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Salad Nicoise

Indio, California: Salad Nicoise is a healthy main dish salad I make several times a year - usually when the temperatures climb. It is 90+ in Indio this week, so I decided to serve something cold and make-ahead-able for dinner. Salad Nicoise is a classic dish from the French Mediterranean, and typically consists of tuna, sliced potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs - plus other veggies - with a classic vinaigrette dressing. Here is how to pronounce Nicoise:

It's unreal the stuff you can find on YouTube.

Boil the potatoes and blanch the green beans early in the day so they can chill. The salad dressing can also be made ahead, so there is just a little time required to chop and arrange the rest of the veggies before dinner. (Or lunch - Salad Nicoise is divine for luncheon!) Since I am "camping", I cheated, and bought a bag of already washed butter lettuce from Trader Joe's.

Don't feel compelled to follow my instructions as to which vegetables to use in this salad. I can't stand hard boiled (scrambled, fried or poached) eggs, so they are never in my version (sorry DT). No one is going to care if you toss in a few slivers of bell pepper, radish or cucumber. Avocados are everywhere this time of year in the Coachella Valley, so one found its way into our dinner tonight. Honestly, half the time I make this salad without lettuce. Whatever.

No, I did not forget the salt - between the tuna, anchovies, mustard, olives and capers, the salad should be salty enough for most palates.

Salad Nicoise is commonly garnished with anchovy fillets in France... but I am not in France and my pantry lacked a tin of anchovies, so I just used a bit of anchovy paste in the dressing. Basically... this is a recipe for salad dressing, and you can dress whatever veggies you choose.

Hopefully France, Julia Child - and you - will forgive me.

For the dressing (makes about 1/2 cup):
1/3 cup best-quality extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)
1 shallot, minced very fine (about 2 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (I use Maille Old Style)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
(Use these measurements only as a guideline.)

2-3 cups torn butter or romaine lettuce leaves
2 medium yellow or red potatoes, boiled until tender, chilled and sliced
20 green beans, trimmed, blanched 4-5 minutes, drained and chilled
6-ounce can solid white tuna in water, drained and chunked
Two medium Roma tomatoes, sliced (or use whole cherry/grape tomatoes)
1-2 hard boiled eggs, chilled and quartered
12-15 whole Nicoise, black or Kalamata olives
1/4 cup slivered red onion (or green onion)
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed, as optional garnish

Mix all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl (I make it in a one-cup Pyrex measuring cup). Whisk well and set aside. Line the bottom of a serving platter with a little torn lettuce, then place the remaining salad items decoratively over the lettuce in the order listed. Pour dressing over and serve.

Serves 4 for luncheon; 2 or 3 for dinner - with a baguette.

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Until my next update, I remain, your fishy correspondent.