As I think I’ve mentioned before, I moved recently and am getting familiar to a new kitchen, which is always a little harder than you’d think! However, we have begun cooking full swing and yesterday on the 4th had our first little dinner get together and here’s a report of the aftermath!
Although we usually go all out on these holidays, we hit two snags. First, we had to get to bed early (No fireworks for us), second it was our anniversary. So we wanted our dinner to be special and simple at the same time. So recently I made a post about what do with a very special can of Tuna I had from Katy’s Smokehouse in Northern California. DanaB suggest Julia Child’s Classic Niscoise Salad. It just so happened that we just got the anniversary version of Art of French Cooking and have been looking for the perfect recipe to dive in. And so, the Niscoise Salad was it!!
As Dana had warned in her post, this recipe was 3 pages! It actually turned out to be four! But it wasn’t so much instruction on the recipe, it was more like recipes for each component. So while time consuming, the assembly was rather simple...
First, you line a large bowl with butter lettuce. Then, you lay on the bottom French Potato salad (recipe #1), a simple thing made with sliced waxy potatoes and dressed in a French vinaigrette (recipe #2, which we made 2 cups) mixed with fresh shallots and herbs (In our case we used Parsley, Basil and Marjoram). Then you take your tuna and anchovies tossed in some plain vinaigrette and make a little mound in the center of the bowl. Then, you toss some blanched green beans (Recipe #3) and some tomato quarters and toss them in plain vinaigrette as well and create a bed of beans all around the tuna mount and lay on top the tomatoes and some hard boiled egg slices (We omitted the Olives the recipe calls for) And finally, we added some outdoor grilled veggies (We had to break out the little Smokey for something on the 4th!) which were various squashes, asparagus, and red pepper to go with the salad. When assembled, I drizzled more dressing, this time adding dill to the herb mixture and placed the remaining (About 1⁄2 cup) in a little bowl so that folks could add more if they desired.
And it all looked so lovely!! I gave each guest a plate with a few leaves of butter lettuce on it and then had them all dig in to the salad! To accompany we had warm fresh baked Rosemary Dill Bread, fresh squeezed lemonade from my parents tree and a nice chilled Pouilly-Fuisse.
The Salad was a lot more simple tasting than I thought it would be. The flavors light and subtle. The only thing I would perhaps take out was the anchovies. They were entirely overwhelming to the tuna. In fact, the tuna, which was the most densely packed Albacore Tuna steak I've ever had, was really subtle in flavor. So much so, it hardly tasted like tuna. It tasted CLEAN and fresh, but not tuna... I hate to say it, but I think I perfer my bumble bee afterall... LOL! :)
The winning component in all of this was the French vinaigrette. We made it with white wine vinegar an excellent organic Greek olive oil and a bit of dry mustard. It was so good I ended up using it also a bread dip... Yum! :)
And the lemons weren't the only contribution from my parents ranch. They also recently gave us like 10lbs of Apricots! And on epicurious I found a great recipe for Apricot Ginger Pie...
The one thing that intrigued me in this recipe was the recent pie crust post and how some posters swear by an all butter crust. I've always been afraid to try one, but for this recipe, I was willing to give it a shot. I followed the directions perfectly and made and baked the pie shell. When it came out it looked HORRIBLY delicate. I was nervous that it would be too soggy due to the juices of the baked apricots, or that it would shatter when sliced and served. And most of all, that is would burn for the time needed to bake the final pie. Nevertheless, it smelled and looked wonderful and so I assembled and baked the whole pie.
I set it out to cool completely for a few hours before serving. When I served it, the crust cut PERFECT. It wasn't soggy or crumbly at all. Although I'm still on the fence about my original pie crust recipe (with just a TINY bit of Crisco but mostly butter, it seemed to add more heft), the guests all agreed with the posters that butter crust was the way to go... LOL!!
As for the pie itself, it was wonderful! The ginger was there, but not over powering. The crust was absolutely PERFECTLY crispy. I was afraid that the malty/sour flavor of grape nuts would overpower it, so I bought the Kashi version and the topping was indeed crisp and flavorful of the spices and brown sugar. A guest called it the perfect blending of pie and cobbler... I highly recommend the recipe... :)
And so, a simple meal that was wonderfully received and absolutely perfect for the hot weather! My only regret is in the excitement, I forgot to take pictures (I need to get better at that!!)
I am SO looking forward to cooking more through the Art of French Cooking and seeing what my new kitchen is capable of... :) And now please post your 4th of July Report (I love recap posts!) and here a couple of links for you guys! :)
Katy's Smokehouse of Trinidad (Awesome smoked salmon and premium canned fish!)
One of Julia's Nicoise Salad Recipes:
Apricot Ginger Pie
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