Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When life hands you a lemon...

… make vinaigrette. My Meyer lemon tree (bush, really) has decided to grow a second crop of lemons, even though the regular season for citrus is winter, not summer. But hey, who am I to complain? Anything I get from my garden is good news (especially since it doesn’t look like the tomato plants will be doing anything but hanging out in their pots this summer). So, a single Meyer lemon was turned into vinaigrette for a salade niçoise, the latter being a brilliant suggestion from the Engineer as I was wondering what to make for dinner last week. I ended up adapting this recipe, and then I made a few additional changes for myself. As I’ve said before, the Engineer has started taking charge of one meal a week (with leftovers, this often frees me from dinner responsibilities for two days, and it’s absolutely wonderful). That week, he made halibut – and look at that awesome presentation!

Since so we rarely eat fish, it didn’t even occur to me to factor that in until after the first serving of halibut (which, by the way, was actually pretty good for fish, and coming from me, that’s saying a lot). I couldn’t eat both the halibut and the canned tuna in the same week, so I made my salad without tuna; I also made it without olives, because I’ve never liked them. So I guess the Engineer had a niçoise salad and I had a salad? In any case, it was delicious, and I’ll have to keep that in mind when I feel uninspired again! The original recipe calls for tuna steak, which I’m sure tastes better, but canned tuna was just fine this time.

For the dressing
½ cup lemon juice (I had less, and adjusted the oil accordingly)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil leaves (this is the only herb I used this time)
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
2 (5-oz.) cans of tuna (or 2 tuna steaks, seared or otherwise cooked, cut into ½-inch thick slices)
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and either halved or quartered
10 small new red potatoes (each about 2 inches in diameter, about 1 ¼ lbs. total), each potato scrubbed and quartered (I used a bag of small potatoes and didn’t need to quarter them, but had way more than 10)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of Boston lettuce or butter lettuce, leaves washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths (I used a container of cherry tomatoes)
1 small red onion, sliced very thin (I omitted that and found the shallot was enough)
8 oz. green beans, stem ends trimmed and each bean halved crosswise
¼ cup niçoise olives (or to taste, green olives are fine if that’s what you like)
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and/or several anchovies (optional)

Whisk lemon juice, oil, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. When the potatoes are a few minutes from being done, add the green beans to the pot. Drain and let potatoes and beans cool, then mix with a bit of dressing if desired.

Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter. Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Toss tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl; arrange tomato-onion mixture on the lettuce bed. Arrange reserved potatoes and green beans in a mound at edge of lettuce bed. (You are free to mix any component of the salad with dressing before plating it, or to plate everything plain and then drizzle dressing over it. Don’t overthink it, it’s salad.)

Arrange hard boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies (if using) in mounds on the lettuce bed. Drizzle eggs with remaining, sprinkle entire salad with capers (if using), and serve immediately.

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