Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Untraditional Nicoise Salad

I’ve been craving summer, even spring.  I want the sun on my face, I want to feel heat from the sun soak into my skin, and I desperately want to get my sundresses and sandals out. I’m over winter; completely over it!   To give myself a little mini vacation, I made a salad, I turned up the heat, and I got my hair highlighted (I figured since I didn’t get to go anywhere warm, I might as well look like I did). 

Salad Niçoise (pronounced nee-suaz) is essentially a French composed salad that hails from Nice.  Traditionally it is made with tuna, green beans, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and potatoes and served on a bed of lettuce. 

I’ve always thought the tuna made for a weird combination in this salad with the other ingredients.  Therefore, I decided to make it with steak instead of tuna. 

This is one dish where setting up your mise en place (all ingredients chopped and ready to go) will help the salad come together smoothly.  Therefore, I’m going to break it down by the separate ingredients for the recipe and then you can just put it all together at the end.  FYI - This recipe is for two salads. 

Nicoise Salad Recipe

·         1/3 cup balsamic
·         1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
·         1 medium shallot, minced
·         1 garlic glove, minced
·         1 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
·         2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk ingredients together for at least 60 seconds; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

  • Mixed Greens (one bag), washed and dried
  • New York Strip
Season each side with salt and pepper.  (I usually marinate my steak in the fridge with olive oil and steak salt for 24 hours).   Bring to room temperature for about an hour before cooking on the grill or sautéing on the stove.  For this recipe, I sautéed mine on medium-high heat on the stove for about 4 minutes each side (I like my steak medium rare). 

  • Hard-boiled eggs (2), cut into quarters.
Now, you can hard boil your eggs any way you’d like.  My sister actually just told me about a new trick where you bake them in the oven in muffin tins with no water or anything.  But I cheat.  I don’t like to boil them because they stink up the house and I really don’t like to peel them either.  Finally, the stores caught on to people like me and sell eggs boiled and pealed.  So I buy a bag of 6 that way. 

  • 4-6 small new red (or yellow) potatoes
Bring potatoes and cold water to a boil in a large pot.  Add 1 Tbsp. of salt and cook until potatoes are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Strain and cut the potatoes into quarters.  Sauté the potatoes with garlic and olive oil in a pan over medium heat for a couple minutes.  (You can skip this step, but I like the potatoes a little crispy.)  Towards the end, turn off the heat and add 2 Tbsp. of mustard and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  

  • 1 Small ripe tomato or a handful of grape/cherry tomatoes
You can decide which tomatoes to use and cut into appropriate bite-size pieces.  I used the small tomatoes and just cut them in half and then sprinkled them with salt and pepper. 

Green Beans/Haricot Verts
  • Handful of green beans
Haricots verts is French for "green beans" – is basically refers to a longer, thinner type of green bean than the typical American green bean.  I also think they are crunchier. 

Wash and dry the green beans.  Sauté them briefly (about 3 minutes) with olive oil and garlic.  You can also blanche them.

Blue Cheese

  • Slice of blue cheese, gorgonzola, or Roquefort

This is definitely untraditional with this salad but I thought it would be good with the steak.

Optional ingredients:  Olives, capers, beets, anchovies, avocado, etc…..

  1. Organize the ingredients on the plate.
  2. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and place in the middle of the plate.
  3. Slice the steak and layer on top.
  4. Top with fresh-ground pepper.
  5. Enjoy!

Pairings: Red Wine. We had it with Borsao Monte Oton Garnacha 2011, which is a Spanish red.  I found this wine when I was at the store asking for a red for less than $15 that paired well with a variety of foods and this is what he recommended.   This wine was great.  It has a really nice texture and a spicy red berry flavor.  The tannins were minimal and nothing in the wine clashed with the vinaigrette, which I kind of expected.  We actually had this with French onion soup the next night (back to winter) and it went really well with that also. 

Verdict: We loved this salad – it was really good.  I kind of thought that the tomatoes weren’t necessary and my husband didn’t think the potatoes were necessary.  So you can definitely play with this salad and add and subtract ingredients per your tastes. 


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