I like to think that I'm not a total food snob; I don't always insist upon small-batch gourmet condiments, or artisan hamburgers, or that food that's only acceptable if it comes from a certain remote village in the Swiss Alps. Not always. But sometimes, I feel there is something to be said about making a regional dish the "traditional" way.
I'm reading a book called "Mastering the Art of French Eating", by Ann Mah, in which she tells the story of her year living alone in Paris when her diplomat husband is called away for an assignment in Iraq. She spends her time travelling around France and learning about the traditional dishes of each region she visits. I highly recommend it.
The ways in which those recipes are passed around, tweaked, argued over, preserved, and enjoyed by everyone from locals to tourists to cooks hundreds of miles away are the things that those who love to study culture and who love food (i.e. me) just eat up (pun shamelessly intended).
Last week, on an unusually sweltering day, I had no desire to make anything that involved cooking. Then I recalled something I had read on the blog of David Lebovitz about the classic Salade Niçoise. According to Jacques Médecin, an accepted authority on Provencal food, the only thing that should be cooked in a true Niçoise salad are the eggs. No boiled potatoes, no steamed green beans, none of the things we often find in "Niçoise salads" commonly found on menus in the States. No cooking required equals the perfect dish for an oppressively hot day.
And so, having some hard-boiled eggs already sitting in the fridge, I set out to make an authentic salade Niçoise, and here's how I did it:
Salade Niçiose (From David Lebovitz)
This was enough for Dad and I, and my mom, who doesn't like tomatoes or olives (so this was perfect for her) had a teeny bit, so I'd say it serves 2 or 3. I used the amounts as loose guidelines.
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds scraped, and sliced
2 spring onions, peeled and thinly sclied
1/2 c shelled fava beans
1/3 c niçoise olives or other small black olives, pitted
a large bunch of lettuce or mixed salad greens
3 hard-boiled eggs, cut in wedges
a handful of fresh chopped basil or parsley
1 6oz tin of tuna
Rub the halved garlic all over the inside of your salad bowl
Cut the tomatoes in wedges and put them in a colander. Sprinkle them with salt and let them drain while you assemble the rest of the salad.
Add cucumber, onions, fava beans, olives, lettuce, and tuna to the bowl
Mix herbs with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, drizzle most of it over salad and toss.
Top the salad with egg wedges and drizzle with the remaining oil.
Serve with a crusty baguette and pretend you're sitting by the beach in Nice.