Happy Birthday, Julia! –Celebrate with Salade Niçoise

I don’t know why I haven’t posted Salade Niçoise until now.  It’s one of my favorite dishes.  My thoughts of it were triggered today as I watched several episodes of The French Chef on WLIW’s tribute to Julia Child on the anniversary of her 100th birthday.  It’s a simple composed salad but exuding what you might expect to be served in an outdoor café in Nice.

My version features French potato salad, cooked string beans, sweet peppers, hard cooked eggs, chick peas, cucumber slices, olives and tuna.  Of course, you might add or substitute cooked asparagus, cooked sliced beets, avocado, anchovies, capers, in short, whatever suits your fancy. The string beans, simmered in boiling water just until they still have a  slight crunch, and the chick peas should be tossed in a little vinaigrette before added to the ensemble.  Your own selections should be placed atop a bed of Boston lettuce also tossed with a small amount of the vinaigrette.  A tablespoon or two of chopped fresh herbs sprinkled on at the end add an  inviting touch.

Many chefs seem to feel that they have to upgrade this classic salad by switching out the canned tuna for fresh grilled tuna.  Personally I prefer the classic version featuring a good quality canned tuna in olive oil.  The accompanying flavors of anchovies, capers  and vinaigrette dressing are complimentary.  The olive oil from the can, having enhanced the flavor of the tuna, is drained and discarded.  Tuna in water has had the flavor leached out of it and tuna in other oils simply lack the flavor of olive oil.  I prepare the potatoes in the style of Julia Child’s French potato salad. An Alsatian Riesling is the perfect accompaniment.

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing:

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic

2 large shallots

1 T Dijon mustard

¼ cup good wine vinegar, red or white

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ c up peanut oil

¼ t freshly ground black pepper

1 t sea salt or kosher salt

Procedure

1. Mince garlic and shallots and place in a bowl.

2. Whisk in Dijon mustard and vinegar.

3. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and peanut oil, whisking vigorously.

4. Add pepper and salt, taste and adjust seasonings.

Julia’s French Potato Salad

Ingredients

8-10- medium boiling potatoes, such as Red Bliss

4 T dry white wine

2 T chicken stock

2 T minced shallots

Procedure

1. Simmer potatoes in water until easily pierced with a knife.  Let cool enough to handle.

2. Peel and slice into 1/8-inch slices.  Place in a bowl.

3. While potatoes slices are still warm, pour on wine and chicken stock and toss gently.  Set aside while potatoes absorb liquid.

4. Add minced shallots and toss.

5. Add 1/3 cup vinaigrette salad dressing. Toss gently to blend.

Photo by sweetpaprika

Remembering Julia

Today, August 15, is the anniversary of the birth of American icon Julia Child. Her determination to get the 684-page (originally much longer) tome that is Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I  published is a lesson in persistence.  Originally submitted for publication in 1953, it was rejected with the recommendation to trim its encyclopedic length.   After six years of hard work, Julia and her partners  submitted a heavily revised version to Houghton Mifflin,  and again it was rejected as still being too long, elaborately informative and expensive to publish.   It wasn’t until Judith Jones recognized its value and distinction and persuaded her seniors at Knopf to publish the book that it finally hit the presses in 1961.

There is much to be admired about Julia Child in addition to her persistence.  I liked her down-to-earth straightforwardness.  She knew how good food should taste.  She never shied away from using the real thing –butter, lard, cream, bacon or foie gras.  If you wanted to cut your calories, that was your business.  She never lectured her readers or viewers.

On her famous TV series, The French Chef, she and her producer had the good sense to teach as well as entertain.  She didn’t attempt to throw together a four or five course meal in 20 minutes.  She most often treated one ingredient.  In The Artichoke Show, for example, she demonstrated how to select, clean and cut the artichoke as well as prepare it several ways and serve.  The viewer was able to replicate the task at home.

The French Hamburger gussied up with American toppings

Tarte Tatin

I have many dog-eared pages in her cookbook—her beef bourguignon,  French hamburgers—my adaptation https://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/play-it-up-like-a-real-hamburger/  and my favorite of all desserts (and this from a chocoholic) tarte tatin, to name a few.  Here is a great version:   https://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com/archives/tarte-tatin-upsidedown-caramelized-apple-tart/

My cooking is constantly informed by her culinary gems:

Asked what her favorite meal was, she might mention duck or leg of lamb, but would almost always add, “I love good, fresh food cooked by someone who knows what he’s doing.”

The secret of Julia Child’s longevity:  red meat and gin.

Food is terribly important. And if you don’t know how to cook, it’s tragic.

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.

 If you’re afraid of butter, and many people are, just use cream.

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.

French hamburger photographed by  Bill Brady 

 

                                   

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