Salad Niscoise – A Variation

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It has been unseasonably warm here lately, and it has thrown my palate into wanting tasty salads with delicious ingredients.  This was further spurred by a couple of experiences in the last week as well.

First of all, last weekend, we went to a vineyard luncheon at a fancy restaurant near our home.  They do this once a month and choose a specific region, bring wines in from that region, and then make a meal to match the wines.  Typically, it’s 4 courses, and it’s fantastic.  This time, the region was Southern France.  One of the courses was Salad Niscoise.  I’ve had this salad before, it is delicious and flavorful and just lovely.

Secondly, we joined a CSA for the spring season.  What is a CSA you ask?  It stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, you buy a “share” of a local farmer’s harvest.  You get fresh veggies weekly straight from the farmer.  Most of the time a “share” is sufficient for a family of four.  Since we are just 2 people, we are sharing the share with another couple.  Prices vary for CSAs, but the one that we are part of works out to be $20/week for a full share, so $10 for each couple per week.  Not too bad for fresh veggies that are much higher quality than anything you could buy in the store.  This time of year, the veggies consist of mostly greens.  We got Asian greens (2 different types), chives, kale, and micro greens (pea shoots that taste just like peas!).  So, given all of the greens we have to eat this week, salads it is!

So, as a way of being creative with the lettuce and also a means of recreating the special lunch that William and I had, I decided to get all of the items (outside of the greens) to make Salad Niscoise.  I didn’t have a recipe just a basic idea of what is included in the salad.  I love making my own salad dressings at home, so I knew just the thing to do for that as well.  It turned out great, and William loved it just as much as at the restaurant, so YAY! 🙂

Below is a rough outline of what I did.  I won’t call it a “recipe” per se because I don’t really measure when I’m cooking on the fly.  It will give you a good idea of what to do if you want to recreate this delicious salad for yourself.

What you’ll need:

  • Greens – I used a mixture of Asian greens from our CSA – kind of looked like spring mix + romaine…one that tasted like regular lettuce and one that was a little more bitter, but any of your favorite greens will do.
  • Tomatoes – I used baby heirloom tomatoes, which are super flavorful and hearty.  Again, any favorite tomato will do.
  • Chives
  • Fresh green beans – I bought those that come pre-cleaned and ends snapped off in a steam-in-the-microwave bag.  Easy peasy. Steam them in the bag, and then immediately put them in an ice bath to cool them down quickly.
  • Fingerling potatoes (or any small potato that can be eaten with the skin on) – boil them in water with the skins on until fork-tender.  Plunge them immediately into an ice bath to cool them down quickly.
  • Hard-boiled eggs – sliced thickly (4-5 slices per egg); I put 1 1/2 on each salad.
  • 1 small package of yellowfin tuna packed in extra virgin olive oil for each salad.  You could use a different type of tuna (I’ve also tried Albacore white), but they don’t quite have the right flavor for the salad.
  • Optional:  micro greens to give a little extra flavor and pretty topping
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For the dressing, and this is the hard part because I just added ingredients until it “tasted right.”  So, the amounts of each ingredient below are total guesses and are just a start.  Add more or less of each item until it suits your taste.

  • Olive oil, start with 1/4-1/2 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely.  I add the garlic to the oil and put it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get the garlic to infuse through the oil.  I have no idea if this really changes the taste of the dressing, but I get the sense that it takes out some of the strength of the garlic.
  • Red wine vinegar, start with 1/4-1/2 cup (equal parts oil & vinegar to start)
  • Honey, start with 1-2 tablespoons
  • Country dijon mustard, start with 1-2 teaspoons
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Whisk everything together and add more honey, vinegar, or mustard depending on your taste

I chopped the lettuce and chives, diced the tomatoes, sliced the potatoes and eggs, left the green beans whole, and just used a fork to chop up the tuna.  I salted & peppered the salad ingredients lightly before adding the dressing and micro greens.  Drizzle the dressing with a spoon…I found that 2-3 tablespoons is plenty for a large salad.  Then, I just added the micro greens to the top for a tasty decoration.

And, yes, that pic at the top of this post is my actual salad that I just enjoyed for lunch today.  Delicious!