July 8, 2014

4plates Niçoise Salad

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I’m resurrecting this recipe. I posted it a couple of years ago (with much less enthusiasm) and made it again last week for dinner, sparking my memory and love for the Niçoise salad. It’s the best salad ever! Of course if you don’t love tuna, olives and anchovies you might want to give it a pass, or you can just pick around and eat the potatoes and green beans. Creating perfect forkfuls that include a tidbit of each element of the salad, stacked artfully and dipped in Dijon tarragon vinaigrette is a scrumptious bite of heaven. Sigh.

As proof the Nicoise is my true love, I can easily rattle off a list of restaurants where I’ve ordered it. One of my favorites is from Rue 57 in New York City, followed closely by the Hotel de Russie in Rome. Given the opportunity to eat awesome Italian food in Italy, I picked this salad (no regrets). In fact, I ordered a Niçoise salad twice during our Italy trip. There’s something about the fresh tarragon, salty anchovies and olives with potatoes and crispy green beans, it’s irresistible to me. One of the things I love about Rue 57, is they let you choose between canned tuna or fresh tuna. I prefer canned tuna for this salad. Save that fancy fresh tuna for sushi. Pommes frites and a Bloody Mary with a Nicoise Salad? I’d be satisfied if this was my last meal. We’ve been watching a lot of Orange is the New Black and I have prison on the brain. So for the moment, consider “last meal” to be my death row reference. For the record, I’d never survive prison, even if they let me work in the kitchen. Oy Vey!

Rue 57, NYC

Rue 57, NYC

 

Les Halles, NYC

Brasserie Les Halles, NYC

 

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy (can’t remember the restaurant)

 

Hotel du Russie, Rome

Hotel de Russie, Rome

This is my adaptation of the Niçoise salad. Change it as you wish, just make one! I have to say that as good as this salad is, the salad dressing is fantastic! It will last for a few days in the refrigerator, and it’s really good on sandwiches or even to dip veggies in for a snack. Don’t let a drop go to waste!

INGREDIENTS

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FOR THE SALAD (Serves about 4)

  • 1 small head red leaf lettuce, torn or cut into ribbons
  • 12 or more cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • Half a small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
  • 1/2lb green beans
  • 12 or so baby red or gold potatoes
  • Generous handful of nicoise olives (you can use kalamata if you can’t find nicoise olives)
  • 2 cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 can anchovies in oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • Fresh tarragon chopped, 2 tbsp or more if you’d like

DIJON TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Throw all the dressing ingredients in a food processor except the tarragon. Process until emulsified and smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped tarragon, stir together. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

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For the salad:

  1. To blanch the green beans, bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice and water, set it next to the stove (see above). Drop the green beans in the boiling water and allow to cook for just 2 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the green beans from the pot and place them into the ice water bath to seize the cooking and keep their bright green color. I lay the green beans on a paper towel to dry.
  2. Throw the potatoes in the same pot you used for the green beans and boil until tender, 10-15 minutes depending on their size. The potatoes are perfectly cooked when they feel tender when pierced with a fork (not a knife). Drain the potatoes and toss with a little kosher salt & pepper and some chopped tarragon, set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Assemble all the ingredients for the salad on a large platter. Sprinkle some chopped tarragon and capers over everything. I always serve the tuna and anchovies on the side, along with the dressing.

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Enjoy!

July 3, 2014

Highlights from the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC

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What happens when you put 2400 food vendors under one roof, all with samples for tasting and me in the midst of it all? A mind altering, feeding frenzy! I spent Monday at the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC and though my feet hurt from hours of walking, my belly was full of all the scrumptious nibbles of specialty fare, and my mind was spinning with lots of new food info.

Wandering for the day with a pregnant friend didn’t help matters. We seemed to find every artisanal ice cream vendor with ease, not that I’m complaining. Hail to the people at Jenis ice cream for their lemon and blueberry frozen yogurt! It was a perfectly creamy combination of tart fresh lemon, swirled with sweet blueberries. The ginger cookie snap ice cream from Phin & Phebes was creamy and spicy with a subtle swirl of yummy lemon frosting. They were definitely two of my favorites.

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Cheese was a highlight of the day. Though no particular cheese stood out, I was dumbfounded by how many cheese vendors there were. How much cheese can one person eat? Apparently a lot, because everywhere I turned I was trying a different type of cheese. Representing so many countries, the cheese peeps were so happy to share their story and wedges of their prize-winning cheese. The stinkier the better I always say.

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Breakfast cheese to spread on toast, genius! The fig was awesome!

Not surprising, vinegars and oils were everywhere. We approached one Italian balsamic vendor and asked for a taste. We were told they conduct their tastings as a flight, like wine and beer, just much smaller portions. We stood there drinking spoonfuls of delicious balsamic from their entry-level price on up. It was amazing how different each one tasted, a real education of how balsamic comes to be. My favorite vinegar of the day was this truffle balsamic. Where can I buy this stuff?

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The BEST truffle balsamic!

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Being a life long retailer and an even better consumer, I was struck by how beautiful some of the packaging was. Elegantly wrapped chocolates and bottles of vinegar. So much time and effort goes into the design of the product. I found the more specialized and smaller the vendor, the better the packaging. Think gift baskets for the holidays, lovely stuff.

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I loved the unfiltered ginger ale from Bruce Cost below. And the peppered bacon from Nueske’s might have been the best bacon I’ve ever had… bacon samples! Also my favorite crackers of the day (below) and are you surprised I found the anchovy guy? Slices of baguette with anchovies – yum! And we sipped the most delicious maple syrup. If you aren’t using the real stuff, you must give it a try. Throw that Log Cabin stuff away.

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My final thought of the day was simply – “I love truffles.” White truffles, black truffles, truffle potato chips from Spain, truffled vinegars from Italy, cheese infused with truffles, artisanal salt flakes with truffles… wonderful truffles. We sat with a very well dressed Italian guy who’s company makes only products with truffles. Truffles are their thing and this guy knew his stuff. I learned that Italians find their truffles using dogs, while the French use pigs – which coincidentally doesn’t always work so well. Female pigs love the smell of truffles, they smell a bit testosterone’ish to the pigs, which can result in them just eating the truffles when they find them. I think the Italians might have a one-up on the French in the truffle hunting department. Check out the mountain of truffles below!

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I could go on and on, a real food education. I will be going back next year for sure. A day filled with food and more food, what could be better?

 

 

 

 

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