Salade Nicoise always struck me as one of those things, alternately haughty and boring, that could stir up debate among the indifferent without ever compelling their hunger. I grew up thinking a salad, plainly, was a dewy green phone book gathered in a wooden bowl from the underbelly of a push mower as gustatory scapegoat for whatever Frito Lay product had been last--and more shamefully, partaken. I was nearly right.
Whatever the debate or ennui this salade seems to inspire in others I jumped for it. Long before frat bars piled French fries on landfills of iceberg lettuce, jerk chicken and shredded cheddar (don't knock it it ain't half bad) the salade Nicoise added potatoes to greens--or so I thought; it had blanched string beans, lending a gardeny crunch--or so I thought; and of course the tuna itself meant the pious water-canned albacore--or so I feared (and kinda hoped).
Then I came across this. No potatoes, no lettuce, no beans, no jerk chicken. Hell, no dressing really, just the olive oil from the tuna. And don't ask, no, no albacore in spring water. Turns out the Europeans have built an industry of exquisite oil-cured tuna.
Salade Nicoise (for 2)
1 poblano pepper--try to select a mild one , or simply forgo the chilies. 1 long stalk celery--stripped of floss 1 red onion 1/3 medium daikon, shaved
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped at the white bottoms, then lankier the further and greener up 1 tbsp capers 2 tbsp roughly chopped cornichons--keep the brine handy. chopped parsley. crushed chilies a few additional splashes of very decent olive oil.
1 watermelon radish or 2 red radishes, slice across into wafers
7oz. jar of Flott oil-preserved tuna 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, quartered. 1 grilled half of lemon--well-concealed from Nicoise purists!
1. Arrange radishes in a circular fashion along the perimeters of two medium plates.
2. Chop the first four ingredients into stubby match sticks, add to the radish-lined centers of the plates.
3. With the final of the six, a good olive oil, scud the ensuing six ingredients in a mixing bowl. Toss and muddle-infusing the ingredients. Add salt and cracked black pepper to assist and taste. Spoon over raw vegetables, coat by tossing gingerly between your fingers.
4. Add the tuna to the salad plates. Combining leftover oil with any oil-scud leftover in the mixing bowl, drizzle on tuna and salad. Place eggs.
5. Dress by adding salt, cracked pepper and juice from grilled lemon. Shave Piave Vecchio over it if you like...