahz, not Ni-Coy or Ni-Kwa, but if you hear someone call it Ni-Coy or Ni-Kwa, don’t correct them in front of people, or laugh at them, because it’s embarrassing. OK, maybe find a way to correct them without correcting them..like;
“Mmm..a Salad Ni-swahz sounds delicious – maybe I’ll have one too!”
UPDATE – It’s Ni-SWAHZ, not Niss-Wa, so I was wrong again, Figures. Plus, ‘Salade’ was wrong too..so it’s just Salad. Thanks, pumpkinpie.
OR, just whisper it to them. Up until the age of 22, I called potpourri, POT – pourri instead of PO-pourri. I was mor-teee-fied when a new boyfriend’s sister corrected me upon first meeting his family – in front of his whole family.
I’m feeling very PC today.
That being said, this salad originated in Nice, France, and traditionally, everything should be raw, with good quality canned tuna in oil, but it’s morphed over the years into different versions, the most common containing fresh, seared tuna, blanched green beans (usually haricots verts – the skinny ones) and roasted, steamed or boiled potatoes. As usual, I took some liberties and added some not so traditional ingredients, and made a few slight changes.
First off, those of you who read this blog know I have a thing for rainbows, but not in a rainbow, lollipops and sunshine way..I’m just attracted to the sequence of colors and love to see that sequence incorporated into food. I’m absolutely crazy about those gorgeous, mile-high rainbow cakes you see all over the food blogosphere, but all that food color in one cake bothers me a little.
I don’t mind using it in small amounts, like cookie decorating, macarons, and even red velvet cake, it’s just that these cakes are 6-layers of food color! Food color is not a flavor – so that’s a lot of food color with no flavor pay-off. However, I have been devising a way to make one those cakes using homemade fruit syrups and/or dehydrated fresh fruit powders to color each layer of cake batter, sort of like THIS BEAUTY. Obviously, this will make it a lot more laborious, not to mention probably not as vibrant as the ones made with food color, but I think my little experiment will be worth it for a special occasion. Knock wood, err..formica.
I digress. I turned this Salad Nicoise into a rainbow. Red tomatoes, Orange carrots, Yellow bell peppers and egg yolks, Green beans, Blue potatoes, Violet (well, purplish) olives. There’s your Roy G. Biv, minus the Indigo because I don’t think blue and purple need Indigo squished between them – too similar either way. I put the tuna where I could fit the most slices - the rareness a lovely magenta.
I think it looks beautiful. The ‘rainbow’ rows lie on a bed of tender, baby spinach leaves tossed with a little of the dressing. I used Dole bagged baby spinach leaves because the leaves are already washed, and as mentioned above, everything has to be easy at this time. BUT, truth be told, a Salade Nicoise does take a little more time than your average salad, to put together.
One more thing..anchovies. I love the flavor of anchovies, but I don’t love biting into hairy, whole anchovy filets. When I cook them into sauces or use them in salads, I chop them very finely, then saute until they melt into the oil, or simply add them to a salad dressing. This is what I did for the dressing for the Salad Nicoise, instead of placing them whole, on top of the salad - similar to how you make a Caesar dressing, minus the coddled egg, but with red or white wine vinegar, shallots, a little honey and herbs.
You can serve this salad on 4 separate plates, or one big platter that everyone can share, passing the dressing, which is what I did. BUT, I didn’t have a platter big enough (only 12-inches across) to fit the full amounts of each ingredient, so I just lined everything up in rows with as much that would fit. I’m sure you all have bigger platters than mine – so no worries.
By the way, are the blue potatoes not gorgeous? What a deep blue, stunning hue! I love them. Also, did you know May 1st is the start of National Salad Month?? Looks like I finally ‘hit’ a national ‘food day/month’, for once, albeit a few days early.
Finally, for some who are here just to get the recipe, I’m now posting Bad Boy First Love after the recipe, so you don’t have to scroll down 20 miles to get to it.
BUT, if you want to see a few more photos, scroll.
Rainbow Salad Nicoise
4 lunch or dinner sized servings or 6 small servings
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 pint red grape or teardrop tomatoes
4 carrots, peeled
2 yellow bell peppers
4 hard boiled eggs
1/2 lb haricots verts (skinny French green beans), ends snapped off
1 lb small blue or purple potatoes or 4 medium
1/2 lb nicoise or any small black or purple olives
1 lb tuna steak, or two 1/2 lb tuna steaks, super fresh, sushi-grade (about 4 oz per person) – if you prefer it well done, it doesn’t have to be sushi-grade
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
NOTE: IF you can’t find blue or purple potatoes, use red skinned or any waxy potato. If you can’t find haricots verts, use any fresh green or string bean that’s available.
