Salade Niçoise

Maybe because of Bastille Day or maybe because the days are so hot during the summer, but salade niçoise sounded like a perfect dinner tonight. Before heading to the grocery store, I thought I would jump online and find a standard recipe. What I found instead was little agreement on what constitutes Nicoise salad. I found vegan versions, vegetarian versions, version with salmon instead of tuna, etc. There are even purists who say that there should never be any cooked vegetables — only tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil. I took these disagreements as license to make my own version. So, here it is:

Salad

  • 1 small head of butter lettuce, washed, chopped, and patted dry with a towel
  • 6 small Yukon gold potatoes
  • 8 oz. trimmed green beans, preferably haricot verts
  • 3 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 small radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 small beets, cooked and quartered (I used Love Beets cooked beets with white wine and balsamic)
  • 1/2 cup olives (Nicoise, Kalamata, or whatever type you like best)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1 can tuna in olive oil, excess oil drained off

Fill a large pot with water and add salt to make it very salty. Add potatoes to the pot and bring the water to a boil. Boil until you can easily stick a fork into the potatoes, about 15 minutes. Remove the potatoes and set them aside to cool. To the pot of boiling water, add the green beans and blanch for 3 minutes and move them to a bowl of ice water to quickly cool them down. While the potatoes and green beans cool, carefully place the eggs into the pot of boiling water. Turn the heat to medium and put a lid on the pot. Cook the eggs at a simmer for 11 minutes. I love that I can use the same pot of water for all of the cooked components. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool them down. Quarter the potatoes, drain the green beans and place them on a towel to dry, and peel the hard boiled eggs and cut them in half.

Place the lettuce in a large serving bowl. Compose the salad by grouping together the salad ingredients on top of the lettuce. Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

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Dressing

  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 1.5 oz.)
  • 2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2.5 oz. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 oz. olive oil

In a jar, combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil. Mix well. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to create an emulsion. If needed, place a lid on the jar and shake prior to serving.  I especially like the fresh thyme in this dressing; the flavor really comes out and enhances all of the salad components.

The salad can be served immediately with the cooked components still warm, or it can be made ahead and served cold. Top the salad with the dressing and enjoy.

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Fall Vegetable Soup

Fall is my favorite food season. I enjoy the hearty, earthy flavors of fall vegetables and wait patiently through the year for the weather to cool down just enough to spur me to make big satisfying pots of chili or stew. Inspired by the produce that has begun to show up in the grocery stores recently, I decided to make a pot of vegetable soup.

For my fall-inspired variation on vegetable soup, I  used:

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 small Sweet Dumpling squash
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 oz of Baby Portobello mushrooms
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can Cannellini beans
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 2 Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 bunch Lacinato kale
  • 1/2 bunch Swiss chard
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper
Ingredients for vegetable soup
Ingredients for vegetable soup

For the soup, start with the traditional carrots, celery, and onion. Peel and dice the carrots, cut the celery stalks in half lengthwise and dice the halves, mince the garlic, and finely chop the onion. To this traditional mix, also chop about four ounces of baby portobello mushrooms and prepare a Sweet Dumpling squash.

To prepare the Sweet Dumpling squash, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and carefully peel the the skin of the squash off with a sharp knife. Dice the squash flesh into pieces about the same size as the pieces of diced carrots.

Sweet Dumpling Squash
Diced Sweet Dumpling squash

In a 6-quart cast-iron dutch oven, cook four slices of bacon (halved) on medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside for later. For a healthier option, leave out the bacon and add olive oil to the pot instead.

Bacon
Bacon? Yes please.

After removing the cooked bacon, add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and squash to the pot with the bacon grease, cooking about 15 minutes until the vegetables soften.

Vegetables for the soup
Vegetables for the soup

Once the vegetables soften, add dried sage and thyme (about a half teaspoon each) and the can of diced tomatoes with their juices. Add in the chopped mushroom and the can of cannellini beans. Mix well and pour in the chicken broth.

Bring the soup to boil and reduce the heat to medium low. Dice the Russet potatoes and add them to the simmering soup.

Diced Russet Potatoes
Diced Russet potatoes

After about 10 minutes, check to see if the potatoes are soft. While the soup simmers, wash and cut the kale and Swiss chard into 1 inch squares., removing the stem. When the potatoes are soft, add kale and chard to the soup.

Kale and chard added to the soup
Add the kale and chard to the soup

As the kale and chard begins to wilt, stir the soup well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fall vegetable soup simmering on the stove
Fall vegetable soup simmering on the stove

This hearty, fall inspired soup is full of vegetables and flavor. The Sweet Dumpling squash, mushrooms, kale, and chard provide a tasty twist on more traditional vegetable soups. Bowls of this warm soup offer earthy, satisfying flavors of the season, perfect for the Fall’s cooler weather.

Bowls of fall vegetable soup
Bowls of fall vegetable soup