Louisville Magazine

AUG 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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98 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.14 dine in WITH Mary Welp he frst time I came across a recipe for salade Nicoise was in my boy- friend's beat-up New York Times Cookbook. It was the early 1980s and before I knew a lick of French. I asked, "Does this mean nice salad?" and got laughed out of the bedroom. I mean the kitchen. Te recipe was a glorifed version of the tuna salad sandwiches I had grown up with, and so I went for it in a big way. In addition to the usual ingredients, the new one called for bell pepper, olives, red onion, cucumber and capers. Te biggest diference between old and new was the use of olive oil instead of mayo and the addition of basil leaves. I remained perfectly happy making tuna salad this way for several years, until a new boyfriend (who was to become a permanent fxture because he knew who would be doing the cooking for the rest of his time on Earth) gave me the collected works of Elizabeth David. For the uninitiated, Elizabeth David was the British version of Julia Child, only glamorous. She got fed up with dreary English cookery and, in 1938, took of for the Mediterranean, where she ended up — after many years of postwar reconstruction, of course — composing several volumes on the foods of Italy, Greece, France and Spain. One of the frst Davis sentences I read was, "Tere are as many versions of Salade Nicoise as there are cooks in Provence." Whoops. Why must this inevitably prove true for the most basic things in life that I imagine myself to have gotten a handle on? It turns out that if war had not been fought over fascism, it might have been fought over the original salad of Nice. Some claim it never had a thing to do with tuna. Others say, oh yes it did, by hell, but the tuna must be fresh of the grill. Quite a few insist that the salad must have tuna as well as anchovy, while still oth- ers claim that it should have anchovy only. Tere are versions that require chicken. Tere are competing versions that want to send you of to the guillotine if you don't use freshly steamed and sliced new potatoes and green beans. Over the years of experimentation, I became quite the convert to the anchovy- only version. But then Cafe Classico opened in Clifton, and as soon as I tasted the Nicoise there, I knew I would be ordering it every single time I went in. Here is how it's described on the Classico menu: "tuna salad of ahi and albacore, tomato, green beans, nicoise olives, egg and potatoes, arranged to perfection." Tis tuna is not from a can, people. Once in a while, even when you are trying to cut down on consumption of over-fshed, mercury-laden foods of the sea, you still just have to have a tuna steak — especially at this time of year, when all of the accompanying ingredients are fresh out of local gardens. So here is a recipe, a blend of old and new, culled from various sources, that I have come to crave. Please don't shoot us for leaving the anchovy out of this delectable Nicoise salad. Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad 18 small fngerling potatoes Kosher or sea salt 12 ounces haricots verts (thin green beans), trimmed 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 teaspoons honey 3 inch-thick fresh tuna steaks Freshly ground black pepper 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 4 ounces small inner leaves of leaf lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces (4½ lightly packed cups) 3 ounces baby arugula (3¾ lightly packed cups) 16 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces Several ripe red, yellow and orange tomatoes, cut into wedges 1 cup Nicoise olives (or other black olives) 3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered Place the potatoes and two teaspoons salt into a large saucepan, adding enough water to cover by an inch, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a wooden skewer, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and let them cool a bit. Fill the saucepan three-quarters full with fresh water and bring to a boil. Add the haricots verts and a half- teaspoon salt to the water and cook until you can just bite through a bean with little resistance, approximately three minutes. Drain, rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and set aside. Heat a gas grill to high or prepare a hot charcoal fre. Combine one tablespoon of the mayonnaise and the honey in a small bowl. Season the tuna steaks with a half-teaspoon salt and a quarter-teaspoon pepper, and coat both sides with the mayonnaise mixture. Grill the tuna until dark marks form on both sides, one to two minutes per side for medium rare, three minutes per side for medium. Transfer the tuna to a cutting board and let it rest for fve minutes. Slice it into thin (quarter-inch-thick) strips. Cut the potatoes in half and toss them in a mixing bowl with the remaining two tablespoons of mayonnaise, the mustard, and a half-teaspoon salt. Reduce the grill temperature to medium high. Grill the potatoes without disturbing except to fip, until brown grill marks form on both sides, probably two minutes per side. Put the red leaf lettuce, the arugula and half of the ba- sil in a large fat mixing bowl and toss with two to three tablespoons of the vinaigrette below. Combine the tomatoes and the remaining basil in an- other bowl, and toss with two to three more tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Top the lettuce with this mixture and then arrange the remaining vegetables around the salad in whatever artful way you decide upon. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and serve immedi- ately. Serves six. A Nice Time for Nicoise By Mary Welp Illustration by Carrie Neumayer T

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