You probably have all heard about salade niçoise, right? And most of you have tried it at least once. So have I. But while I can easily evoke a mouthwatering image of a colourful salad, naming its ingredients comes up as quite a challenge. And this time it’s not me to cause the problem, it’s the salad. Finding the ultimate recipe seems impossible. Ok, so I didn’t verify this, but I’m willing to make a bet that ordering salade niçoise in each bistro on the French coast, you will end up eating a different meal every time.
The first version of the salad was limited to tomatoes, anchovies and a few drops of olive oil. We will find tomatoes in most of the contemporary variations of the salad - either cherry tomatoes, or thick slices of the larger ones. Anchovies either go together with tuna or substitute it. Personally, I cannot imagine a Niçoise salad without tuna, which is also the reason why I have avoided this particular salad for years. My aversion to canned tuna comes from the time when I was starting my culinary adventures at the age of 10. In one of the food magazines I found a recipe for tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad. Needless to say, this fancy presentation seemed like the essence of elegance and good taste (I was a huge fan of mini skewers at that time too), so I tortured my whole family with this dish on every occasion. I haven’t had the courage to ever try stuffed tomatoes again.
Luckily I have discovered that you can substitute canned tuna with slices of delicious, pink tuna steaks. Most recipes include haricot verts (or other beans), olives (black, Niçoise) and hard boiled eggs. Other add potatoes, artichokes, broad beans, slices of cucumber or radish, bell peppers, crunchy lettuce, capers, red onion or scallions. When it comes to dressing, different variations of vinaigrette are the most popular (with garlic, with red wine vinegar, with herbs), followed by olive oil mixed with fresh herbs, like parsley or basil.
The good new is that you can make whatever you want and still call it salade niçoise. I didn’t care for eggs, went with fresh tuna, grilled everything that was grillable and opted for traditional vinaigrette. You can do something similar. Or something completely different.
Recipe: Grilled salade niçoise
Whisk all the ingredients together.
Parboil the potatoes so that they're mostly cooked, but not perfectly soft (about 15 minutes). Let them cool and slice in halves.
Blanch green beans (about 5 minutes).
Grill potato halves, beans, onion quarters and tomatoes. The time depends on your grill, ingredients and individual preferences. Potatoes should be tender and golden, beans should remain crunchy, onion should be browned and tomato skins should start wrinkling. Place grilled vegetables on a plate, together with olives.
Grill tuna fillets for about 30 seconds each side (or longer, if you prefer the tuna well done).
Slice the tuna and place on the salad. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with lemon juice. Top the salad with vinaigrette.
Serve with bread and white wine.
As a fanatical aficionado of cilantro, I cannot ignore its important role in Mexican cuisine. I love Mexican food - perhaps not as ardently as I love cilantro, but, let's face it: there are few things in the world that deserve this highest level of admiration. I would lie if I said I remember the moment when I first tried cilantro. I do remember, however, that right after the first bite I knew we were going to be good friends. You can either love or hate cilantro - some people loathe it, claiming that it tastes like soap. Personally, I don't care for eating soap, but eating cilantro is one of my favourite activities.
Cilantro works perfectly with tacos. Any tacos: soft-shell tacos, hard-shell tacos, puffy tacos. With beef, with fish, with chicken. Add some grated cheese, a spoonful of guacamole, tomato salsa and sour cream, a few drops of lime juice and a generous portion of fresh cilantro.
I'm not giving you any measurements - it all depends on what you like the most and how many tacos you plan on eating. Just make sure to have at least a bunch of fresh cilantro.
Recipe: Chicken tacos
Heat up taco shells and fill them with your favourites (lots of cilantro!).
Eat tacos and drink a beer with some lime juice.
Combine the spices with lime juice.
Rub chicken breast with the paste.
Place in a baking dish and roast at 180C for about 30 minutes.
When the meat is tender, use two forks to shred the chicken.
Combine all the ingredients.
Set aside for 20-30 minutes.
It's quite a challenge to imagine a healthier lunch or supper than steamed salmon paired with crunchy pak choi. Just writing the name of the dish down makes me feel so much healthier.
You can use any kind of steamer, but I really like the bamboo one.
