Dinner Salad - Salade Nicoise

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This is one of our favorite full-meal salads - being that it's three out of the four food groups in one, and in fairly generous quantities: there's your meat, potatoes, and several kinds of veggies. Throw in some nice crusty French bread, and there you go. (The other favorite dinner salad being a concoction of leftover chicken, bean-thread noodles, toasted sesame seeds and a vinaigrette dressing made with a dash of soy sauce).

It is also something that my mother used to fix fairly often, especially when it was too hot to spend very much time in the kitchen in the heat of the day. It's one of those handy dishes which may also be prepped in advance, and the quantity may expanded or contracted to suit any number of diners; one big platter in the center, or scaled down to individual servings. The name comes from the town of Nice, on the French Mediterranean coast - oddly enough, Kiet, the Vietnamese teenage refugee who lived with us for a year in the mid 90s recognized it and liked it very well, also. Kiet pronounced it as "Salad Nuc - Wha" and liked his with a little spritz of Vietnamese fish sauce.

The recipe is infinitely flexible; you may make your own marinade/dressing or use any bottled oil-and-vinegar dressing instead, or adorn with cold cooked shrimp instead of the canned tuna. I once had Salade Nicoise in a very upscale restaurant where they had chunks of seared ahi tuna steak - which was very good - but they also served it with lightly boiled blue potatoes, marinated wax beans and yellow tomatoes, which had me blinking at the plate and wondering if my eyes had suddenly gone bad.

Anyway - this version serves four:

Combine and shake vigorously until emulsified: ¾ cup olive oil, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, a dash of salt and pepper, 2 tbsp each of chopped chives and chopped parsley, and ½ tsp whole-grain mustard.

Meanwhile, boil 4 large unpeeled boiling potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes until just tender. (You can also use whole baby red potatoes, too.) Cool immediately under cold water, peel and slice, and pour over just enough of the dressing to thinly coat slices. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Blanch 1 ½ pounds fresh trimmed green beans in boiling water. Drain well, and moisten with salad dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Line a large, deep platter or four dinner plates with fresh lettuce or spinach greens, and arrange a mound of the cooked potato slices in the middle. Top with 1 7-oz can solid pack white albacore tuna, drained. Arrange the green beans on either side of the potatoes, and ring the platter with 2-3 hardboiled eggs, halved, and 2 medium tomatoes, cut in wedges. Adorn the salad with any or all of the following: 10-12 anchovy filets, 6-8 marinated artichoke hearts, a handful of ripe olives, a tbsp of whole capers. My daughter likes marinated baby ears of corn. Sprinkle the whole thing with a little more of the salad dressing/marinade. It can be served at once, or covered in plastic wrap and allowed to sit for a little while.