When I was in France last summer I picked up a tube of walnut Dijon mustard. It isn’t something that is easy to find at home; in fact, I’ve never seen it, even in specialty stores, in Vancouver. Soon I will devise a recipe for it, so we won’t have to search for it anymore.
Here I’ve also used a walnut oil, just to bring out the nutty flavour. I love a combination of garlic and walnut, so I put in a clove of garlic. It needs to sit for a while, so you’ll need to make this a few hours in advance or the day before if you want to get that garlicky flavour in there.
What you need:
- 1 tablespoon walnut Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1/4 cup walnut oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic
What you do:
- In a bowl or jar combine the mustard, sugar, and a little salt and pepper.
- Add a little bit of the vinegar to mix into the mustard, then add the rest, beating with a fork until combined.
- Add the walnut oil slowly, whisking in with the fork.
- Add more salt and pepper to taste.
- Peel the skin off the garlic clove, cut it in half and place it in the dressing. Let it sit for a few hours to allow the garlic flavour to be released. You can leave the garlic clove in the dressing for a week or two, or as long as it takes you to use it up.
Niçoise salad makes a great meal salad. I made this one in the summer, and am finally getting around to posting it now. Of course you can make it in the winter, but just make sure to try to get the freshest tasting ingredients. A good bet for tasty winter tomatoes is to buy cherry tomatoes; they seem to have more flavour. It is still September, so I still have a few tomatoes on the vine that I’m going to use to make this again soon.
Oops! I never measure when I make salad dressings, so I’ve given approximations. When the dressing is mixed you’ll have to taste and see if you need a little more of anything.
Part of what makes this a successful recipe is that you add some of the dressing to the potatoes while they are hot. When they are still hot they absorb the dressing really well. No more of those cold, bland potatoes sitting on the side of your niçoise salad!
What you need for the salad:
- one large free-range egg per person
- fresh green beans, or a mixture of green and yellow
- tender salad greens
- new potatoes, cut in half
- olives (niçoise if you can find them – I could not – kalamata work too)
- (niçoise salad often has tuna on it; add that if you wish)
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- freshly ground pepper
- white wine vinegar
- olive oil
What you do:
- Begin by placing the eggs in a small pot; cover with a lid and let this heat up until they have just barely reached a boil. Now turn off the heat, keep the lid on and set the timer for 12 minutes. Pour the hot water out of the pot and place the eggs in cold water. There are many methods for boiling egg – in this one we don’t actually boil it; boiling an egg makes it tougher. 12 minutes works for a large egg; use more or less time with different sizes of eggs, and longer if you are at a high altitude. When they have cooled (I actually like to add them when they are still slightly warm) you can peel and quarter them.
- Place the halved potatoes in a pot with some salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until you can pierce the potato easily with a sharp knife. You will need to prepare the dressing while they are cooking.
- Chop the onion. Add the Dijon, sugar, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper to a bowl. Mix the onion into this. Now slowly add a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar as you mix with a fork until combined. Drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil, constantly mixing with the fork, and stopping to taste as you go. Add as much olive oil as you think tastes good, then adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water. Keep the potatoes in the pot and add about half of the dressing to them while they are still hot, and then give them a gentle stir. Set them aside to cool.
- Bring another liberally salted pot of water to a boil while you clean and cut the ends off the beans. Some of the salt will absorb into the beans as they cook. Have a large bowl of ice water waiting for the beans when they come out. Cook them for only a few minutes; they should still be bright green and tender-crisp. I say better to err on the side of undercooked. As soon as they are done, drain the boiling water and add the beans to the ice bath. Leave them there until completely cooled. This stops the cooking process, so you don’t end up with sad wilted beans. I like to drain them and then roll them in a clean dish cloth to dry them off.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut into wedges if you are not using cherry tomatoes.
- Toss the salad greens with a little bit of dressing, then arrange on the plate. Decorate with the beans, potatoes, eggs tomatoes and olives. You can add a drizzle more dressing if you want. I like to add another little sprinkle of salt and pepper to the top.
Here’s a really simple salad I’ve made a few times this summer, using tomatoes from my garden and cucumbers from a friend’s garden (and corn from the produce store). I just used my favourite homemade vinaigrette, super easy and delicious.
If I use tomatoes and cucumbers out of season I always choose the little ones – cherry tomatoes and those small cucumbers. They have way more flavour. And for winter corn I prefer canned over frozen, and I usually us Peaches and Cream. Still, the summer ones are the best, so I make this a lot while these things are growing nearby and in season.
What you need:
corn on the cob
a few green olives
about 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
about 1/4 teaspoon sugar
white wine vinegar
What you do:
1. Boil a pot of water for the corn and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Remove the corn and run it under cold water.
2. To make the dressing, put the mustard in a bowl and add the sugar and some salt and pepper. Add a little vinegar and mix it into the mustard so there are no lumps. Mix in a bit more vinegar, then drizzle in some olive oil while mixing with a fork. After you’ve added a bit, have a taste and see what you need to add more of.
3. Cut the cucumber and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Chop the onion and olives. Cut the corn off the cob, and put all the vegetables together in a bowl. Toss it with some dressing and serve it up.
I was lucky enough to be given some home-grown cucumbers, and then I went and picked these tomatoes and some basil from my garden. If you don’t have access to garden-fresh produce you can visit your local farmer’s market, or just try to find some that look tasty in the produce store. I like cherry tomatoes and the smaller cucumbers because they and often the tastiest option from the produce store.
I don’t use measuring tools to make my salad dressing, so the ingredients are ‘a little of this, a little of that’ and then you can taste your own way to a yummy dressing.
What you need:
part of a sweet onion
a few sprigs of fresh basil
a little sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
apple cider vinegar
What you do:
1. Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into bite-sized pieces. Cut a bit of onion into smaller pieces. Put them all into a bowl.
2. To make the dressing, put a small spoonful of dijon into a bowl or cup. Add a few pinches of sugar and a little salt and pepper. Combine these, then pour in a touch of vinegar and mix it up. