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Thursday, July 27, 2006

HOT DAYS, COOL FOOD

Recently, I’ve been in a salad rut. This no-brainer side is quick to whip up and goes with practically anything; as a result, I end up making one at least twice a week. And, as far as salads go, mine are pretty good. But even though I mix it up a bit—varying the lettuces, using different types of vinegars, adding a grating of ricotta salata, a sprinkle of nuts, sliced avocados, orange segments, or whatever’s on hand—at the end of the day, it’s still pretty much the same ol’ salad. And week after week, that gets boring. In fact, it took a heat wave to reacquaint me with how fabulous a salad can be.

I don’t mind cooking on the hottest days—we do have air conditioning in our apartment—but, like most people, I tend to crave food that’s cooler, lighter, more refreshing. On a particularly brutal evening last week, a main dish salad fit the bill perfectly. I decided to go with a fairly straightforward Salade Nicoise for one very good reason: it’s filled with so many of the things Brian and I love to eat—eggs, tuna, anchovies, green beans, olives. But, of course, salads are great when improvised, too. Just make sure it’s filled with stuff you love to eat.

HEAT WAVE SALADE NICOISE

Tuna steak, about 1 ½ inches thick
Vinaigrette (I made mine with shallots and white wine vinegar)
Baby potatoes
Hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Green beans
Nicoise olives
Anchovy fillets
Baby arugula (or green of your choice)

Season tuna with salt and pepper. Sear for about 1½ minutes on each side. Halve scrubbed potatoes and cook until tender. Season still-warm potatoes with a little salt and pepper and toss with some of the vinaigrette. Cook trimmed beans until tender, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Dry and toss with a little vinaigrette. Cut eggs in half. Slice tuna. Mix arugula with some of the vinaigrette, and arrange on a serving platter. Place everything else on top of the greens. If you want, spoon some of the remaining vinaigrette over the tuna and eggs.

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