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons honey (taste and add second tablespoon if needed)
1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used light olive oil, but for those who like a stronger olive flavor, extra-virgin is perfect)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
3 anchovy filets, chopped
pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Make the vinaigrette. Finely chop the garlic together with the chopped anchovies and a pinch of kosher salt, to almost a paste. Add to jar with a tight lid, along with the rest of the ingredients – shake vigorously. If you’re using a bowl, add all ingredients to the bowl except the olive oil, and while whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also make the vinaigrette in a food processor, drizzling in the olive oil while the other ingredients chop, but you’ll get a thicker, creamy dressing. Not a bad thing, your choice. If you have time..let this vinaigrette sit at room temperature for an hour or more to let the flavors meld. Even better, make it the day before. then put it in the fridge overnight. Take it out and let come to room temperature before serving.
2. Boil the eggs. Bring a medium pot of salted water and the eggs (water should be 1-inch over the eggs and the eggs should fit on the bottom in one layer..no overlapping) to a rolling boil, remove from the heat, and cover tightly for 12 minutes. Once 12 minutes is up, remove the eggs and peel under running, cold water. Place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge, until ready to assemble.
3. In a ziplock bag or bowl which you will cover tightly with plastic wrap, pour about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette over the tuna steaks and let marinate in the fridge for one hour, turning after 1/2 hour.
4. WASH all of the vegetables well, scrubbing the potatoes (water only). Bring a large pot of heavily salted water and the whole potatoes, unpeeled, to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes (less if they’re small) until tender. Remove from boiling water and let cool. Slice and toss with a some of the vinaigrette.
5. Peel the yellow peppers with a vegetable peeler (you don’t have to peel them, I just like to for certain salads). Cut them open, scrape out the seeds and any white pith, then cut into strips or bite-sized pieces. Peel the carrots, then shred them on a grater or use the shredding disk in your food processor. Toss all the vegetables, separately. with a little of the vinaigrette. Snap the ends off the green beans and bring another pot of salted water to a boil.
6. Fill a bowl with cold water and lots of ice. Place the green beans in the boiling water and let boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes – 3 at the most, depending on the thickness of your beans. Haricots verts shouldn’t need more than 30 seconds to 1 minute.
7. Strain the green beans, then dump them all into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep them bright green. Let them cool completely in the water, then remove, dry, and toss with some of the vinaigrette.
8. Heat a medium saute pan or skillet until hot, Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Remove the tuna steak or steaks from the marinade. Shake off excess marinade, then dab steaks with a clean tea towel to dry them. Season each side well with kosher salt and black pepper. Place the steak(s) into the pan and let sear on every side for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tuna, and how rare you prefer it. I cooked mine less than one minute per side, (I like it very rare – you can cook it all the way through to well done, if you like – 3 minutes per side, again, depending on the thickness of the tuna) . Hold the steak up with tongs to sear the sides around both flat surfaces. Remove from pan and let sit for about 10 minutes. Once rested, slice into strips, about 1/4 to 1/2 - inch thick.
1. Toss the baby spinach leaves with some of the vinaigrette.
2. Divide spinach equally between four plates, or pile onto one big platter. In order, lay out rows of the grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, yellow peppers, hard-boiled eggs – quartered vertically, green beans, sliced tuna, blue or purple potatoes sliced or cut how you like, and olives. Pass the dressing and serve with a nice, warm, crusty baguette and butter.
Part 10 – For the 10th time (It’s now quite amusing that I thought 2 posts would cover my memories of him), if you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, and Part 9 is HERE.
Well..I didn’t drop the age bomb the next night, or the night after, or the night after that. It didn’t happen until a little over a week later after a bunch of best.nights.ever. with him. The longer it went on, the harder it became to drop this bomb - the carnage could be devastating. I was terrified of losing him.
It finally happened, and not because I wanted to fess up at that moment and get it over with. This confession was starting to become something bigger than it actually was - a giant 16.5 anvil on my shoulder. I probably would have needed a xanax to do it had the following not happened;
I’ll set the scene.
He came over to our glorious 3-room, couch in the kitchen, bunk bedded, penthouse (I can’t help repeating this in each part, I wish you could all see what this place looked like) after work. Two of my friends were out with some guys that were also staying in our complex, while the third one was in the bedroom, on the top bunk, with her boyfriend from home who had come up for the weekend. He was sleeping. She was bored. From that top bunk, she kept sticking her head out the top of door, so all we saw was a thick mass of raven hair dangling – a head without a body, cracking us up sporadically.
