SALAD NICOISE OR JUST A NICE SALAD?
I've only been to the French city of Nice once, but I had such a memorable day and evening that when I saw a Salad Nicoise on a restaurant menu at home, I ordered it based on the name alone. I was served a delicious salad of fresh greens with ripe tomato, potatoes and green beans, black olives, capers, canned tuna and anchovies; I loved the flavor combination and it instantly became one of my favorite dishes. I often make variations based on the local produce available at the Little Italy Mercato. Last week I used yellow grape tomatoes from Suzie's Farm in place of the traditional large red tomatoes, a mix of red and green leaf lettuces from JR Organics, Kalamata olives from Lisko Imports, and cured sardines from Happy Pantry as a substitute for the anchovies. Although fasionable California chefs usually replace the traditional canned tuna with seared slices of sashimi grade tuna from Poppa's Fresh Fish, I have to admit that I continue to break out the can opener for nostalgic reasons.
While most people can enjoy a delicious salad without much thought, certain history buff food geeks, such as myself, are compelled to delve into the origins of their favorite dishes. When I investigated this famous salad, I was shocked to learn that it came not from my beloved town of Nice, but from the famous "French" chef, Julia Child; you can find her recipe here. The good people of Nice, many of whom admit to enjoying Julia's salad, nonetheless insist that there in nothing Nicoise about it. A true Nicoise Salad, they contend, consists entirely of fresh, uncooked spring vegetables. Out wih potatoes! Be gone, green beans! So, as a tribute to the people of nice, and a celebration of the beautiful spring vegetables at the markets now, I offer my own, San Diegan recipe for the famous salad of spring:
1/2 cup each baby artichokes,trimmed; fresh fava beans, prepared; fresh peas, shelled; grape tomatoes, halved; spring onions, slices thin, Kalamata olives, pitted, and baby spinach. Toss with two tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper; top with boiled egg from Schaner Farms, sardine fillets from Happy Pantry and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Enjoy!