Sunday, July 12, 2009

Salad Nicoise

So, what do you do with a handful of green beans?


I've learned a lot about planting green beans (and peas for that matter). First of all, I need to do rotated crop plantings (planting a new row every week or two so that I have enough green beans produced all summer.) Because we LOVE green beans. One of the things I remember most fondly as a child is that, over at my best friend's house, her mom had planted low bushes of green beans, and when we were out playing all day (locked out of the house! go play! don't come in!) we would swoop by these bushes every few hours and snap off some beans and pop them in our mouth. They were so good. And the bushes seemed to produce many beans per bush.

That was kind of what I was expecting from the beans I planted. Well, a), the beans were definitely one of the most hardy plants in the garden, but b) they weren't the variety I thought I had planted. Not the best friend's mom variety, anyway. They grew much taller and were not as bushy. You've seen the photos in previous posts. c) they produced great beans, but only about three per plant total, and these came in sporadically, so in all, i got a handful at first, then a second handful, then just a few more. I don't know if I'll get any more this season, maybe so.

Still, what to do with a handful of green beans? This same question has faced the author of a great and funny blog, "Gardening Without Skills," whose okra is really taking off and presents her with several okra every couple of days. Like me, she wonders, what do I do with a couple of okra every couple of days?

Since I have tomatoes and lots of lettuce in the garden, the answer was given to me by another great blog, (Simply Recipes), and I think is a great solution for using whatever handfuls you have around after harvesting your garden! Salad Nicoise! As the author of "Simply Recipes" relates, this French salad, when served in France, is composed of anchovies, raw vegetables, yadda yadda yadda. She suggests that you serve it with tuna steaks carefully marinated and seared, a nicely homemade herbed vinaigrette, and a bunch of other delicious stuff.

Here is hers:

Ingredients

Vinaigrette
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp minced fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad
2 grilled or otherwise cooked tuna steaks* (8 oz each) or 2-3 cans of tuna
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and either halved or quartered
10 small new red potatoes (each about 2 inches in diameter, about 1 1/4 pounds total), each potato scrubbed and quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce, leaves washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
8 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed and each bean halved crosswise
1/4 cup ni├žoise olives
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and/or several anchovies (optional)

Method

*Marinate tuna steaks in a little olive oil for an hour. Heat a large skillet on medium high heat, or place on a hot grill. Cook the steaks 2 to 3 minutes on each side until cooked through.

1 Whisk lemon juice, oil, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

2 Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon (do not discard boiling water). Toss warm potatoes with 1/4 cup vinaigrette; set aside.

3 While potatoes are cooking, toss lettuce with 1/4 cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter (I used two serving platters, shown in the photos). Cut tuna into 1/2-inch thick slices, coat with vinaigrette. Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Toss tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl; arrange tomato-onion mixture on the lettuce bed. Arrange reserved potatoes in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.

4 Return water to boil; add 1 tablespoon salt and green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans, transfer to reserved ice water, and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry beans well. Toss beans, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste; arrange in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.

5 Arrange hard boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies (if using) in mounds on the lettuce bed. Drizzle eggs with remaining 2 tablespoons dressing, sprinkle entire salad with capers (if using), and serve immediately.

salad-nicoise2.jpg

Serves 6.

For mine, I used green beans from the garden, pictured here:

I used a delicious tomato from the garden, pitted against a tomato from the store. We did a taste test of the garden tomato from the store tomato, and although the store tomato had a great amount of wonderful tomato scent, when you bit into it after biting into the garden tomato - it tasted like , uh, shredded wheat. Which is sad, considering how great tomatoes from the store usually taste to me. WHY do tomatoes grown in my own yard taste 50000000 times better than the ones I buy in the store? Why can't they taste the same? It makes me sad.

Anyway, all i can say is that I am pretty happy I am growing my own tomatoes and I wish I had several more reliably producing plants.

In addition to the tomato and the green beans, I used greens from the garden, as usual.

I loosely followed the blog's recipe for the vinaigrette, but I did not use fresh lemon juice b/c unfortunately, lemons are no longer 3 for a $1.00 like they were three years ago, and I have never been able to get over the hike in prices on citrus. Or maybe I never will be able to. I lived in FL until I was about 12 and I just think that citrus should be cheap, period. You should certainly not be paying $0.98 for a lemon or a lime, and I won't do it. I'll buy the bottled stuff which is just as good. In my opinion.

So, i used that for the vinaigrette, and I kind of cheated on the herbs - I used basil and tarragon, b/c that is what I have in the garden (no oregano, no thyme . . . . maybe next year I'll start growing those). I love how the hot potatoes soak up the vinaigrette. Oh, and I did not pour out the potatoes and then restart the water for the 12 beans I had. I just threw them into the last minute of the boiling potatoes. It worked just fine.

I put down all of my greens, sort of found whatever was in the cabinets that I could use, and assembled it on a plate . . . . I think this entire salad probably came to $7.00 for two people between the cost of the olives, potatoes, eggs, capers (all of which I had laying around, but let's say you had to buy them . . . ) ANd I bought a $4.50 can of albacore tuna to make it fancy - which, I think they are cutting corners on the solid albacore b/c it looked like chunk light tuna when I opened it and I was pretty mad.

But anyway.

VOILA.

I could not finish mine and Mr. Siren had to polish it all off for me. Thankfully we went out dancing and I worked it off. I think this is a great meal for several reasons:
1) you can use whatever handfuls of stuff you have from the garden
2) It's pretty darn economical
3) it's packed with protein and really healthy, and also has the added bonus of being no-carb.

Thanks, Simply Recipes!

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