Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Recipe: Salade Nicoise

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Back in the early part of the 1990’s I had a chance to travel to Europe for a month.  The trip started like many of my trips to Europe have in the past- with the idea of eating well and drinking even better throughout the trip while visiting some lovely countries.

Europe, to the neophyte is not at all like visiting the international food court at the Plaza Hotel in NYC or visiting the Epcot Center International Dining Pavilion when at Disney in Florida. 

There is a certain authenticity that comes from actually visiting a place, and tasting their culinary history, not by opening a four-color travelogue on the web and hoping for inspiration to come from all the appealing pictures.  To experience authentic European food and wine you must go to the source.  That place can be found by making airline reservations and flying across the pond to eat and drink wine like the locals!

During my halcyon, month-long sojourn, I found my way to the southern part of France, near the Riviera.  This region is long known for its relaxed way of life.  The air is hotter there, both dry and tropical in temperature.    Viniculture reflects the ambient temperatures and the terroir (taste of the place) from the growing medium.  This makes for wines that speak clearly of hot winds that seem to suck all the moisture out of your body.  Fortunately for the thirst-driven traveler, there are many choices for the adventurous palate.

Chateau Beaulieu Coteaux D'Aix-En-Provence Rose 2014 is a perfect introduction to the expressive wines from the South of France, sip by thirst quenching sip.  This wine in particular compliments the food that comes from the South of France.  It was specifically created to make you feel cooler inside when the outside air is over 100 degrees, the wind is blowing forty knots and the air is dry, dry, dry....

The rose wines of this region are defined by the cuisine of the place and no other dish says Aix more than the classic Salade Nicoise.

This singular experience is the framework for wines that say crisp, aromatic and refreshing.  Rose wine like the brilliantly made Chateau Beaulieu, speaks the language of the Garrigue. Garrigue is quite simply the sum of the parts- of the flavors found in herbs that live in the scrub brush. 

This flavor of Garrigue defines the rose wines of Provence. 

When I got off the TGV train from Paris to Nice, the first thing I wanted to do was find a café where hopefully I could get a perfectly delicious glass of the local wine and a Salade Nicoise.  The Salade Nicoise is the quintessential experience of Aix en Provence.  The historic square is surrounded by cheerfully adorned tables, each turning out perfectly delicious versions of the classic salad comprised of butter lettuces, green beans, olives (cured in oil), tuna (cured in oil-NEVER water), ripe tomatoes (or substitute roasted tomatoes should yours resemble the color of khaki pants)…  There should be anchovies in there along with capers and freshly torn parsley.   Your vinaigrette should be made with finely minced shallots along with tarragon vinegar  (or Champagne Vinegar if you wish) and smashed garlic.  There are also boiling potatoes in there along with perfectly (would they be anything else but?) hard-boiled eggs. 

The social thread of this ancient town passes through each bite and each sip that you take of a Salade Nicoise.  It is, quite frankly, France in every taste and scent. 

Recipe for the Salade Nicoise
2-3 small heads of Boston Lettuce- well washed and dried
1 pound French Green beans, steamed to just done with a pinch of baking soda in the water (makes the green color come out vividly)
2 Tablespoons shallot, minced finely
Sea Salt (Like Maldon) and Freshly Cracked Pepper (a must!)
4 very ripe tomatoes (or roast less than perfect- but ok, plum tomatoes in a 350 degree oven for an hour until they melt into themselves.  Let cool and use in your recipe)

My basic vinaigrette is:
¼ cup of the best French Extra Virgin Olive oil that you can buy…
¼ cup Tarragon or Champagne Vinegar
Freshly chopped rosemary and thyme
1 tablespoon shallot (minced fine)
1 garlic clove (boiled for 20 seconds – this takes the bitterness out)

mash garlic clove into the side of a wooden bowl, with a wooden spoon
mash shallot into the bowl –along with the garlic
add the olive oil, salt and pepper and begin to mash that into the garlic and shallot
add the fresh herbs- continue mashing
add the vinegar to finish…
Hard boiled eggs cook for 7 minutes at a boil, started cold- then to boil.. remove from heat, cool with lid on.. cool
Potatoes are easy, simmer with skin on until done, ½ hour or so, let cool
Green beans, steamed (pinch baking soda) cool
Lettuce washed and dried..

It’s really a very simple salad.. toss the greens with the vinaigrette, add the eggs, green beans, the potatoes, the oil cured- tuna and the tangy capers and serve with your well iced bottle of Chateau Beaulieu Coteaux D'Aix-En-Provence Rose 2014…

It’s a trip to France in the summer-time in every bite! 

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

About Warren Bobrow
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog The Cocktail Whisperer and the author of nearly half a dozen books, including Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktail and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails- his most recent book.

He's also written about cocktails for Saveur and Whole Foods/Dark Rye, Total Food Service, Eater, Serious Eats, Foodista, Distiller and Beverage Media among other outlets.  He’s taught the fine art of social media and food writing at the New School in New York and at the Institute for Culinary Education. Warren has also taught at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine.

Bobrow was a 2010 Ministry of Rum judge and was the only American food journalist asked to participate in Fête de la Gastronomie, a nationwide celebration of French cuisine in Burgundy. 

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