Eat Simply, Eat Well

I am not the well-organized person who plans out a week of meals and the necessary ingredients—my wife does that.  And good thing too, since we get to try new things and old favorites.  This week the highlight was salade niçoise.  (Please notice and appreciate my use of the correct accent because for the rest of the post I’m gonna call it Frenchy salad.  Boom.)  This is a salad that requires trust.  You’ll see what looks like a plateful of ingredients and think three things:  1)some assembly required, 2)I will need a second dinner after this, 3)I am not eating an anchovy, even if it’s “cultural”.  Wrong on all counts!  Here’s the great thing about this salad:  French cooking made easy, just like Julia Child told us.

Let’s get started.  Lay down a bed of lettuce, do a very quick boil of some green beans and potatoes, then put a few eggs in there and hard-boil them.  Open a can of tuna, drain, scatter the meat on the lettuce, then fend off the yowling neighborhood cats with a flaming branch or a large sword.  Throw a few cherry tomatoes on there and don’t worry about delicate presentation and plating—this is rustic!  Have some more wine, spill wine on the table, then blame it on the neighborhood cats.  Cool down the boiled eggs by making them imagine Margaret Thatcher sunbathing nude, then peel them by picking off microscopic triangles of shell while whistling the La Marseillaise to yourself.  Don’t worry if some shell remains on the egg…rustic!  Now cut the egg into narrow slices, realize you cannot move a narrow slice of egg without the yolk falling out, just as your wife tells you to only cut the eggs in half.  Throw a couple olives from that jar way back in the fridge you got for company even though you never eat large black olives because they taste like battery acid.  Whip up a mustard vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and a couple shots of balsamic vinegar.  One you whisk that together you’ll realize that the balsamic vinegar makes the stuff look like baby poop so switch over to generic-brand white wine vinegar which has all the punch of a virgin Shirley Temple (hold the alcohol).  Finally peel open a tin of anchovies and place them carefully to the side of the plate like roadkill.  Toss the beans and potatoes in the vinaigrette, dump them on the plate, ruining the perfect fan of sliced eggs, and have another glass of wine.

If you do this EXACTLY like I did, you’ll have an incredible meal where each bite combines all the flavors and the anchovies add the final salty tang that make you incredulous that the sum is so much greater than the whole of its parts.  If you improve on any step you will have your family instantly surrendering.  I give my wife full credit for selecting, making me buy, and commanding me in the kitchen to prepare this winner of a meal.  See, a little Napoleon goes a long way!

Salade nicoise

Writer, architect, father, husband.

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3 comments on “Eat Simply, Eat Well
  1. Ian says:

    Yummee! Similar to some of the salads we prepare throughout the summer.

    Our kids have grown up eating food like that and adore olives too. My middle daughter(9) likes black olives, the youngest(6) likes green olives stuffed with pimento peppers.

    I love anchovies 🙂 And for anybody that has been put off by the brown, strong flavoured anchovies often found in tins and jars, you can actually buy them in a less overpowering and more natural state as pickled/marinated white anchovie on the fresh salad counters of many UK supermarkets. Not sure if they do that in the states though? They are far better suited for salads and have a similar taste/texture to rollmop herrings. Mind you I still love the strong flavoured tinned variety and will happily eat a whole jar in one go…….

  2. Who knows how kids decide what is tasty? Olives are so strong yet if perceived as a treat kids will eat them like candy. Well, your kids at least. Same goes for anchovies. I’ll bet preconception and attitude accounts for 75% of taste. I have no scientific basis for this opinion.

    • Ian says:

      Yes, it also depends on what foods the children have grown up with as that can dictate how they regard flavours later on in life.

      Our kids have not been given many sweets, cakes, biscuits or crisps. They get them every now and then as treats but generally if they want snacks they have fresh fruit and veg. Often the veg will be straight off the plant or out of the ground from the garden. They see raw carrot, peas and tomato etc as normal snacking food and thus their taste buds are not as sweet as many other kids.

      Also our children have been fed game (Pheasant, Duck, Pigeon, Venison, Rabbit etc) from their very first solid food meal and regularly ever since. These are strong flavoured meats but because they’ve grown up used to eating them they view them as normal and regard milder flavoured meats such as chicken as tasteless.

      This has caused us a few problems in the past, most notably when we went for a meal at my parents house (a very rare event) and my children queried (in a loud voice) what meat they were actually eating as it was entirely without taste. My mother was under the impression the meat was full of flavour. Sadly she buys all her food from supermarkets and in many cases buys those pre-prepared meat meals rather than cooking from scratch with fresh produce as we do. I’m not suggesting that my mother is doing anything wrong but simply that the example demonstrates that what is strong flavoured to one person can be regarded as mild to another. 🙂


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