Friday Night, Cocktails, and Simple Food

pea stew and hash

Monday:              Greek Onion and Pea Stew with Soda Bread and Lamb Hash (27, How to Roast a Lamb)

Pasta with summer squash

Tuesday:              Pasta with Summer Squash and Zucchini – Grilled Soda Bread

Georgian chicen soup

Wednesday:      Georgian Chicken Soup with Grilled Bread

hydrangea

Hydrangea – Casa Stuarti

Thursday:            Pizza from Il Pizzaiola, Allison Park – maybe the chef was off that day

salad nicoise 2

Friday:                  Günter Seeger’s ‘Simplest Salade Niçoise’

piri piri chicken

Saturday:             Chicken Piri-Piri, Green Salad

Israeli hummus

Sunday:                Israeli Hummus with Spiced Beef and Hard-boiled Eggs

This will be a short post in keeping with its subject –  preparing simple food, quickly.  The recipe below is a perfect dinner to go with the cocktails you have richly earned by Friday night of a work week.  I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to drink, but I will say that an ice-cold gin martini, which I have not had for over 6 weeks now, is the perfect accompaniment to most food and, indeed, to many of life’s ups and downs.

For some reason, we still eat fish on Fridays.*  This often involves mussels or pan-seared or grilled salmon, quick and delicious things.   Occasionally, it involves a dish with more moving parts or serious technique – poached grouper or sole meunière.  Sometimes, it even involves dishes that only I anticipate with joy:  grilled sardines, say.  But most often it means a simple Salade Niçoise.

We have made this salad with grilled tuna and grilled swordfish (really good – but requiring more time), or with seared tuna (spectacular).  But this week, we’re going to share a simple recipe (under 30 minutes) that preserves the lightness of the original but turns it up a notch with superior ingredients handled well.

We saw this recipe in the WSJ two weeks ago and Beez noted it, since a good salad niçoise is such a regular part of our cooking.  I was, in fact, going to grill some sardines (trust me, these are great – we’re talking real sardines here, still recognizable as fish, not the canned, oiled and fishy tinned stuff) but Billy, my partner in adventurous cuisine was out of town so I decided to give Beez and my still sore knee a break and try Günter Seeger’s minimalist take on this premier summer salad.  It was superb.  And please, if you have your own ideas about salade niçoise, share them with the group following this blog (you are among family and friends).

*The reasons are actually clear, though numerous:  nostalgia, traditionalism, echoes of the Roman Catholicism of our youth, love of fish, love of green beans.

Note:  I had grilled sardines for the first time years ago in Italy and they were a revelation.  They were also, of course, fresh – I’m afraid that unless you live on either the West or the Amalfi Coast, you’ll have to settle from frozen sardines.

salad nicoise

The Simplest Salade Niçoise

(from Günter Seeger’s recipe in the WSJ from early June – I have made only one addition) – Seeger’s restaurant is Günter Seeger in New York City

Time:                                     20 minutes or so

Ingredients:                       Serves 3 or 4

8 new potatoes (we used 10 fingerlings)
2 ripe tomatoes, diced  (we used about 15 cherry tomatoes quartered)
8 ounces olive-oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked into large pieces  [NOTE:  Splurge here and get the imported stuff from Italy that comes in a glass jar.  It will cost you about $9.00 – but that’s only $2.33 per diner.  If you can’t find the premium stuff, get the imported Italian stuff in a can]
1 pound haricots vert (we used maybe 8 oz. of green beans) cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup pitted Niçoise olives (we used Kalamata – much easier to find, and we had some on hand)
4 eggs
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup of live oil – more for seasoning
Salt and Ground black pepper

Cook the Potatoes:

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add the potatoes and boil until fork-tender – 15 minutes.

While potatoes are boiling, place tomatoes in a large bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt.

Remove cooked potatoes with a slotted spoon to a plate (but keep the water boiling).  Pat the potatoes dry, then cut them into bite-sized pieces (if your using fingerlings, you’ll want to quarter them).

Season the potatoes with salt.

Stir the oil into the tomatoes, and then fold the potatoes in so that they get coated with tomato liquid.

Cook the Beans:

Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes, again using a slotted spoon to transfer them to a colander (keep the water boiling).  Rinse the beans under cold water, then toss dry and fold them, along with the olives into the potatoes and tomatoes.

Cook the Eggs:

Lower the eggs into the boiling water and boil about 8 minutes – you’re looking for fudgy yolks, not totally hard-cooked.  Remove the eggs (you’re finished with water now) and run under cold water to stop them cooking.

Peel the eggs.

Finish and Serve:

Gently toss the vegetables with the lemon juice – add more salt if needed.

To serve, divide the vegetables among 4 plates, then top with the tuna.  Halve the eggs, sprinkle with salt and nestle into the salad.  Drizzle with a bit of oil, if you like, hit with a grind or two of pepper and serve.

Greek onion and pea stew

Greek onion and pea stew – we’ll catch you up on Michael Psilakis’s cooking next week

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