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Salade Nicoise
By Charlie Burke

Salade Nicoise is one of the classic
lunches in southern France (that originated in Nice) and includes vegetables in
their prime in August in New England: tomatoes, beans, new potatoes and
greens. In Nice, tuna is always served, and anchovies are often included, along
with hard boiled eggs, small black brine-cured olives and capers. I find the
saltiness of the olives eliminates the need for anchovies which guests usually
avoid, anyway. The tuna is traditional because it is plentiful in the
Mediterranean, but I prefer to top the salad with pan seared shrimp or scallops
because canned tuna always reminds me of school lunch. Fresh lobster meat
would raise this peasant dish to luxury class.

Salade Nicoise is a “composed salad”, meaning each component is prepared
separately and then arranged on a platter for an attractive presentation. It also
means it is prepared ahead, perfect for entertaining. Preparation is easy, and the
salad, served with crusty bread, is a healthy and satisfying meal. Every time I
serve this I appreciate the simple harmony of its great ingredients – and recall
great lunches in France. Give it a try, and I’m sure you will add this traditional
salad to your lunch repertoire.

Six servings:

1 ½ pounds new or waxy potatoes
1 ½ pounds best quality green beans, preferably thin haricot vertes
4 perfectly ripe tomatoes, quartered
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large head of Boston lettuce or equivalent volume of loose greens
3 hard boiled eggs, halved
2/3 cup Nicoise or other small black brine-cured olives
3-4 tablespoons capers, preferably salt packed, rinsed
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
1 ½ pound raw shelled shrimp or sea scallops

For vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (several grinds)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Heat a sauté pan over high heat, then film with olive oil. Season shrimp or
scallops with salt and pepper and sauté until just done. If doing ahead, cool and
refrigerate, bringing to room temperature before serving. To serve warm, sauté
after composing salad.

Steam or boil potatoes until just done (no hard resistance when pierced by a thin
knife). Cool slightly, slice into ¼ inch slices and toss with ¼ cup of the dressing
while still warm. Refrigerate if necessary, bringing to room temperature before
plating. This is the only component of the salad dressed before serving.

In a large volume of salted boiling water, cook beans until just tender. They
should not be too soft but should not be under cooked. Strain and run cold water
over beans to stop cooking.

With a pin, puncture the wide ends of the eggs. Place into pan and add water to
cover eggs by one inch. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a simmer. Adjust
heat so water barely bubbles and cook large eggs 12 minutes from the time water
reaches a simmer. (Cooking in rapidly boiling water and overcooking results in
the green ring around the yolk) Remove and cool under running water.

To serve:

Select a large platter or serving dish. Tear head lettuce into individual leaves
and arrange in several areas around platter. Arrange beans, tomatoes and
potatoes in sections around the platter to make an attractive presentation..
Immediately before serving, toss each individual vegetable in a light amount of
dressing and return to its place on the platter. Arrange egg halves, olives and
capers over the top and sprinkle with herbs. Arrange seafood atop the
vegetables and serve with remaining vinaigrette.

To complete the Provencal experience, serve the salad with a fine lightly chilled
French rose, but please no white zinfandel!

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
Salade Nicoise.  For more recipes, click here!
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