How to use a bamboo steamer?Line the bottom of one tray with pak choi, cabbage or lettuce leaves - to prevent the salmon from sticking to the basket (you can also use parchment paper).
Place pak choi (or other vegetables you might want to cook) in a separate tray and place it on top of the first one. If you like your pak choi more crunchy, you can remove it from the steam first - this can be done easier if pak choi is in the top tray. Cover top layer with a lid.
Place the steamer in a pot or a wok with simmering water. Make sure that the bottom tray stays above the water line, so that the food will not be submerged - it's suppose to be steamed, not cooked. You might need to add some water if the pot starts to go dry.
You can enrich the flavour of the food by adding some broth, lemon juice, herbs or green tea leaves to the water. I added some dry white wine and a few drops of soy sauce.
Recipe: Steamed salmon with pak choi
Combine all the ingredients of the sauce.
Spread sauce over the salmon, top with spring onion and lime slices.
Steam the salmon and pak choi. Salmon will need about 8-10 minutes, pak choi - 5-8 minutes.
Serve with remaining sauce.
Artichokes might be funny-looking, but they're delicious and you shouldn't feel intimidated in their presence. If you've never tried to make them at home, it's time to give them a chance. The first bite of artichoke heart will make up for any moments of fear and uncertainty.
How to prepare an artichoke?
Cut the stalks off the artichoke. Pull off the tough leaves. Cut off the thorned tips of the remaining leaves. Cut the artichoke in half. Spoon out the inner leaves and the fuzzy choke. To prevent artichokes from discoloration, keep the ready ones in a bowl with cold water and lemon juice.
How to cook an artichoke?
The easiest way is to cook artichokes in slightly salted water with lemon (it should take about 40 minutes). The healthiest way is to steam them. You can also fry, grill, roast and stuff artichokes.
How to eat an artichoke?
Use your hands to pull off petals, one at a time. Dip the broken end in olive oil or dip and scrape the soft, meaty part off with your teeth. When all petals are gone, it's time for the best part - delicate, delicious artichoke heart.
Recipe: Roasted artichokes with lemon and feta dip
Start with preparing a bowl with water and lemon juice. You will keep the prepped artichokes in the this water until you’re ready to proceed. It prevents them from turning brown.
Cut an artichoke in half. Carefully spoon out the inner leaves and the fuzzy choke.
Place the prepared half in the water bowl. Repeat the process with remaining artichokes.
Combine olive oil with lemon juice and zest and salt.
Sprinkle each artichoke with the mixture.
Roast at 180C for about 40 minutes.
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with crunchy baguette and lemon and feta dip.
Lemon and feta dip
Blend feta with lemon juice until fluffly.
Before serving, top with oil and za'atar.
What's your least favourite weather? Personally, I really honestly hate the heat. Even my inborn aversion to snow and cold doesn't make it easier to bear anything over 30 degrees Celscius. I hope that one day I will move to a weather paradise where thermometers never show anything below 20 or above 25 degrees. Until then, all I have is complaining and more and less effective methods of surviving the heat.
How to survive the sweltering heat:
1. If you can't imagine starting a day without a cup of coffee, go for a refreshing iced americano, instead of foamy cappuccino.
2. Drink water! Lots of water! Add fresh mint, lemon juice or cucumber slices to make it even more reviving. Drinking water is almost always a good idea.
3. Eat cold food. It's light and you don't need to stay over a steaming pot or heat your kitchen with the oven to prepare it. Make salads, cold snacks, sushi (or - even better - sushi burrito) and cold soups (how about chilled avocado soup chłodnik z awokado?).
4. Homemade ice cream! Making sorbet or granita doesn't take a lot of effort and gives you a solid dose of refreshment. Use this recipe for traditional Sicilian granita. You can adjust the quantity of sugar (or not use sugar at all) and go with seasonal fruit - blueberries, raspberries, currants.
5. Focus on the positive sides of the heat. In the evening, when the temperature is nice and bearable, sit at your terrace (or your friends' terrace), take a sip of a chilled prosecco and blackberries cocktail and try to remember how much you actually hate winter.
Recipe: Prosecco and blackberries cocktail
Serves: 2 (adults)
Start with placing blackberries in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
Transfer frozen blackberries into chilled glasses.
Top with limoncello.
Fill up with chilled prosecco.