It's market time! On weekend mornings, I like to saunter through our neighborhood farmers market amid the crowds of people in shorts and sandals who, like me, are attracted to the "picked at their peak" vegetables, flowers, eggs, honey and jams in colorful stalls. Adults and kids alike visit with vendors, while friends happily bump into one another for a chat.
Since produce is overflowing at markets and grocery stores, there's no better time to make a fresh, easy-to-prepare dish the whole family will love. I recently was inspired by my friend, Ann Francois, to make a big salade nicoise for the centerpiece of her dining table at a recent gathering of our friends.
While I have vivid memories of traveling in southern France and feasting on this country salad typically composed of tomatoes, tuna, hard-boiled-egg halves and anchovies on a bed of lettuce and dressed with a vinaigrette, Ann's version featured the addition of locally sourced new potatoes and mounds of green beans. Each ingredient was artfully arranged on a platter and served with crusty French bread.
Make this healthy salad with your kids for a light and simple-to-prepare summer main course. What makes it so family-friendly is that you can tweak it to suit tastes. Add artichoke hearts, capers or grilled red peppers. Don't like anchovies? Skip them.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head Boston lettuce, separated into leaves, washed and dried
1 pound firm green beans, preferably French string beans (haricot verts), cooked just beyond tender-crisp stage and chilled
1 pound new potatoes, cooked and halved
2-3 (5 or 6 ounce) cans albacore solid white tuna, drained and flaked, or grilled fresh tuna, cut into chunks
3 large vine-ripe tomatoes, sliced into wedges
3 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
1 cup pitted black olives
1 (2 ounce) can anchovy fillets rinsed and patted dry (optional)
Make the vinaigrette: In a jar, let kids measure and shake vigorously to combine the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assemble salad: Working together with your kids, arrange the lettuce over a large serving platter. Top with mounds of the green beans, potatoes, tuna, tomatoes, eggs and olives. Drape the anchovy fillets (if using) over potatoes. Drizzle vinaigrette over the salad and serve. Serves 6.