Dreamboat was lying on our couch in the kitchen, one arm stretched back, one hand on my leg as I sat on the edge of the couch beside him. He reached up and stroked my hair – an undefined sadness suddenly blanketing his eyes..like a brief moment of haze on a sunny day.
“You know, I was thinking…” then he paused
Thinking? Thinking we should get married? Thinking I should have your babies?
I stared into his eyes, waiting anxiously for him to finish the sentence. His eyelashes were so long..I had never noticed how long they were. He was just too beautiful.
“..I was thinking that you never told me what you were going to do now that you’ve graduated. Are you going to college or are you going to just stick around and get a full-time job?”
The bedroom door creaked open a bit again, but no full head popping out this time. My friend heard THE question, and knew this was D-Day- well, D-Eve – there was no way out now. I laughed. I couldn’t help myself or stop because I could see her nose and eyes through the crack.
Wonderful, I might lose the love of my life any second, and I was laughing.
He looked over to see what I was laughing at, smiled, then turned back to me and continued..
“..I figured it’s probably college because I can’t imagine a smart girl like you not going to college, and it’s been bothering me a little because I don’t want to lose you again so soon, unless you’re going local, which would be great”
I was now looking down, tracing his fingers with my own, willing it to be over with. I ran one finger around a raggedy hangnail on his index finger - he chewed on them occasionally. I thought about grabbing my cuticle scissor and trimming it once I confessed, IF he didn’t dump me.
I took a deep breath..then another. Why was it suddenly so hard to breathe? The tension was like a drawn bow aimed at my heart. I was wound tighter than a girdle on a hippo. Here goes..1…2…3..
“Well, we don’t have to think about that for another year”
He looked relieved..”You’re gonna to take a year off before going to college?”
Deep breaths, deep breaths, relaaaax, Lisa
I entwined my fingers in his…this could be the last time he let me touch him. My voice started to shake a little as the words I’d been dreading started to seep from my now bone-dry lips. No amount of licking could moisten them..my whole mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton. I managed to choke it out..
“Ummm, no, first I need to start and finish my senior year”
He looked confused..”Did you flunk? Do you have to repeat your senior year?”
My tear ducts were filling, but holding on for dear life, I finally just blurted it out..and the first tear broke free, rolling down my cheek slowly, as if to taunt me as punishment for this lie.
“NO, I’m not 18. I’m almost 17, I’m going into my senior year for the first time”
He just looked at me and didn’t say a word. I kept on explaining, more as a way to avoid what I felt was the inevitable end.
“I thought you would think I was too young and not want me if I told you my real age last year..I’m so sorry, so, so sorry”
His face changed from soft to emotionless. Oh no..this was not good.
He sat up and ran his fingers through his shiny, beautiful hair – the hair I’d run my fingers through more times than I could count the past week or so. The thought of not being able to do that again made me nauseous. He looked directly at me. I suddenly felt so cold.
“So, you’re not 18, and you’re not even 17 yet?”
The tears started rolling down my cheeks like they were in a race to my chin. I looked right into his eyes like the scared puppy I was at that moment.
I couldn’t speak normally, it came out in a whisper..”Yes”
My nose was starting to run. Oh, it figures! I sniffed in hard. *Get back up in there!*. This was the epitome of heartbreak hell, I think I just lost the man of my dreams and now he was watching my nose run. I heard the bedroom door shut quietly. Even my friend knew it was bad enough to stop eavesdropping.
He kept staring at me, almost like he didn’t know me, and in a small way he didn’t – I had been dishonest with him, I was now a little girl, a kid, in his eyes. I imagined he was now seeing me with pigtails, combing a Barbie doll’s hair. After a few seconds of silence, deafening silence, he finally spoke again;
“Geez, Lis, I could get arrested”
I couldn’t help myself..
“For kissing me??”
Yep, that’s right, only kissing – he had been a perfect gentleman with me so far, he was moving very slow, waiting until I was ready to move forward. In stark contrast, most ‘good boys’ I knew, were all paws – they pushed and pushed until they had to get Daddy’s Lambo home by midnight. They were entitled, you know!
Dreamboat could get ‘it’ whenever he wanted ‘it’, from various, beautiful women, yet he stuck with me..but I had a feeling the ‘stuck’ was about to ‘unstick’ after learning my real age.
