What’s for Dinner?
-The Culinary Institute of America
Nicoise Salad is a french classic that’s light, delicious and easy-to-make.
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
10 basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper as needed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped, divided use
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, divided use
5 plum tomatoes, blanched and peeled
1 fennel bulb
1 each yellow and red pepper
1 1/4 cups new potatoes or fingerlings
4 cups arugula
3 cups mesclun lettuce
12 radishes, quartered
1 1/2 cups haricots verts, thin stringbeans, parcooked and halved
6 artichoke hearts, quartered
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
6 anchovy fillets, cured in vinaigrette
1 can (12 oz) tuna in oil, drained
3/4 cup black niçoise olives
1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. To make the dressing, place the vinegar in a bowl and gradually add the olive oil while whisking thoroughly to form an emulsion. Add the garlic, chopped basil, and seasoning.
2. Prepare the salad’s components. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle a little of the chopped garlic and thyme onto the baking sheet. Cut the tomatoes into eighths and remove the seeds to make “petals.” Lay these tomato petals onto the baking sheet, brush with some of the olive oil, and sprinkle with a little more of the garlic and thyme. (You should have about half of the garlic and thyme still remaining to add to the fennel.)
3. Place this tray in the oven and cook until the tomatoes lose their rawness and yield slightly to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.
4. Parcook the fennel in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Remove it from the water with a slotted spoon. Cut the fennel in half vertically. Slice it thinly using a mandolin set at 1/16 inch thick. Lay these slices on a baking sheet in the same fashion as the tomatoes. Brush with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with garlic and thyme. Cook them the same way you did the tomatoes. The fennel will take a little longer to soften fully-about 30 minutes. Remove the fennel from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 350°F.
5. Rub the red and yellow peppers with olive oil and bake them in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove them from the oven. Peel away the skin, remove the seeds and stems, and cut the peppers into 2-inch julienne.
6. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 20 minutes. When cooked, drain and cool slightly. Cut into 1/4-inch dice and, while still warm, toss them in a bowl with seasoning and 3 tablespoons of the dressing.
7. Mix the arugula and mesclun together in a bowl with a little dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Now for the fun and creativity: Arrange the mixed lettuces on your chosen plates and design your salad using all its component parts. Finish the plate with a little drizzle of the dressing.
Note: Roasting the tomatoes, fennel, and peppers gives this salad complexity. The roasted vegetables can be prepared a day or two ahead of time. You could also blanch the green beans, hard-cook the eggs, and prepare the artichokes ahead of time, too. But, for the best texture and flavor in your potatoes, cook them no more than an hour or so before you plan to eat.
Reprinted by permission from The Culinary Institute of America, Bistros and Brasseries: Recipes and Reflections on Classic Café Cooking (Lebhar-Friedman Books 2008).