Friday, October 3, 2008
Company Worthy Salad Nicoise
When you have guests visiting, do you stick to your regular cooking routine and recipes, or do you perk it up a bit? I was pondering that question last night. My wonderful dad and his sweet wife are visiting us this week, and I find that I am most definitely perking it up a bit. I don't know why that is really. My dad and are are close, he knows me and my cooking quite well, and, besides, my dad is so easy to please and his wife is always so complimentary that I know I don't need to do anything different from usual. I think that I must be channeling both my late grandma and late mom in that when company comes, you take good care of them, prepare your meal with love and care, and you never let anyone leave your house hungry. No problem there ... I like to feed people.
Yesterday was a drizzly day here in the Pacific Northwest, and in the culinary department, I just wanted to hold onto summer a little bit longer. What to do, what to do. Soup and salad sounded just right ... soup for the warmth and comfort, and salad for the crunchy, summery feel. But with company here, a regular tossed salad would not do. I remembered seeing a wonderful recipe called Salad Nicoise in one of my well loved older cookbooks (Cookery for 1 or 2 by Barbara Swain). This cookbook was one of the very first that I purchased right before I got married, and fell in love with it. Although my cooking requirements have evolved beyond feeding 1 or 2 people, this cookbook retains its place of honor on my shelf.
People, this salad is GOOD and so company-worthy!!! It can easily stand on its own with a thick slice of bread. I pared it with homemade chicken and rice soup, and had to refrain from making multiple yummy noises ... I had company after all!
This salad took some organizational effort, but was quite easy to make. It's so pretty to look at, don't you think? I almost didn't want to toss it before serving! Every single bit was eaten. When I cleared the dishes, the salad serving bowl was clean!
Here's what you do: Boil some baby red potatoes that have been cut in bite size halves or quarters, until tender. While potatoes are boiling, prepare a simple french vinaigrette by whisking 3 parts Olive oil, 1 part white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice, little bit of whole grain mustard or dijon mustard, few shakes of garlic salt, freshly ground pepper, and your favorite herbs. Drain potatoes and immediately toss with vinaigrette. Set aside to marinate. Do the same with the green beans; marinate separately from the potatoes. Layer lettuce in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Arrange the following items in their own section on top of lettuce: marinated potatoes, marinated green beans, hard boiled eggs-quartered, slice tomatoes, olives - I used plain old black olives because that's what my guests like, but use whatever type you like including nicoise olives!, and good quality tuna or even grilled tuna would be terrific. Prepare another vinaigrette, same as before, but this time add some finely diced shallot or red onion. Drizzle over the salad. A traditional salad nicoise calls for layering anchovies on top. My guests and hubbyman opted not for the anchovies; however, as I love anchovies, I lovingly layered mine on as well as ate their portions of the little salty strips, too. Serve this immediately at room temperature or refrigerate it and serve cold. If you don't have guests, make yummy noises. Oh, and this salad is gluten free, all the way, baby!
What are your favorite dishes to serve guests? Since my company will be here for a couple more days, I'd love to hear any recipe suggestions you may have!