Classic French salad hearty enough for main meal

Readers of this week’s A Fresh Approach column by Jan Roberts-Dominguez no doubt recognized Cobb Salad, and most probably didn’t need a recipe to replicate this classic.

But I think most of us could appreciate Jan’s research on the topic of salads and the little-known recipe for Celery Victor. Detailed directions for creating that piquant, hot dressing for spinach salad was another bonus.

Although a salad — even a large one with lots of protein and other fixings — has never been my preferred meal, I can appreciate a really good main-dish salad, something with a little more heft to it than simple greens. That’s why a Nicoise-style salad is so satisfying, with its new potatoes and green beans. Peak-season produce also doesn’t seem so vital when much of the flavor is derived from good-quality tuna and brined olives.

Conceived in the French Riviera city of Nice, the recipe is now fairly common in American salad circles and, like most specialties from abroad, has been adapted to the American palate, hence the potatoes. A true salade Nicoise, food experts say, includes only raw vegetables and always is accented with anchovies. I suspect that cooking the green beans became necessary in the U.S. because the extremely slender “haricots verts” eaten in France weren’t widely available here.

The following recipe, courtesy of Ashland Food Co-op’s Mary Shaw, omits the traditional anchovies, but they could certainly be added back in. Use the best-quality tuna you can find. (The Co-op stocks a brand called Pisces.) Or substitute seared ahi.

Salade Nicoise

6 small, red new potatoes

1 pound green beans, trimmed

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 shallot, minced

4 cups mixed salad greens

2 large ripe tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges

1 (6-ounce) can tuna, well drained

1/2 cup olives, preferably Nicoise

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons capers (optional)

Cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling water until fork tender. Cool and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in a medium bowl.

Steam the beans until tender. Place in bowl with potatoes.

Whisk together in a small bowl the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper and shallot.

Drizzle about a quarter of dressing over potatoes and beans. Toss gently.

Place the mixed greens in center of a platter. Add the tomatoes. Drizzle another quarter of dressing on top. Add potatoes and green beans to platter. Next add the tuna. Drizzle remaining dressing over all.

Scatter the olives, parsley and capers on top. Serve immediately with bread.

Makes 4 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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