My face was now a mess..soaked with tears, my runny nose dripping over my lips. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom to get some tissues. By the look on his face, I figured he would leave, so I sat down on the toilet seat and started to cry softly, my face in my hands. I was waiting to hear the front door open and slam shut - my perfect guy, gone forever..then I would probably throw up.
My heart felt like it was unraveling, vessel by vessel.
After a few minutes, I felt a presence, a figure shadowing the doorway to the bathroom. I continued to cry, my face firmly planted in my hands. I thought it was my friend coming to comfort me, and he was already gone – he wasn’t a door slammer, I don’t even know why I thought that. I felt two hands on my knees – warm, strong, slightly calloused hands. Unless my friend suddenly grew man hands, it was definitely him. He was squatting on the floor in front of me. OK, he didn’t leave, good sign so far.
“Shhh..calm down, baby” Now I was baby. Made sense after my confession.
He reached up and started to pull my hands from my face. I wouldn’t let go. Soon he was pulling at them finger by finger. I could see between two fingers he pulled apart that he was starting to smile – this whole finger pulling game was starting to become funny. I was like a little kid - he would pull one back, I would push it back down.
GREAT, I was acting like a kid – the last thing I needed to do after THE CONFESSION.
OK, time to grow up.
I released both hands, but didn’t look up. I could only imagine how awful I looked. Bright pink face, runny nose – thank GOD I didn’t wear mascara. Water-proof or not, that stuff doesn’t quite hold up to teeming, salty, saturated grief.
He lifted my chin gently..looking into my now squinty, swollen eyes. His face was soft again. It was amazing how just a look from him could rev up my heartbeat.
“I’m not going anywhere, Lisa – it’s too late, I’m crazy about you”
Now that I had gotten what seemed to be a pass..not quite forgiveness, but a stay of execution, I started blithering away – rambling faster than the speed of light.
“You know, a 2 1/2 year age difference will mean nothing once I’m 20 and you’re almost 23 – my father is 4 years older than my mother! Plus, Mike from downstairs (one of the guys my other two friends were hanging out with that night - whom I’d confessed my lie to) told me that he dated a … ”
He playfully placed his hand over my mouth..I really was blathering too much, smiled a bit, moved in closer and said..
“I got you beat, my father is almost 10 years older than my mother”
My heart started to repair itself, beating happily, but then his smile dimmed.
“BUT, he didn’t start dating her until she was 19 – she was legal”
The reconstruction of my semi-shattered heart paused.
“I’ll be legal in a little over a year” God, I sounded desperate.
He leaned back and sat on the floor aganst the wall, his knees up, looking pensive. *NO, don’t move away, come back and put your hands back on my knees*
“You don’t act like a 16 year old – not even close. You’re more mature than a lot of 20-year old and older women I know”
“Almost 17″, I muttered in pitiful protest
He leaned up and pulled me down to him, cradling me between his legs, wrapping me up in his arms. I can only imagine how funny we looked..paradise on the bathroom floor?.
I was still crying a bit – he didn’t care that my nose was running on his shirt, but I reached up and pulled off about 30 feet of toilet paper anyway – wiping his shirt – then trying not to honk as I blew my nose. Of course, I honked.
After about 15 minutes of bathroom floor bliss, what seemed like a million apologies from me, and hopefully, forgiveness, I ran my fingers through his hair, just because I could again. He told me he was actually a little flattered that I went to that length just to be with him, although there was an unspoken promise that it was never to happen again – no more lying, no matter what the circumstance.
Suddenly, the bathroom door slammed open - extirpating the bliss. My absent friends had returned, and one apparently drank way too much.
“Out of the way, OMG, I’m gonna throw up!!!”
I jumped up and held her hair back as she crouched over the toilet. I think this is a natural instinct all women are born with – it’s almost biblical in the female rule book of true friendship.
Dreamboat politely exited – I think he’d had his fill of bodily fluid evacuations that evening.
Once she was finished, and I helped her clean up, she looked at me with amusement and slurred..
“Whats thahell were you guysh doin’ on the bafroom floor?”
I decided to save the long-winded explanation for when she was sober, and instead, satiated her tequila clouded curiosity with a silly wisecrack.
“BARFroom floor, you mean?”
She laughed, then leaned on me and one of my other friends as we helped her change and get into bed.
As soon as we all knew she was going to be ok, tucked snuggly in bed with a waste paper basket at her service, Dreamboat grabbed my hand..
“Let’s go for a walk on the beach, sweetheart”
I was ‘sweetheart’ again. I think everything was going to be ok.
The finale/wrap-up/epilogue is finally upon us. Coming soon in Part 11.