In Honor of Julia Child JC100 Anniversary:
Salade Niçoise is one of my all-time favorite salads, especially when made with fresh, not canned, tuna.
I was honored to write a review of Julia Child’s biography, Dearie, at the author Bob Spitz’s publishers’ request. Will I sound like a dinosaur if I declare that in my view no one, but no one, can fill dearest Julia’s gargantuan shoes and imitate her stentorian voice? I remember going to hear her at the Javitz Center, house packed to the rafters, just a couple years before her death. She reminisced about her early days to her adoring fans, doing a pretty good impersonation of the French housewife using Ze Vareenge (The Waring: Get it?).
Her opening line left everyone splitting their sides with laughter.
“Before nutrition raised its ugly head…..” Trust me, she didn’t mean to heck with nutrition. Rather, she meant we should use good judgment and enjoy our food sensibly. It would profit us much more than to be slaves to the nutrition establishment: Sure enough, it sadly often turns out, the food industry takes the public on one fad bandwagon after another. and that leaves all of us confused and not an ounce thinner. As sadly, it leaves us in the lurch, eating our food without enjoying it.
We know how the low-fat fad ended, then how the low-carb fad ended.
I hope and pray the next and longest-lasting fad is, don’t discuss your food habits too much, don’t let anyone rain on your parade at dinner time and tell you some horror story about mad cows and GMOs and whatnot: just cook some simple, healthy and delicious meals made with real ingredients, and enjoy them with other good food lovers you love: Bon Appetit!
In my house, every day is salad day, salads in every shape and form.
Salade Niçoise is one particular favorite, the perfect warm weather main course salad, as it is so elastic and chock-full of fantastic crowd pleasers. The days you feel in a luxurious mood, sear tuna steaks and slice them thin, the way I am instructing you in this Salade Niçoise recipe, instead of the more plebeian canned tuna. Bottled roasted peppers will do the job beautifully when you don’t find the time to roast peppers, or when they are too expensive.
Frozen Fresh tuna steaks will work beautifully too:
They will be much more affordable, and every bit as delicious.
Do not skip the anchovies in the dressing!
Not even if you think you or your guests will recoil from them. Don’t tell your guests that this dish, or any dish for that matter, contains anchovies until after they polish it off. The anchovies disperse and leave no trace of their controversial heritage except for a deep, smoky flavor. I’m reminded of a wonderful headline I once saw—“Anchovies: A blessing if disguised.” Don’t add salt to dishes including anchovies, as they are loaded with enough salt to season the whole dish.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 pieces fresh tuna, or frozen fresh, thawed, about 5-6 ounces each, 1-inch thick, all skin and black parts removed
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 heads romaine or Boston lettuce, torn
- 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut in wedges
- ¼ medium red onion, cut in very thin strips
- 1 dozen small red bliss potatoes, scrubbed, boiled until just tender, and halved
- 2 red bell peppers, rinsed and cored (or bottled), broiled or roasted, peeled and cut into strips
- 2 dozen Nicoise olives (oil-cured olives will work very well too)
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
- 1 pound haricots verts (or perfect string beans), boiled until just tender, rinsed in cold water and drained
Anchovy Mustard Dressing:
- 6 anchovies, bones removed, rinsed
- 3 tablespoons capers
- Half a bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 4 large cloves garlic
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1/2 cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth and creamy. Thin with a little more water if necessary. Makes about 1½ cups.
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Season the tuna with salt and pepper to taste. When the skillet is very hot, add the tuna. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Let cool, and slice thin. Set aside. Mix all remaining salad ingredients on a platter. Arrange the tuna slices on the salad. Drizzle some of the anchovy mustard dressing (recipe below) over all. Makes 4 generous servings.