Salad Nicoise

photo-239

Salad Nicoise is one of my all time favorite dishes. This classic French salad is perfection on a plate. The Nicoise (pronounced ni’swaz) salad is named for the South Eastern region in France where the nicoise olive is grown, near Nice located in the Cote d’Azur. The Cote d’Azur is so gorgeous, crystal blue Mediterranean water, palm trees and sea side restaurants selling more fresh fish, wine and Salad Nicoise’s than you can imagine!   536252_594992732777_919795956_n

Its a light and refreshing lunch and perfect in the summer when its hot an humid and you’d prefer not to feel like a beached whale after stuffing your face with a huge sandwich. Even sitting in snowy Utah, making this salad with its fresh ingredients, always brings me back to this beach- its a little vacation on a plate. Hope you enjoy!

Salad Nicoise (Click for printer friendly version)

Serves 6:

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 2-3 cans of tuna
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and either halved or quartered
  • 10 small new red potatoes (each about 2 inches in diameter, about 1 1/4 pounds total), each potato scrubbed and quartered (I used purple, red and yellow new potatoes because I had them on hand and I love the color they added to the salad)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium heads Boston lettuce or butter lettuce, leaves washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths (I used cherry tomatoes since the larger ones are’nt as sweet this time of year)
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced very thin
  • 8 ounces haricot vert (green beans), stem ends trimmed and each bean halved crosswise
  • 1/4 cup niçoise olives (or kalamata olives) pittedphoto-238

Directions:

  1. Whisk lemon juice, oil, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Bring potatoes and 4 quarts of water to boil (do not boil the water first and then put potatoes in- bring to a boil with potatoes in the water already- this prevents your potatoes from being too mealy). Cook until potatoes are tender about 8-10minutes. Remove potatoes from water with slotted spoon. Keep the boiling water.
  3. Toss potatoes with 1/4 of the vinaigrette and set aside.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking toss lettuce with 1/4 of vinaigrette and arrange on to plates. Mound tuna in the center of the lettuce and group tomatoes, olives and hard boiled egg and separately around the plate. Once potatoes are cooked and dresses, arrange reserved potatoes in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.
  5. Return water to boil; add 1 tablespoon salt and hericot vert. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans and quickly transfer to an ice bath to stop them from cooking. Toss beans and onion with a small amount of dressing and arrange with the rest of the ingredients on the bed of lettuce.
  6. Drizzle another 1/4 vinaigrette over the top of the plated salad and season with salt and pepper. Place the remaining salad dressing on the table for guests to dress their salad to their liking.
  7. Serve immediately with French bread and preferably a glass of wine!  photo-241

Wine Wednesday- Chateau Pesquie

IMG_6256

Last wine Wednesday we visited the vineyards of Mendoza Argentina for one of my favorite Malbec’s, Alamos. This week’s featured wine under $20 a bottle is from the Ventoux – Rhone Valley region, which is where my grandmother lives. This is one of my parents favorite table wines and at $15 a bottle you’ll see why. The Grenache/syrah blend makes for a big and bold, well balanced red that pairs easily with food. From simple dishes like pizza or pasta to fish and poultry- you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!

Chateau Pesquie Cuvee des Terrasses Cotes du Ventoux Rouge 2011
  • Price: $15
  • Blend: 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah
  • Winemaker Notes: Dark red in color. Intense nose with notes of black berries and spicy aromas like pepper. The mouth is medium to full-bodied yet still very fresh and elegant tannins and flavors of red and black berries with a touch of spice.
  • About the Ventoux Region: The poor limestone soil of Côtes du Ventoux gives a fruity red wine, easy to drink and to appreciate. A good value wine.   
  • Grapes grown in Ventoux: Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre  

Mushroom-Spinach Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

IMG_6218Spring is here, or so the calendar says. It snowed all last weekend and now its warming up again. It’s seriously confusing. I want to take out my bright pants and tank tops and go for trail runs and mountain bike rides. Spring also means Easter! IMG_6187I always love celebrating a holiday that revolves around food and getting together with people. My grandparents used to serve lamb on Easter with that electric green “mint jelly” who knows whats actually in that stuff… its weird. This stuffed beef tenderloin is one of my favorite recipes- my mother makes it every year for Christmas but it would make the perfect dish for any special occasion. IMG_6192

The combination of Shiitake mushrooms, shallots, and brandy is literally the definition of heaven on earth. Then wrap that all up in the most tender filet of beef…You get the picture. IMG_6195

I usually make this dish with my favorite scalloped yukon gold and sweet potato recipe or celery root puree and finish it with some maple roasted brussel sprouts or absurdly addictive asparagus. IMG_6222That is the definition of a holiday feast- make sure you eat early, you’ll want to savor this meal! You can pick up a trimmed beef tenderloin at the meat counter of your local market or whole foods. Don’t be surprised when you see its $25 per pound (that is why I only make this dish on special occasions!) but its worth every penny! IMG_6197

Make sure you ask the butcher to put some twine in with your cut of beef, you’ll need it to tie the tenderloin together and keep the yummy stuffing inside. Sometimes they’ll butterfly it for you if you ask them to but I prefer to do it myself.IMG_6201

If you end up having a smaller piece of beef like we had, make sure you watch it closely so that you don’t over cook it- it will be finished earlier than the larger tenderloin. Whats not to love? I promise you’ll enjoy!!

Mushroom-Spinach Stuffed Beef Tenderloin (click for printer friendly version)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3 cups sliced shiitake or button mushroom caps (about 6 oz.)
  • ½ cup shallots
  • 2 Tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 8 cups torn spinach or  1 bag baby spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp slat, divided
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • 1 (4-pound) Trimmed beef tenderloin
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallots, sauté for 4 mins.  Add brandy, cook for 30 seconds or until liquid evaporates.  Spoon mixture into a large bowl, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tsp oil in pan over medium heat. Add spinach and garlic, sauté 30 seconds or until spinach wilts.  Place spinach mixture in a colander, pressing with the back of a spoon until barely moist.  Add spinach mixture, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to mushroom mixture, stir well.
  3. Trim fat from tenderloin. To butterfly tenderloin slice lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, the other side.  Open halves, laying the tenderloin flat.  Place heavy duty plastic wrap over tenderloin, flatten to an even thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper over tenderloin. Spread spinach mixture down center of tenderloin to within ½ inch of sides, fold over 3 or 4 inches of small end.  Toll up tenderloin jelly roll fashion, starting with the short side.  Secure a 2 inch intervals with heavy string.  Brush olive oil over tenderloin, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in broiler pan coated with cooking spray, cover and chill.
  4. To serve, preheat oven to 500 degrees
  5. Bake at 500 for 35 minutes or until the thermometer registers 145 (medium-rare) or 160 (med). You don’t want to over cook this cut of beef. Since it tapers at the ends those pieces will be more well done.  Place tenderloin on a large serving platter, let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.  Serve warm or chilled.

Serves 8 or more depending on size of tenderloin.  35 minutes is usually fine even if thermometer does not register 145 degrees.