Salade Nicoise: Cuisine Francaise Part Deux

Part deux of my French feast for book club (to accompany Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes) was a classic Nicoise Salad. Magnifique!

I searched around for recipes that caught my eye, and settled on one from Emeril Lagasse. I’m a big fan of a hearty salad, and a Nicoise salad definitely fits the bill. I love the unlikely combination of salad and potatoes, and the crunchy green beans, tuna and hard-boiled egg add a great diversity of flavor and texture. And the presentation…pretty impressive!

The dressing for the salad was a winner and adds another whole layer of flavor. You may know that a traditional Nicoise salad incorporates anchovies. Wellll, I’m not the biggest fan of anchovies (whole and looking all fishy laying on top of my food). BUT, anchovies have a great way of breaking down and melting into a sauce or dressing, adding salty, tangy flavor without the anchovy weirdness. The anchovy dressing takes advantage of that quality, combining the sharp anchovy flavor with shallots, lemon juice, capers and Dijon mustard…it’s pungent and creamy and acidic — the perfect accompaniment to the fresh flavors of the salad.

This salad can easily be a meal on its own, and would be great for a lunch with friends. Don’t forget the French wine!

TW’s Tips

  • Emeril called for cutting the potatoes into “sticks” — I like how they look better when they’re halved or quartered.
  • If I did this again, I’d skip the onion.
  • Use canned tuna in oil, not water. It makes a huge difference and tastes so much better.
  • You can also use fresh tuna and sear it, and serve it sliced on the salad.
  • The anchovy dressing uses a raw egg. Get over the weirdness and try it. So yummy.
  • I couldn’t whisk the egg well enough so I put the anchovy/garlic paste and egg in a food processor VERY briefly to break it down (don’t over-mix) and then whisked in the rest of the ingredients by hand.

Salade Nicoise 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half
  • 1/4 pound haricots verts, or small, thin green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 can chunk tuna in oil
  • 1 large head romaine or Bibb lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • Anchovy Dressing, recipe follows
  • 1/2 pound Roma plum tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2/3 cup Nicoise olives
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced or halved
  • Chopped fresh herbs, for garnish (parsley, tarragon, chive, etc.)

Directions

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain in a colander, pat dry, and set aside. Add the green beans to already boiling water and blanch until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, pat dry, and set aside.

Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces and combine with chopped fresh parsley and tarragon. Toss with enough of the anchovy dressing just to coat. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed. Toss the potatoes and green beans in 1/4 cup of the anchovy dressing. Arrange the lettuce along the side of 4 large plates (or 1 serving platter). Spoon the vegetables along the other side of the plate. Arrange the tuna over the lettuce. Arrange the tomatoes, olives, sliced red onions, and eggs on the other sides of the plates (or serving platter). Garnish with additional herbs if desired and serve immediately.

Anchovy Dressing

  • 1 anchovy fillet, drained
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a medium bowl, mash the anchovy, salt, pepper, and garlic into a paste with the back of a fork. Add the egg and whisk well to blend. (I used a food processor for this first part.) Add the lemon juice and mustard, and whisk well. Add the oils in a steady stream, whisking constantly to form a thick emulsion. Add the shallots, capers and Worcestershire, whisk well, and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Yield: 1 cup

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Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes: La Cuisine Francaise First Edition

Last week I hosted the get together for my monthly book club, and in honor of “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, I prepared a French feast for my lovely book club ladies. It was the perfect match for me, as I have a soft spot for France and all things French. I started taking French in seventh grade, all through high school and minored in it in college. One of my few regrets is not studying in France for a year (despite the badgering of my professors)  so I could become fluent. Zut.

Add to that being a food and wine lover, and it doesn’t get much better than France. We started our book club French evening of indulgence with baguettes and some decadent French cheese, including some melt-in-your-mouth Saint Agur bleu cheese — so creamy and sharp — and my favorite Saint Andre triple creme. And then…lentils with white wine, herbs and tomatoes.

I got this recipe from the book “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard (which is also a wonderful book) — and while it sounds rather ho-hum (lentils?), it’s packed with flavor and I practically licked my bowl clean.

I think the key is slowly simmering the lentils in a mixture of chicken stock and white wine. Plus, the finish — topping the lentils with a squeeze of lime, dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle of cilantro — gives them a pop of brightness and acidity from the lime and cilantro, and rich creaminess from the creme fraiche. You can also use sour cream in place of the creme fraiche, but I highly recommend the creme fraiche. It has a decadence you just don’t get from sour cream. Very French.

This is one of those meatless meals where you won’t miss the meat. And I don’t just say that — I’m a strict meat-eater. I served this with a salade Nicoise — coming up in my next post.

So how was the book? I loved it. It tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson and their tumultuous relationship. They lived in Paris for a good portion of it, spending time with the likes of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s heartbreaking but beautiful, and it made me want to read “The Sun Also Rises” again. I recommend! And while you read it, eat some lentils and drink some French wine. You’ll fall in l’amour, mon ami.

Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 4-5 small shallots or 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups dried Puy lentils (I wasn’t able to find Puy lentils so used regular dried lentils and the dish was excellent)
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Creme fraiche/sour cream
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • 3 limes

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots/onions and carrot and saute for 5-10 minues until the onion is translucent. Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil. Add the broth, tomatoes, wine, parsley, bay leaf, and a good grinding of pepper. Leave to simmer over a low heat with the cover ajar until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 1 hour). Serve in shallow bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche/sour cream, a sprinkling of cilantro, and (essential!) half a lime for squeezing. Serves 6.

Spinach and Bacon Quiche

I love quiche. Since this is my second quiche post, I guess that much is obvious! Ah quiche… it’s like a casserole but French and fancy — and people don’t realize just how easy it is to throw one together. Pair it with a salad and you’ve got a meal.

This spinach and bacon quiche by Paula Deen is pretty darn yummy. The key ingredients: bacon, spinach and swiss cheese, all baked with eggs and cream in a crust. I use pre-made — it’s so much easier and makes for a really fast meal. If you want to make your own, be my guest. It would probably take this to the next level! But even with a pre-made crust, you get the buttery flakiness and crunch against the salty, cheesy egg filling. Oh la la!

The recipe calls for layering the bacon, spinach and cheese in the pie crust, then pouring in the egg mixture. I put the bacon in last, but that made the top a little bit funky — more browned than I would like, and rather un-quiche-like. I recommend putting the bacon in first, then spinach and cheese, and gently pressing it down a little bit before pouring in the eggs. This had to cook a little bit longer than the recipe indicates in order to set the middle. But other than that, I have no tips — it’s that easy!

I served this with a green salad with a simple vinaigrette — whisk together a minced shallot, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil, and voila — delicious dressing. Some people even say you can throw it all in a blender to make it. I’ve never tried it, but next time, I will!

Spinach and Bacon Quiche

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, fitted to a 9-inch glass pie plate

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. Layer the spinach, bacon, and cheese in the bottom of the pie crust, then pour the egg mixture on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the egg mixture is set.