Week Night Yum Yum: Salmon Nicoise Salad Platter

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nicoise Salad is a classic out of France. Named after the use of the small and delicately brined nicoise olives, it's a simple but flavorful salad of flaked tuna, crisp haricot verts (French green beans), shallots, and other vegetables all tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette. Originally the dish was served with all raw vegetables and using canned tuna. Its humble beginnings being transformed through today's interpretations adding ripe tomatoes, eggs, and tender potatoes to the mix and serving the salad platter-style rather than mixed all together, the Nicoise Salad can be adapted from a healthy week night meal to a main course to feed a crowd.

Tuna's great, and I've done this using canned tuna to seared expensive ahi. We still have a shitload of salmon left over from The Husby's fishing trip to Alaska, so I used salmon to help get rid of it. The result was a resounding success. I confess I stole the idea from Ina who made it in her Baby Shower episode, and to be honest I think the salmon yields itself even a little better than the tuna.

I kept the components of the salad simple and kid-friendly -- ripe tomatoes sliced thickly into wedges, shallots add the perfect spice, salmon grilled until flaky and tender, perfectly boiled eggs and crispy par-boiled green beans and tender yukon gold potatoes all tossed with a simple lemon-herb vinaigrette lightly flavored with garlic. Conspiculously missing are the nicoise olives which were so good, they didn't even make it to the plate -- they were consumed by two (let's not name names, but they can fit the description of a 33 year old male and 3 1/2 year old male) along with the rest of my marcona almonds. Apparently I need to hide the almonds. Another post...

My kids adored this salad and it served the 4 of us quite well. Expand the recipe to suit how many people you need to feed. And it's perfect for a party because it's best served at room temperature.

Salmon Nicoise Salad Platter with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
1-2 large shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 fillets salmon, grilled*
4 boiled eggs**
1 bunch green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 lb baby yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup good olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp total combination of: fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley
1 garlic clove, finely minced into a paste
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a pot and fill with cold water. Add a handful of salt and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, or until potatoes can be pierced with a fork --- just at fork-tender. Careful not to overcook however so the potatoes keep their shape! Drain and let potatoes cool. Once cool, take the potatoes and slice them into rounds.

In a separate pot, bring water to a boil. Lightly salt the water and add the green beans. Cook until bright green in color, about 5 minutes. Remove promptly to an ice bath and let stand. If serving for younger children, you may want to cook the beans a bit longer to make them easier to eat. Drain when ready to use.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the oil, lemon zest and juice, herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Set aside.

To arrange the platter, place the items in blocks of ingredients as pictured above. The order doesn't matter. Pour the vinaigrette all over the fish and vegetables and serve. No need to toss anything.

*To grill the salmon, simply take the fillets and season both sides with salt and pepper (use skinless salmon). Preheat grill to high and brush with oil. Grill salmon on both sides until firm to the touch, about 5-9 minutes total cooking time, depending on the thickness of the salmon pieces. Remove and let cool a few minutes. Then using a spatula or fork, gently flake the salmon into large chunks.

**To make hard-boiled eggs, place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil, and turn heat off completely once water comes to a boil. Let eggs steep in that hot water for 10 minutes; if you boil them at a rapid boil you increase the chances of them moving around and breaking. Drain and run under cold water. Crack shells and remove, then slice each egg into quarters.

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