Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Real Reason to make a Nicoise Salad

I can’t get Nicoise olives. The little black salty jewels that make an official Nicoise salad. No where to be found. At the Viktualian market in Munich, for example, you could go to the olive stand, and select from 20+ different kinds of olives, all labeled, all delicious. From Turkey, or Italy, or France, or Greece.

The same was true for potatoes. The potato stand had at least 20 different kinds – waxy, starchy, long and thin, fat, whatever you could imagine. Don’t even get me going on cheese, bread and sausage!

And when I’ve stayed in Paris, or Nice (obviously), or Amsterdam, or almost anywhere – even Tokyo – I’ve found olives that were wonderful.

The best alternative comes from our local Wholesome Choice market. I think because of the strong Persian influence in our area, the market caters strongly to the Persian cuisine, and they must like salty black olives. So those will have to do.

So – since I can’t make an official Nicoise salad, this will be an improvisation. I guess just an arranged salad – in the style of a Nicoise.

And we just had green beans last week, so out with them. And I used up all the tomatoes as well. In their place, bell peppers, carrots, fennel slices, radish slices. Plus, for a treat, roasted eggplant slices. No tradition here! But some pretty good flavor.

It’s just as well, since I want to use up the rest of the Sicilian blood oranges. I like to make a blood orange vinaigrette, with a little Dijon mustard, a touch of rice vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. The blood orange flavor combines well with the mustard, giving the dressing a light, slightly sweet touch. I’ve never tried it on a Nicoise salad, but as noted, I’m not really proposing to do that now.

Potatoes are there of course. I mean there are limits. As well as hard boiled eggs. I like them best when there is still a touch of moist yolk left, that runs all over the salad and dressing when the egg is cut open.

But the tuna is out. Replaced by leftover salmon fillet from last night. Hard to complain about that.

Everything coated with a wonderful blood orange vinaigrette.

A loaf of warm bread on the side.

And ANCHOVIES! I almost forgot! Really the most important reason for making the salad. From my perspective, the salad is just a pretense for eating anchovies ("Hey - it's tradition! They have to be there!", I tell everyone) I sneak them under some innocuous leaves somewhere. And gather them all back for myself as everyone discovers – to their horror- that an anchovy has made it onto their plate.

Simple, satisfying, lots of vegetables. Anchovies. Everything but the right olive.

Note – I have to say that although the blood orange dressing was fantastic in flavor – it tinted everything with a neon pink color – which was a kick for teengirl, but probably didn’t do much for the photos. I would definitely make the dressing often, but maybe take the picture first!

Blood Orange Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup blood orange juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Whisk together juice, shallots, mustard, sugar, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil in a steady stream until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Arranged Salad in the style of Nicoise

ANCHOVIES! Whole filets in oil – as many as you can sneak into the plate
4-5 small italian eggplants
olive oil
8 small potatoes – waxy style, boiled and cut into quarters
4 eggs, boiled and cut into quarters
2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
baby carrots, washed and trimmed
1 bunch radishes, washed and cut into thin slices
1 fennel bulb, cut in half and sliced thin1 cup black salty French olives – Nicoise if you can find them
2 cups cooked salmon fillet, flaked
2 blood oranges, peeled and separated into sections
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into pieces

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Slice the eggplants the ling way into 3 slices each. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until nicely browned but not dried out. Remove from oven and let cool.

Arrange the romaine on a serving plate. Arrange all other ingredients, except dressing, salmon and orange sections, in groups around plate on top of lettuce. Arrange salmon in center of plate. Arrange orange sections on top of salmon. Spoon dressing over entire salad, focusing a little on the salmon and potatoes (as they can taste a little dry). Serve. Enjoy!

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