The Nicoise Salad

by Don Bingham

The time for fresh vegetables from the garden is just around the corner, and nothing says “fresh garden” more than the Nicoise Salad.

Nicoise is a descriptive term for dishes served with particular foods used by the chefs of the city of Nice, France.

This garnish usually includes garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers and lemon juice. Nicoise Salad is the most famous of all these dishes, consisting of potatoes, olives, green beans and vinaigrette dressing.

It is especially adaptable to large group entertaining. We have served the Nicoise Salad to larger size dinner parties — the salad, itself, makes a wonderful centerpiece for guests to “serve themselves.” The salad works well to place on a large platter with two sets of salad tongs, but it is also exciting to use one of your specialty containers for that extra flare.

Chicken is usually the protein, but it contains so many components that there is something for everyone – layers of red potatoes, green beans or asparagus, hard-cooked eggs, vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and large green pitted olives – all coated in a delightfully refreshing dressing made of Dijon mustard, champagne vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. There are many varieties of this salad and many versions of the vinaigrette dressing, as well.

Serve this salad with crusty French bread and butter, followed by a refreshing fruit dessert! Whether you enjoy this easy-to-prepare salad for two or three or 10 or 12 — it’s a grand way to welcome the official garden produce all season long.

Nicoise Salad

(6 Servings)
Green beans:
6 quarts water
2 tbsp. salt
1 1/2 pounds crisp, young, stringless green beans with ends snapped off
French potato salad:
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes (2 inches in diameter), scrubbed
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup cold water
1 tbsp. minced shallots
3-4 tbsp. excellent olive oil*
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp. very finely minced shallot or scallion
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup excellent olive oil*
1 large head of Boston lettuce, leaves separated, rinsed and spun dry
6 large hard-boiled eggs
3-4 beautifully ripe red tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
8-10 oz. oil-packed chunk white tuna or 6-8 boneless, skinless, grilled chicken breasts
Fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
2 oz. can or jar of anchovy fillets packed in olive oil 2 tbsp. fine fat capers
A handful of small, brine packed Italian or French black olives
Chopped fresh parsley

Cook the green beans: In a large kettle, bring the water to a boil with the salt. Drop in the beans, cover and return to a boil. (The large amount of boiling water and rapid cooking seizes the color.) Uncover at once and boil slowly for three or four minutes. The beans are done when just tender with the slightest crunch. Drain immediately. Return the beans to the kettle at once and run cold water into it to cool them rapidly, adding a tray or two of ice cubes if you have them. When chilled, drain again, pat dry and refrigerate.

Prepare the potato salad: Place the potatoes in a steamer basket in a saucepan containing two inches of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate, cover tightly and steam for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Taste one to check. Peel while still hot (cooks need asbestos hands!), halve and slice 1/4-inch thick.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, blend together the wine, water, shallots, three tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of pepper. Gently place the potatoes in the bowl and, using a bulb baster so as not to break the slices, baste the potatoes with the dressing. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and olive oil. Baste several times as the potatoes cool.

Prepare the dressing: In a screw-topped jar, mix the lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, several grindings of pepper, mustard, shallot and lemon juice. Pour in the oil and shake vigorously. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice, salt and pepper if needed.

Shortly before serving, toss the lettuce leaves in a large bowl with just enough dressing to coat them. Halve the eggs lengthwise. Toss the green beans with a spoonful of dressing. Lightly salt the cut surfaces of the tomatoes and dribble a little dressing on top. If using tuna, drain it, flake gently and season with lemon juice and pepper.

Arrange the largest lettuce leaves around the sides of a large platter and make a bed of the remaining leaves in the center, where you will pile the potatoes. Arrange the eggs on the platter and decorate with crossed anchovies and a sprinkling of capers. Divide the beans, tomatoes and tuna or chicken
and place at strategic intervals around the potatoes. Survey the latter, scattering black olives and chopped parsley wherever needed. Serve as soon as possible.

*On olive oils, virgin oil is supposed to be from the first cold pressing of the olives and can be very good indeed. Extra-virgin, the trendy olive oil of the moment, is the first cold pressing, presumably from specially selected olives, and it can be extravagantly expensive. Is it really what it says on the bottle? Is it worth its price? That depends on who makes it and how. Taste carefully before you buy, or get advice from a knowing friend. For salads, you want the best.

German Apple Cake
1-2-3 Dough, halved
4-5 large baking apples
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar, or less depending on apples
Few drops vanilla
Bread crumbs
Apricot Glaze

Peel apples, core and cut in half. Cut small strips cross- wise on top of the apples to score them. Place half of 1-2-3 Dough in a 10-inch spring-form pan. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the bread crumbs to form a thin and even layer. Place the apples in the pan, rounded side up. Fill in spaces with pieces of apples. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the apples. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the apples are tender and the f
illing is set. Cool slightly and paint the top of the cake with melted Apricot Glaze. Serves 8-12.

1-2-3 Dough
1 cup granulated sugar 2 cups butter
3 cups all-purpose flour 1 egg
Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Chill. Dough can be stored for a week or two in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen. This amount of dough is enough to make two cakes. If you need only enough for 1 crust, halve the ingredients and eliminate the egg.

Lemon Roll with Strawberries
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4cup all-purposeflour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar
Clear Lemon Filling
2 pints strawberries 1/4cup granulated sugar
1 kiwi fruit, sliced
Mint leaves

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line jelly roll pan, with aluminum foil or waxed paper, and grease generously. Beat eggs in small bowl on high speed until very thick and lemon colored, about five minutes. Pour eggs into large bowl. Gradually beat in one cup granulated sugar. Beat in water and vanilla on low speed. Add flour, baking powder and salt, gradually, beating until batter is smooth. Pour into pan, spreading batter to corners. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Immediately loosen cake from edge of pan; invert on towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove foil; trim off stiff edges of cake. Roll hot cake and towel from narrow end. Cool. Prepare Clear Lemon Filling; cool. Unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cake with filling; roll up; refrigerate no longer than 24 hours.

Reserve eight medium strawberries and slice remaining strawberries. Sprinkle sliced strawberries with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Garnish with reserved strawberries, kiwi slices and mint leaves. Serve sliced strawberries with roll. Serves 6-8.

Clear Lemon Filling
3/4 cup granulated sugar 3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp. margarine or butter
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/3 cup lemon juice

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Stir in water gradually. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute; remove from heat. Stir in margarine and lemon peel. Stir in lemon juice gradually, and, if desired, four drops yellow food color. If filling is too soft, refrigerate until set.

Peanut Brittle Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Sauce
7 oz. (1 package) coconut
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 stick margarine, melted

Mix flour with coconut and pecans; add melted margarine and stir. Pat into 10-inch pie plate. Bake 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 – 3/4 cup crushed peanut brittle

Mix softened ice cream and peanut brittle. Place into cooled pie shell. Freeze for at least six hours.

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
4 tbsp. butter or margarine
4 tbsp. light cream
Dash of salt

Mix first five ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, boiling for three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add salt and vanilla. Cool and drizzle over whipped cream atop pie. All steps may be done day before presentation.

Easy Fruit Cobbler
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sweet milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
3 cups fresh fruit

Mix first five ingredients together; pour into buttered baking dish; and use fruit spread over mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until crust is golden. Do not top with butter.