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A Niçoise for Springtime


If you are in the enviable position of having too much asparagus than you know what to do with--or just have a few left over from last night's dinner--try our springtime riff on the ever-versatile Salade Niçoise. This Provençal classic traditionally includes haricots verts (those succulent, skinny French green beans) and tomatoes-- ingredients we usually associate with summer. Replacing these with lightly cooked asparagus spears and springtime greens (we used spinach, arugula, and watercress) makes for a delicious and hearty entree salad. Those looking for an even heartier version to serve as a one-course dinner can replace the canned tuna with one small, seared or grilled tuna steak per person.  Just plate one steak on each bed of greens, toss the potatoes, asparagus, anchovies, olives, and hard-cooked eggs with the vinaigrette, nestle them around the steak, and sprinkle with the capers and parsley.

That said, feel free to let your imagination run wild when interpreting a Niçoise to your whim (and pantry). Any leftover grilled or seared fish can take the place of tuna, and any number of fresh veggies may be added... salad turnips and radishes come to mind as they start looking really good this time of year. Smoked salmon? Excellent. Poached eggs instead of hard-boiled? Decadent. We love experimenting with big salads!

Spring Niçoise
4 to 6 servings

 

Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes:
     6 small new potatoes
Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. Meanwhile, add to the pot and boil until bright green but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes:
     1 pound small asparagus spears, trimmed
Cool in an ice bath and drain well. Place in a medium bowl. Cut the cooled potatoes into ½-inch slices and add to the beans. Whisk together in a small bowl:
     3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
     2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
     Salt and black pepper to taste
Add in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly:
     6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Drizzle one-quarter of the dressing over potatoes and beans and gently toss to coat. Arrange on a large platter:
     A generous bed of assorted greens, washed and dried off (arugula, watercress, and spinach are good choices)
Drizzle another quarter of the dressing on top. Arrange the green beans and potatoes on the platter, along with:
     5 hard-boiled eggs, halved
     6 ounces canned, pouched, or oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked
Drizzle remaining dressing. Scatter over top:
     ½ cup good, pitted olives (Niçoise olives are traditional, but use whichever you like best)
     ¼ cup minced parsley
     2 tablespoons drained capers
     2 to 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Sprinkle with:
     Salt and black pepper to taste

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Starting at the tender age of eight or so, my parents shipped me off to camp for one week during the summer. It wasn't a particularly awesome camp. I often hear my peers speak rapturously of...