Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring Salad Nicoise

When my children were smaller I always got a chuckle out of watching them play in a sprinkler. They would scamper around the yard shrieking with ecstatic anticipation. How do you describe the absurdity of a child’s thrill with something as predictable as a sprinkler? Will it come around again? Aaaaahhhhh! Here it comes!!!

Though I have discovered the timed rotations of the sprinkler I am equally enthralled by the predictable. Case in point: I am consistently captivated by the change of seasons as if their change were not guaranteed.

I think (I hope) I’m not alone here.

It seemed that the winter of 2008 would never end. It has. It seemed like I’d be eating stew and brussels sprouts and slurpy hot things in bowls forever. But hearty fare has given way to a small bounty of spring vegetables. I’ve been gazing with childlike wonderment at the small bounty of produce suddenly available. Spring greens! Rhubarb! Asparagus!

Salad Niçoise is a favorite spring dinner. Topped with fresh tuna and plated with a variety of color, you’ll hardly recall the long winter from which we’ve emerged.

Salad Niçoise
Print recipe only here

Serves 4

• 1# fresh or 2-3 cans tuna
• Salad greens
• 3-4 tomatoes, quartered
• 1 cup olives - Niçoise olives are traditional. I'm not a fan so I substitute kalamatas.
• Asparagus - roasted or steamed. Green beans can substitute.
• 4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
• 8-10 small Yukon gold potatoes, steamed and sliced. Other smaller variety potatoes can substitute.

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup walnut oil*
• 3-4 T red wine vinegar
• 1 shallot, finely chopped
• 2 t dijon mustard
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1/2 t honey
• Kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper* to taste

* The walnut oil and white pepper lend a decidedly Provençal flavor to the dressing. You can substitute olive oil and black pepper and still enjoy the dressing.

Roast asparagus. Trim tails (and peel the thicker ones), line them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and roast in a 425° oven for about 10 minutes until bright and tender. Cool to room temperature and reserve.

Brush tuna with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook to your liking (grilling or searing both work well here).

Assemble salad ingredients on individual plates. I like to center the greens and then scatter the other ingredients in small piles around the plate. Have fun with the design.

Top each plate with tuna and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

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