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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

As You Like It

It's about 10,000 degrees outside.  And it's humid.  Needless to say, this is not turn on the oven and roast a prime rib kind of weather.  I'm not even excited about standing near the radiant heat that emanates from the barbecue.  It's just too hot.

Did I mention that I'm not a big fan of hot, humid weather.

Either is my hair.

But I digress.  Since I have declared the oven to be off limits until this weather breaks, I am searching for no-cook but looks like I've gone to some effort dinnertime options.

This is no small order, but not quite as impossible as you might think.

And no, this does not include ordering in Chinese, although the thought did cross my mind.

Last night inspiration hit.  And it hit a home run.  I made a gorgeous salad nicoise.  It was cool.  It was fresh.  It was crisp.  In short, it was perfect.

The really nice thing about a salad nicoise is that there really is no recipe.  You can use the delicious and extremely decadent Italian tuna canned in olive oil (the traditional), or you can grill fresh tuna.  Or, if you don't like tuna (but who doesn't like tune?), you can grill some salmon.  It doesn't really matter and that's the beauty of this salad.

Quality counts here.  Use the best tomatoes you can find.  Hard boil your own eggs -- don't buy the ones ready made because they tend to be tough (and who would pay $3.50 for six hard boiled eggs anyway).  Make a nice new potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing and pop that on the platter too.  Olives, some arugula or watercress, and anything else that appeals to you.  It's all good.

Top the whole thing off with a nice light mustard vinaigrette and you're ready to roll.

The best thing about the salad nicoise is that there's really no recipe and you can include whatever you like.  It's your opportunity to shine.  A loaf of crusty bread is the perfect accompaniment.  Oh, and a nice glass of wine.

Recipe:  Salad Nicoise

Here are some ideas:


Italian tuna packed in olive oil, grilled tuna, or grilled salmon
(You can go with regular tuna packed in water but it just doesn't have the same taste)
Watercress or arugula
Hard boiled eggs
French potato salad (recipe below)
Blanched haricot vertes
Marinated artichoke hearts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Arrange ingredients artfully on a large flat platter.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette:


3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil


For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.

Recipe:  French Potato Salad
(Ina Garten)


1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves


Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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