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Single Person's Diet: Salade Niçoise Is the Perfect Summer Meal

Ideal for the solo diner, this main-course salad lets you indulge in the robust sensual flavors of the South of France

By Kathy Kingsley | August 30, 2012

Nothing says summer like this classic dish from the French Riviera. It's satisfying as an entrée, yet light and easy to prepare. It's also easy to scale down — in fact, it’s the perfect hot-weather supper for one.

To be true to its origins, salade Niçoise (pronounced nee-SWAHZ) should contain certain essential ingredients: tuna, black olives, anchovy fillets, capers, potatoes and hard-boiled egg, plus a dressing of olive oil, garlic, vinegar and mustard. These bold, robust flavors — reminiscent of the salty Mediterranean coast — define the dish, so use the best you can find. Splurge on good-quality olive oil, imported Niçoise olives and oil-cured canned tuna.

(MORE: Olive Oil for Healthy Cooking)

When you move beyond the essentials, this dish, made famous in America by Julia Child, presents endless possibilities for experimentation. Feel free to innovate to your heart’s content. In fact, if you order salade Niçoise at restaurants along France’s southern coast, you’ll get a different variation each time. So draw inspiration from your weekly farmers’ market or local gourmet shop: marinated artichoke hearts, roasted peppers or peeled fresh fava beans, perhaps?

Your salad-for-one will evoke the Riveria no matter you serve it, but why not give its French accent a bit of a boost by eating it outdoors and sipping some Champagne? Herbed squash ribbons are the perfect, simple complement. And the perfect conclusion — sweet but light with a little flourish — is a bowl of berries with ginger cream and amaretti.
 
Menu

Salade Niçoise
Herbed squash ribbons
Berries with ginger cream and amaretti
Champagne
 
Champagne for One

When you want to enjoy a glass or two of Champagne without having to open an entire bottle, reach for a split. Containing either one-half or one-quarter the volume of a standard bottle, a split is the ideal personal-size indulgence.
 
Most wine retailers carry splits, but not all Champagne vintners produce them. It's costly to run limited-volume productions, particularly in facilities optimized for standard-size bottles. So these smaller versions are only available for  popular brands such as Moët & Chandon, Freixenet, J. Roget and Korbel.
 
This bubbly beverage is a blend of red and white wines. True Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of northeast France, typically from chardonnay grapes, sometimes blended with pinot noir or pinot blanc. Champagne ranges in taste from dry to sweet, and the label will indicate the level of sweetness:

  • Brut: Extremely dry (less than 1.5 percent sugar)
  • Extra sec or extra dry: Dry (1.2–2.0 percent sugar)
  • Sec: Somewhat sweet — though the word means "dry" (1.7–3.5 percent sugar)
  • Demi-sec: Sweet (3.3–5.0 percent sugar); dessert wine
  • Doux: Very sweet (more 5.0 percent sugar); dessert wine
Champagne should be served chilled, so refrigerate it for two hours before serving. If you want to chill it quickly (in, say, 20 minutes), submerge the bottle in a bucket filled with a 50-50 mix of ice and water. But don't store Champagne in the refrigerator for more than two hours, as excess chill will actually dull the flavor. Instead, store the bottle in a cool, dry place.
 
(MORE: How to Drink More Wine — Smartly and Healthfully)
 
Salade Niçoise

Prepare the potatoes, green beans and hard-cooked eggs a day ahead, and you can assemble this in a snap.
Serves 1–2
 
4 small unpeeled red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 pound thin green beans, trimmed and halved
4 cups torn Bibb, butter or romaine lettuce
4 flat anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon drained capers
3-ounces good-quality oil-packed tuna, drained and
   broken into large chunks
6 to 8 ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup Niçoise or pitted Kalamata olives
 
For the dressing:

1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste 
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley,
   tarragon or chives (any combination)
  1. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes and then stir in the beans. Continue boiling until the beans and potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Drain thoroughly, rinse under cold water and drain again. When the potatoes have cooled, cut into quarters.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly add in the oil until blended. Stir in the herbs.
  3. In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, toss the lettuce with a tablespoon of the vinaigrette and then transfer to a platter or individual plates.
  4. In the same bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and arrange them on top of the lettuce. Repeat with the green beans, tossing with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and then placing them on top of the lettuce.
  5. Arrange the anchovies, eggs, capers, tuna, tomatoes and olives in mounds on the lettuce. Pass any remaining vinaigrette at the table to drizzle over the salad as desired. 
Herbed Squash Ribbons

A mix of green and yellow summer squash looks great, but you can make it with just one variety.
Serves 1–2
 
1 small zucchini, ends trimmed
1 small yellow summer squash, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon butter 
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed 
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Using a swivel-head vegetable peeler (or a mandoline), peel the zucchini and squash lengthwise into very thin, wide strips, until you reach the seed core; discard the core.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for 30 seconds. Add the squash ribbons and cook, tossing often, for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the parsley, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the squash, toss to mix, and serve.
Berries With Ginger Cream and Amaretti

Fresh, ripe fruit is what makes this dessert outstanding, so try to get berries from a farm stand or farmers’ market.
Serves 1–2
 
2 cups mixed fresh berries, blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries
2 tablespoons of orange liqueur, such as Cointreau, or orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
Optional: 2 amaretti cookies, finely crushed 
  1. Place the berries in a medium bowl. Add the liqueur, lemon juice and lemon zest, and toss gently to mix.
  2. Pour the cream into a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Add the sugar and the ground ginger, and beat until it holds stiff peaks. Fold in the candied ginger.
  3. Spoon the berries into stemmed glasses and top with the whipped cream and cookies crumbs. Serve immediately. 
Kathy Kingsley is a food writer and cookbook author based in Connecticut.

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