Compose Yourself (and your salad too!)

What kind of health coach/food blogger forgets to take a photo of the finished recipe!?! 
Or put another way, Who has two thumbs and forgot to take a photo of the finished recipe??? This girl! 

I’ve got pictures of SOME of the components, and that’ll just have to be good enough for now. I’m hoping that you all can use your imaginations and conjure up images of the missing pieces—you know what hard-boiled eggs look like, yes? And lettuce? Okay. Let’s get to it then. 

This is one of my favorite spring and summer dinners to make. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s filling but not heavy, and depending on whether you use tuna or salmon it can even qualify as inexpensive. For this version, we splurged on fresh tuna, but I’ve made it with high quality canned tuna fillets, and both fresh salmon and canned salmon. If you use canned fish, get the best quality you can afford and preferably buy one canned in olive oil. The flavor is far superior to the water canned salmon or tuna. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to get non-salad fans onboard with the idea of a dinner salad, but I find this Salade Niçoise to be a wonderful way to start bridging that gap for folks who don’t consider ‘Rabbit Food’ to be a suitable dinner choice. This dish uses the lettuce as a base, but the components are all cooked. If you think of the vinaigrette as a sauce instead of a dressing, all of a sudden you aren’t eating a salad at all. Instead, you’re eating a lovely composed plate of seared fish, toothsome green beans, eggs, and perfectly cooked potatoes. Not rabbity at all. 

We had guests over Easter weekend and being the massive holiday dork that I am, I made a ridiculous amount of hard-boiled eggs because of course four 16 and 17 year old girls would want to dye three dozen Easter eggs. Ha Ha. Yolks on me! Well, they did dye them, because they are sweet, polite, lovely girls…but I suspect they just did it to make ME happy. Now I’m trying to use up all of these jewels before they go bad, and one can eat only so much egg salad. Hence the decision to make this classic French salad, which features delicious, nutritous hard-boiled eggs! 

Traditionally, this salad is a Composed Salad, which means that instead of all of the ingredients being tossed together in a bowl and then doused with dressing, here the ingredients are cooked and tossed with the vinaigrette separately, and then arranged on a plate in a visually appealing way. Usually you will find baby Romaine lettuce as the base, but I used a baby Spring mix I had on hand. I also used a colorful mix of baby potatoes, including my favorite Purple Potatoes. But you should feel free to use what ever you like, or can find. Just try to use either baby potatoes or other small varieties. If you only have access to larger potatoes, cut them into small chunks after boiling. 

As I always tell people, recipes are really guides. Nothing is set in stone, and if you can’t find or don’t like one of the ingredients just substitute something you do have or like. Hate green beans? Use asparagus. Can’t eat nightshades? Sub Cauliflower for the taters. No fish? Chicken or Beef can be used. Heck you could even leave the animal protein out completely if you really wanted to.  But let’s get started with my version from a few nights ago. 

Quick and Easy Salade Niçoise a la Jessica
Serves 4
10 oz container of Baby Spring Mix lettuces
1 lb fresh Green Beans or Haricot Vert
8 eggs at room temperature
12  small or baby potatoes
24 Niçoise olives
1.5 lbs fresh tuna or salmon (cut into 4 portions) or 4 6oz cans of oil packed tuna or salmon
1 batch of Homemade Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Rinse and dry the lettuce and divide between four plates. Cover with damp paper towels and chill in the refrigerator while preparing the other ingredients. 
Fill a 4 quart pot with cold salted water and the potatoes. Bring to a rapid boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the potatoes until they are just cooked through, but not mushy. Turn off the pot. Remove Potatoes with a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Slice if large. Set aside until ready to assemble the salad.
Into the same warm water place your eggs. Bring the water back to a low boil over medium high heat. Allow the eggs to cook in the simmering water for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to quickly cool them. When cool, peel and set aside until ready to assemble the Salad. 
Still using the same pot and water, return the water to a rapid boil, and blanch* the green beans. Drain and set aside until ready to assemble the salad. 
Heat a heavy skillet over high heat until it’s blazing hot, add in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place your fish into skillet and sear the outside. Do not over cook your fish! You want this to be medium rare. If you can’t stomach rare or medium rare fresh fish, use the oil packed canned fish. 
When the fish is seared on all sides, remove to a plate.

*Blanching means to cook the Green Beans for just a moment or two in boiling water, then shock them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and set the color. They will be crunchy, not mushy. 

Place 1/4 of the Vinaigrette in a medium sized mixing bowl. 
Toss the cooked and cooled potatoes in the vinaigrette and arrange on the chilled lettuce covered plates. Do the same with the green beans, dividing evenly amongst the plates. Add more vinaigrette to the bowl as needed to allow a nice coating of the components. 
Slice the eggs into quarters and divide evenly between the plates. Arrange 6 olives on each plate. Place the fish on each plate—you can either leave the portion whole, or flake it and distribute around the plate, which ever is more aesthetically pleasing to you.  
Serve the Salade Niçoise, accompanied by a small boat of the Vinaigrette for adjusting to individual tastes. 

Basic Vinaigrette 

2 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 Anchovy fillets
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Raw Honey
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 Cup EVOO (or Avocado Oil)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a small jar and blend with an immersion blender until well combined. Alternately, you may use a small food processor or blender. If you don’t have a food processor/blender/Immersion blender: Mince the garlic and anchovy fillets together into a paste, add to a small mixing bowl with all of the ingredients except the oil. Whisk together and slowly add in the oil while continuing to whisk. Taste for balance, add a bit more Vinegar or oil if needed, whisk again, and when it suits your taste store in the refrigerator. 

Doesn’t this sound delicious? Go make it right now! 

This also makes a beautiful dish for a casual buffet supper or brunch—simply plate it on a large platter instead of individual plates, and allow your guests to create their own masterpieces of Salad perfection. Maybe I’ll do that soon, and maybe I’ll even remember to take some photos! 

I can’t wait to hear all about your own versions of this recipe….so please share your experiences in the comments section. You can also share this post with folks you like, who might not have found out about all the fun we have over here. I know it’s fun to have secret sources for great info and recipes, but it’s also fun to share the love! xoxo