This past Saturday, we had people over for both brunch and for dinner. Because the week before included me catering a dinner party, cooking for my regular clients, and teaching a cooking class, I thought take-out would be a good option for our dinner guests. Until I realized that really, I have a reputation to uphold and I can’t serve friends take-out – no matter how good our local Thai food is. I decided to spend time on the dessert and to make something more simple for dinner. Sometimes simple doesn’t necessarily mean quick, but in the case of this salad, you can get a wonderful and satisfying meal on the table pretty fast.
I make this Niçoise Salad a lot in the summer when we want something good but light. Randy will throw a can of tuna on his portion and I will take extra egg, or will add some chickpeas or other white beans to mine. For our guests, Randy grilled some fresh tuna and I just ate extra salad. I also made some tartines which are like giant crostini. I slathered them with olive tapenade and topped them with peppers and onions cooked down with lots of smoked paprika.
This salad lends itself to lots of different interpretations. What I included Saturday are the things I always include – olives, green beans, hard boiled egg, potatoes, and olives. Sometimes I add white beans, sometimes I roast the potatoes instead of boiling them, sometimes I use Kalamata olives and sometimes I just use whatever is in the refrigerator. Feel free to experiment. I used a (gasp!) bottled dressing on Saturday, but I would advise tossing everything with something lemony with a mustard kick – homemade preferably.
This is the veg version. If you want to top it with fresh tuna, figure on a 3-4 ounce piece per person.
2 big handfuls green beans, ends trimmed
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
6 large eggs
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large handful Kalamata olives
10 oz. pretty bagged lettuce
Dressing of your choice
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the green beans to the pot and cook until crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the beans out and immediately place them in the ice water. Wait until they feel cool to the touch and then scoop the beans out to drain in a colander. Meanwhile, add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until the tip of a knife slides in and out easily, 15-20 minutes. Drain.
Rinse the pot in cold water to cool it down, then fill with cold water. Add the eggs and bring to a boil. Cover and turn off the heat. Add more ice to the ice water. Allow eggs to sit for 12 minutes, then scoop them out and into the cold water. Allow to cool then drain.
Toss the lettuce with some of the dressing in a large bowl then place on a serving platter. Cut the potatoes into halves, quarters if large. Peel the eggs and quarter or slice them. Arrange the potatoes, eggs, beans, olives, and tomatoes decoratively around the platter. Drizzle a little dressing over each component.