Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A summer favorite - salade Niçoise

Learning that Vino Volo is an airport chain was somewhat of a disappointment, although I'm still glad it's in Dulles. I was beginning to despair of finding anything decent to eat in that airport; that is, anything healthier than a Five Guys burger or hotdog with everything.

The best airport food I can remember having was a salade Niçoise in Denver. I was skeptical if the little French joint could deliver the meal in short order before I had to dash for my flight, but they were johnny on the spot with a generous platter of lettuce and haricots verts topped with a poached salmon fillet instead of the traditional tuna. I continued on my flight feeling healthy and sated.

This main dish salad is a boon for summer suppers, and it's best not to make too many substitutions, since the traditional ingredients go together so well. The most jarring substitution I've seen was, believe it or not, in France; at a large restaurant in Roussillon, the salad came with all the traditional items, but also with a healthy sprinkling of ... canned corn. Since most French people equate corn with pig chow, I can only assume that they felt they were catering to American tastes.

Salade Niçoise, Lori K-style
Serves 2

1 small head tender lettuce, torn, washed and dried
1/2 pound tiny green beans, cooked and refreshed
1/4 cup basic vinaigrette
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 red potatoes, boiled, cooled and sliced
1 7-ounce can boneless, skinless Atlantic salmon, drained
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons small black Niçoise-type olives or kalmata olives
2 tablespoons capers
8 anchovies, optional 

Shortly before serving, toss the beans with spoonfuls of vinaigrette, and salt and pepper. Baste the tomatoes with a spoonful of vinaigrette. Place the potatoes to one edge of the plate, arrange a mound of beans at the other end, with tomatoes in one quarter and the eggs on another (if using anchovies, drape them across the egg quarters). Toss the lettuce with the remaining vinaigrette and put in the middle of the plate, topped with the salmon, olives and capers. Serve.

Lori K's tip for perfect crisp-cooked green beans: Bring water to a boil. Put the beans in a microwave dish. Cover with water and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes. Drain and chill. Use within two days. For hot beans, sauté them in a little broth, oil or butter until warm and season to taste.

Photo by Annabelle Breakey, Sunset magazine

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