- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The classic Nicoise salad can be served on a bed of lettuce with the vegetables grouped together along with the eggs, tuna and black olives. Here, most of the vegetables and the tuna are mixed together with an assertive citrus vinaigrette. The eggs, tomatoes and basil are arranged around the salad to provide a colorful garnish.

It’s easy to julienne vegetables once you know how. Simply cut a vegetable into a rectangle, then cut into thin slices one way and then cut into thin slices the other way creating long, thin slices that look pretty in the salad.

Cook the hard-boiled eggs so that they have a bright yellow center that offsets the other colors in the salad. The best method is to bring the eggs to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover them for 10 minutes. Cool and peel.

Nicoise olives are small, dark and oval-shaped. Their briny meatiness add a unique and defining signature to this zesty vegetable and tuna mixture. You can find Nicoise olives that are grown in France or Morocco in most supermarkets.

For a festive lunch, begin with a chilled soup like sweet pea or corn soup. Serve the salad with crusty French rolls. Dessert can be as simple as sliced peaches and nectarines along with a chunk of cheese.

Nicoise salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 pound red-skinned potatoes

1 pound green beans, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned

1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and julienned

1/2 cup Nicoise olives, drained and stemmed

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

Freshly ground black pepper

3 cans imported tuna packed in oil, drained and broken into chunks

DRESSING:

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

GARNISH:

3 hard-cooked eggs, quartered, for garnish

2 small tomatoes, sliced into sixths, for garnish

Basil leaves

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and cool. When cool, peel and cut into julienne slices. Place in a large bowl.

In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. Immerse the green beans and cook until tender but slightly resistant, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and place in ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, drain well and place in the bowl with the potatoes. Add the carrots, red pepper, olives, red onion, capers, basil, black pepper and half of the tuna to the vegetables and toss to combine.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl combine the garlic, mustard, basil and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until thoroughly combined. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.

To serve, use just enough dressing to moisten the salad. Toss carefully to combine, making sure not to break up the capers. Taste for seasoning. Mound the salad high in a large, shallow bowl. Place the remaining tuna on the top of the salad. Spoon a little dressing on the tuna. Alternate the egg wedges and tomato wedges around the outside edge. Garnish with basil leaves and serve. Serve extra dressing on the side.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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