If you thought that was a rather OTT and pretentious description of that old staple, Salade Niçoise, you'd be absolutely spot on. It is my first contribution to a blogging event called
"Waiter, there's something in my..."
This time, it was hosted by Johanna, the passionate cook, and the theme was
Hmm, doesn't sound like the dishes you've seen on bistro menus lately? Thought not. This could easily change in the current economic climate (cf here), but up to now, I'd say one of the defining features of current bistro food is its emphasis on being " innovative"... or being clever with words... strong on the marketing side of things: the verbal and visual appeal.
Ah, "There is no seasoning quite so tasty as nostalgia"! Nigel Slater wrote this, and he did so, supremely fittingly, in a feature on Salade Niçoise.
Before I started to research it, I had no idea how much the 'true' ingredients are debated. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, no? Apparently not.
First, there is the shocking assertion, "...la salade niçoise ne contient pas de légumes cuits" from a Nice site. What, no green beans??!!
Then there is Heyraud's 1903 recipe in La Cuisine à Nice, which stipulates " ...quartered artichoke hearts, raw peppers and tomatoes, black olives and anchovy fillets (...) parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon" (quoted from Slater, op cit), but not a single lettuce leaf or tuna flake!
On the other end of the scale, you find numerous recipes which even include potatoes!
I certainly didn't want to add those. After all, I had opted for a salad so that I could avoid "Event Fat Gain" (that's when you cook/bake something for a blogging event that contains far too many calories; EFG for short; I appropriated this term for my specific use from Rob Poulos). I also wanted to incorporate fresh tuna, even if, according to some, all Niçoise salads are made with canned tuna (cf here).
And let's face it, at the end of the day, whatever the arguments for or against ingredients and their treatment - the Niçoise site is wonderfully poetic about the dead colours of cooked vegetables versus the vivid colours of Southern France, which ispired Cezanne, Renoir and Matisse - they're often simply a reflection of individual taste. Nigel Slater leaves out green peppers because they don't agree with him. Ditto. Other people might omit black olives, or even, shock, horror, anchovies.
For the latter, I may have stumbled across the ideal solution. I agree with Slater: "To be true to its name this salad must be true to its geography - it must reek of olives, garlic, anchovy and tomatoes", but I found myself near enough out of anchovies. That is to say that my little jar contained only crumbly remains which would not have graced the salad. So I minced them into the vinaigrette. This method of incorporating the anchovies (anchovy paste would be an alternative) might work for people who do not like to bite into the fillets as such. It is one of the reasons why I called my dish Salade Provençale, and the Vinaigrette Niçoise.
marinated artichoke hearts, sliced
red wine vinegar
1 fillet of fresh tuna, pan-seared and cut into thin slices.
Mix the salad ingredients with the vinaigrette, pile on to a plate, arrange the tuna slices so that they lean against the salad mound, garnish with the egg halves, black olives and chives, drizzle with some more olive oil.
Red Choice Tomatoes, exclusively for Waitrose, from the
Clarence Court Old Cotswold Legbar free range eggs, beautiful eggs with a touch of blue, available at Waitrose; cooked to a medium point (lit.: hardened)
The eggs provide proteins and vitamins, the tuna and anchovies contain omega-3 fat, and the olives and olive oil supply mono-unsaturated fat. All this plus fibre and antioxidants from the vegetables.
Thank you Johanna, for organising this event! I can't wait to see everyone else's take on this topic!