Monday, September 3, 2012

French Salad

Saturday evening I topped off summer by serving French salad to several of my closest friends. The tradition started when a friend, who has family living in Provence, France, shared with us this delicious salad. We could not let summer pass without enjoying this perennial favorite at least once. The dish is very similar to Salade Nicoise (or Nicoise salad) but not quite the same.  I'm saying not quite the same because I have found that the French can be very particular about what you do with their classic cuisine.  

What’s authentic and what’s not is very controversial when preparing this Nicois classic.  Should one use fresh or canned tuna?  Are both green beans and boiled potatoes to be included?  Is lettuce or other greens included or should they be left out?  Should it be mixed or composed?

The salad got it's start in the city of Nice located in Southern France, near the Italian border.  Nice has a distinct cultural and historic heritage that can be traced back to the Middle Ages and includes Greek, Italian and French influences.  Here authenticity is sacred, the preparation of their distinct traditional cuisine is staunchly guarded -  ingredient by ingredient.  

Although all sorts of variations on Salade Nicoise are served all over France, each claiming to be "authentic", the purists in this region would insist on a composition of a Niçoise salad as follows: tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, salted anchovies, tuna, spring onions, small black Nice olives and basil. And if in season, you can add young, tender broad beans out of the pod, young, raw artichokes and thin green peppers. 

Our salad includes all of the above plus thinly sliced roasted beets, roasted peppers, green beans, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic - so we just call it French salad.  

Aside from the ingredients, my friend also brought back from his French relatives the tradition of serving the meal as a communal partaking, gathering together around the table, passing the individual ingredients starting with garlic clove, and ending with grilled tuna.

You take what you want, composing  your own salad and then you just kind of mash it up, tear it up, cut it up and eat it.  It's fun, delicious and healthy. 

Included in the meal -  what else but some crusty bread and a chilled Rose.  

Then to complete the evening and the summer properly - blackberry pie.

Bon Appetit!


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