Wednesday, September 23, 2009

salad nicoise

Lets talk a little bit about this salad.  In a fancy restaurant you might have a beautiful piece of seared tuna sliced thin and served as the centerpiece to this salad.  I have to agree that it is a nice touch, but we’re talking country French here, and I think that the canned stuff is actually more authentic than the fresh albeit more elegant seared tuna steak.  That being said, I would stay away from Charlie the Starkist tuna, or the Clucker of the Sea.  A fine can of oil packed tuna is what you want.  Healthy gourmet has the right stuff.  Also I prefer the marinaded rather than overly salted canned anchovies, but if you can only get the canned ones, let them soak in water for a couple of hours changing the water twice, and then set them in olive oil for a few minutes.  This will take a lot of the unpleasant saltiness out of them.  Yes I said bottled marinated beans or asparagus.  The French can their vegetables for the winter, and lettuce is actually a winter crop but asparagus is not, so it would stand to reason that they would mix mediums here.  And quite frankly I love the really good canned vegetables.  Again, not talking the cans of beans or asparagus you get in the canned vegetable aisle of Kroger.  You might have to look a little harder for the good stuff.  This salad embodies both the pantry and the earth, and that’s why I like it.  You can substitute grape or cherry tomatoes for the others if you like.  I like the smaller ones simply for the look.  The hard boiled eggs are a must.  Get your mise en place ready for this one early. 




1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup tarragon vinegar

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 Tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper




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

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

1 small red onion, sliced very thin

8 ounces green beans, stem ends trimmed and each bean halved crosswise
(French jarred marinated green beans are actually preferred.  You could also substitute jarred marinated asparagus.)

1/4 cup ni├žoise olives 

2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and/or several anchovies (optional.  If you can find fresh marinated anchovies all the better.)



1 Whisk lemon juice, vinegar, oil, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.  Or place all ingredients except for oil in your blender and turn on lowest speed.  While blending open the feed tube and slowly drizzle in the oil for a better emulsion.

2 Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water (*or chicken stock) to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes.  Remove potatoes from cooking liquid and set aside to cool to room temperature.

3 While potatoes are cooking, toss lettuce with 1/4 cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter.  Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Toss tomatoes, red onion, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl; arrange tomato-onion mixture on the lettuce bed. Arrange reserved potatoes in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.

4 Return water to boil; add 1 tablespoon salt and green beans (unless using canned ones!) Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry. Toss beans, 3 tablespoons vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste; arrange in a mound at edge of lettuce bed.  I use white asparagus as well cooked the same way, or pickled.

5 Arrange hard boiled eggs, olives, and anchovies in mounds on the lettuce bed. Drizzle eggs with remaining 2 tablespoons dressing, sprinkle entire salad with capers , and serve immediately.

*by cooking the potatoes in chicken stock you get a much better flavor, and you can re-use the stock for whatever other project you are doing.  The stock will have potato starch in it which can help as a thickener.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Toasted Ravioli or T-Ravs

I’m from St. Louis originally, and I have to say that this is one of my favorite things to eat.  Every restaurant in St. Louis, and I mean EVERY restaurant has toasted ravioli on the menu as an appetizer.  I’ve seen it in a Mexican restaurant in the city, figure that one out.  I guess tradition is tradition.  Now, one of the funniest things about this is no one makes their own ravioli.  They all come from “The Hill” in St. Louis, which is the Italian neighborhood.  They come frozen, and are thawed, breaded, fried, and passed off as their own.  Since producing ravioli in mass quantities can involve seriously expensive machinery, no one wants to incur the cost, but everyone wants these little morsels on their menu.  My favorite comes from a sports bar called “Rigazzi’s”  (they make their own!)  this place usually has one of the St. Louis Cardinals dining there.  So here’s the recipe the way most of the restaurants make em. 

2 large eggs
1/2 cup canned evaporated milk (thicker and richer taste than regular milk for this recipe)
1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs 
1 1/2 cups good-quality marinara sauce (the recipe on this blog would be just the one!!!)
about 4 cups vegetable oil for frying 
24 fresh bite-size ravioli, thawed if frozen 
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan  

In a shallow bowl beat together eggs and evaporated milk. Put bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. In a small saucepan heat sauce over moderate heat until hot and keep warm, covered.

In a small heavy kettle (about 5 quarts) heat 1 inch oil over moderate heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 350°F. While oil is heating, dip ravioli in egg to coat, letting excess drip off, and dredge in bread crumbs, knocking off excess. Arrange ravioli as coated on a tray.

With a slotted spoon gently lower 4 ravioli into oil and fry, turning them occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. With slotted spoon transfer ravioli as fried to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 350°F. before frying remaining ravioli in same manner.

Transfer hot ravioli to a platter and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Serve ravioli with warm marinara sauce for dipping.