My salad days

July 1, 2009 at 11:54 PM | Posted in Paris 2009, Paris markets, Recipe | 2 Comments

“Pique-niques” are a huge part of the Parisian summer experience.  Especially when it’s hot out, there’s really nothing nicer than sitting by the Seine, or in a park, with some good food (and usually copious amounts of wine) and some friends.  Last summer, I’m pretty sure that I picnicked at least twice a week.  And people here are serious about their picnics–while there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting a panini and sitting by the river to eat it, tonight I went on a walk and saw full sets of dishes, elaborate spreads, the classic picnic basket, beautiful blankets–on a Wednesday evening!

Today at lunch, the grad students, post-docs, and younger employees in the research unit where I work decided to “faire une pique-nique” for lunch and walk to a park about 15 minutes from the office.  It was really nice–about 10 people, most of whom I knew from last summer, and most of whom are around my age–and everyone brought their own lunches to eat together.  I actually haven’t been cooking much since I have been here, and I brought a sandwich and a yogurt with me, but I was so impressed (and jealous) with everyone else’s lunch.  Beautiful salads with fresh vegetables (okay, one guy make his salad solely out of frozen vegetables from Picard, but it still looked amazing), fresh fruits, breads…it was very inspiring.

So after another sweltering day at the office, I decided to finally crack open the salad and vegetable cookbook I bought my second day here.  I checked out a few of the fruit and vegetable markets in the Marais that are open in the evenings, and I have to say that I was underwhelmed.  The quality at the Marche des Enfants Rouges was not great, and although I got some beautiful tomatoes, peaches, and haricots verts from the Marche Baudoyer, there were only two vendors to choose from.  I then traipsed around to find a supermarket and pick up the remaining ingredients needed to make a Salade Niçoise, the quintessential French composed salad.  It was really nice to cook, and I got excited about spending more time at the markets and trying new ways of cooking vegetables. Or not cooking them, if the weather continues to be this hot.

Salade nicoise

CLASSIC SALADE NICOISE

  • 12 tiny potatoes, cut in half
  • 300 grams (about 3 handfuls) haricots verts or green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 grams mesclun salad or spinach leaves (probably about 1 bag)
  • 1 can good-quality tuna
  • And sadly I didn’t have any olives on hand, but if I did….I would have chopped up some little salty black ones
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar (I found shallot vinegar in the Franprix market but any white or red wine vinegar will work)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • A few good glugs of olive oil
  • Parsley, finely chopped, to taste

Steam green beans until tender and, once tender, plunge into water to shock them and stop the cooking.  Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan of water, and when it boils, add the eggs.  Boil the eggs 9-10 minutes, then plunge them into the same cold water as you used for the beans.  When cooled, peel and slice.  In the water that you used to cook the eggs, boil the potatoes for 8 minutes, or until there is just a bit of resistance when you stick in a fork to test them.  Shock the potatoes in the same cold water as you used for the beans and eggs.

Mix together the vinegar, oil, mustard, shallots, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the lettuce between two large plates.  Flake the tuna and divide between the plates.  Arrange the eggs, tomatoes, green beans, and potatoes over the lettuce.  Sprinkle with olives, if using.  Dress the salads and serve immediately.

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2 Comments »

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  1. A welcome report on the best possible way to experience Paris. You make one see feel,taste and smell what is going on !
    Anybody who has ever been to Paris will
    immediately know what you refer to.For
    those who have not,your notes are a first
    class stimulus to plan a trip soon.
    Congratulations to offering us all the chance to know this center of culture and
    gastronomy!
    Grammie and Poppy

  2. “a first
    class stimulus to plan a trip soon.”
    Yes.


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