It was pretty darn warm - dare I say, hot - while I was in Ohio last week. The last thing we wanted to do was turn on the oven or use the stove too frequently. The solution, of course, was a composed salad. But not just any composed salad - oh, no. We decided to make an old favorite: Julia Child's salade Niçoise from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Chances are that at one point or another you've all had a version of the Niçoise salad, most likely at a restaurant, and possibly updated with, say, seared tuna. Chances also are that the version you had wasn't half as good as Julia's classic recipe. It's just a salad, sure, but she knows exactly how to make the very best of each and every ingredient.
Green beans are blanched to bring out their sweetness while retaining their snap; farm-fresh eggs are hard-boiled, showing off their impossibly golden yolks; potatoes are boiled and soaked in wine, chicken stock, and vinaigrette while still warm; perfectly ripe tomatoes and simply sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper. The whole kit and kaboodle is topped with an impossibly generous shower of chopped herbs. (We used a combination of chives, parsley, mint, tarragon and basil.)
The result is a meal for four that surpasses all of your typical salad expectations. It's a meal worthy of summer in the south of France, one that should absolutely be accompanied by a crisp rose (Give De Loach's superlative 2007 O.F.S. a go, why don't you?) and followed by a dessert of strawberries, eaten whole, warm from the sun.