Salad Nicoise a classic any way it's made

Salad Nicoise a classic any way it's made

August 1st, 2012 by Barry Courter in Life Entertainment

Two versions of salad Nicoise, a traditional version on the bottom and an updated American version on the bottom, are prepared using market-fresh summer vegetables.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

BARRY SAYS: Kelley has made a version of Salad Nicoise for years and, to be honest, I had no idea it was so iconic or that people around the world had heated debates over the proper way to make it. I just knew that I liked it. Some argue that no cooked items can be used, and some debate which type of lettuce must be part of the recipe. In that spirit, Kelley made two versions, which was fine by me.

KELLEY SAYS: The purpose of this month's menu was to use the freshest ingredients from summer's bounty. Almost everything in this salad can be purchased at one of the local markets during the week. As Barry mentioned, I've been making this salad for years, but I thought a little research would bring something different to the table. Little did I know how different the original was. I have perused many cookbooks and websites for Salad Nicoise. Some classic recipes get altered over time, and this one is no different.

I attempted to get all the ingredients listed in the David Lebovitz version (found here: www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/07/classic-salade-nicoise), and I did with some success. I also found a video online of French chef Jacques Pepin and Julia Child preparing a version of the dish. I do think that if I were in France, the salad would taste far better than the duplicate version that I made.

BARRY: You don't know that. I'll go with a good Southern-grown tomato any day.

KELLEY: I don't know, but I can only imagine. I would think that the anchovies would be fresher from the sea than out of a tin. I know that most of the recipes do call for a canned fish, even a good canned tuna is suggested on some, but fresh fish is fresh fish.

BARRY: Touché.

KELLEY: Hence the second salad, which I have been making for years, was a far better choice for the "Southern Nicoise" with fresh vegetables from the market. Also, adding the grilled tuna is a must for a complete summer dinner.

BARRY: I have to be honest here: I tried each separately first, and they were both really good, but after a few bites I pretty much mixed them together. It is packed with fresh flavors from the garden.

Separate, together, with potatoes or without, this was a tasty meal, and the tuna was spectacular. I even liked the anchovies on the more classic version.

Kelley's Salad Nicoise

For the tuna:

11/2 pounds yellowfin tuna fillets

1 tablespoon McCormick Mediterranean herb seasoning

11/2 tablespoons Girard's Champagne vinaigrette

1 tablespoon quality olive oil

Black pepper, to taste

Marinate the fish for at least one hour in a mix of all the remaining ingredients. When ready to serve, grill fillets on high heat on each side for at least 90 seconds to 2 minutes to get a good sear. Do not overcook; tuna should be pink in the center. Remove from heat and let sit until ready to slice.

For the salad:

3 hard-boiled eggs

6-7 boiled new potatoes, cut into wedges

2 cups steamed small green beans

1/4 cup Nicoise olives (black olives)

Variety of whole and quartered tomatoes, amount to preference

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/2 cup thinly sliced assorted bell peppers

11/2 tablespoon capers

1 lemon, cut into wedges

1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill

Salt and pepper, to taste

Assorted greens, to preferred serving size

For the dressing:

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Splash of Champagne vinaigrette, to taste

To assemble:

Place salad greens on a platter. Slice tuna about 1/4 inch thick, and place on the greens. Place the rest of the ingredients evenly and pour vinaigrette over.

Serves four.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.