There’s nothing like a mid-winter picnic, especially if Salad Niçoise is part of the equation.
The other day my daughter asked if we could eat dinner outside. It was sunny, the temperature in the mid-sixties. My answer? Most definitely. We bundled up – each in a cozy sweater – and set up our colorful spread on the scraggly winter landscape.
For the Salad Niçoise, I took my inspiration from Julia Child and piled on delicately steamed French beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and everything deliciously funky: Tuna, olives, capers and a few anchovies (for salty chew). A handful of crackers with cheese completed dinner (though a hunk of crusty bread would be nice, too).
My husband flashed us all back to his “Mr Picky” days as he struggled to down one solitary anchovy. He did the work but remains unconvinced of their merits. My daughter escaped the challenge since she’s a self-proclaimed vegetarian, focusing her efforts instead on the vegetables and cheese (for protein). As for myself, I ate everything.
While we enjoyed our meal, the sun sunk behind our neighbors’ rooftop (taking the warmth with it). Our fingers gradually chilled until we found ourselves laughing, rushing our blanket and plates inside before dusk turned the invigorating air into brittle chill.
We finished our picnic indoors, huddled around the coffee table.
Even though our winter picnic lasted a mere fifteen minutes, it was just the sort of spontaneous fun needed to break up the winter doldrums.
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For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 shallot, minced (a small one will do nicely)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (heaping)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspooon pepper
For the salad:
1lb baby potatoes, boiled then halved
1lb green beans, steamed and shocked in cold water
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 head butter lettuce
4 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced in half
oil-cured black olives
1-2 cans tuna
For the dressing:
I like to make the salad dressing first so the shallots and garlic have time to infuse the vinegar mixture.I just add all ingredients to a small jelly jar and shake, shake, shake.
For the eggs:
I place mine in a small pot, cover with cold water and turn the heat on high. 13 minutes later they come out perfectly. Here’s my nifty trick for perfectly sliced hard-boiled eggs.
For the potatoes and green beans:
Depending on the size of the baby potatoes, they can be cooked with the green beans (just remove the green beans with tongs if the potatoes aren’t done when the green beans are). I find both took 9-10 minutes at a boil. Shock the green beans in cold water to stop them from turning muddy.
Once the potatoes are cooked, slice in half and toss with a few tablespoons of dressing (while still warm). In a separate bowl, do the same with the cold green beans and tomatoes.
(Adding vinaigrette to each ingredient makes for a perfectly seasoned composed salad. If you’re just going to toss everything together simply wait until serving time to add the dressing).
To assemble the salad:
Layer some lettuce on a large platter. Mound the potatoes in the center.
Arrange the green beans in 6 bundles around the outside. Add the tomatoes and eggs in a decorative fashion.
Finish with a mound of tuna in the center, along with olives, capers, and some anchovies.
Serve with extra dressing on the side.