SALADE NICOISE (French tuna salad with green beans, potatoes and garlic basil vinaigrette, for six)
For the vinaigrette:
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
16 fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
For the salad:
3 cups (1 pound) cold, blanched haricots verts
2 or 4 quartered, ripe tomatoes
1 head Boston lettuce
3 cups cold pommes de terre a l’huile (French potato salad)
1 cup canned tuna chunks, drained
½ cup pitted black olives, preferably Mediterranean (kalamatas)
2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs, cold, peeled and quartered
6 to 12 anchovy fillets, drained
2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh green herbs, such as parsley and basil
- Make the vinaigrette. Smash the garlic with side of a heavy knife or bottle, then pound it with the basil, adding the olive oil, drop by drop, to make a fine paste. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
- Blanch the haricots verts. Drop the beans, washed, drained and ends snapped off, into 6 to 8 quarts rapidly boiling, salted water. Cover briefly, to bring the water quickly back to a boil, then immediately remove the cover. Boil uncovered until beans are just cooked through but retain a slight crunch of texture – 4 to 5 minutes. Test by eating several. Drain the beans immediately when they are done and run them under cold tap water to stop the cooking.
- Just before serving, season the beans and tomatoes with several spoonfuls of the vinaigrette.
- Toss the lettuce leaves in a salad bowl with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette, and place the leaves around the edge of the bowl. Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of the bowl.
- Decorate with the beans and the tomatoes, interspersing them with a design of tuna chunks, olives, eggs and anchovies. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad, sprinkle with herbs and serve.
adapted from Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1
NOTE: See pan-seared tuna steaks with Nicoise vinaigrette for another version of salade Nicoise.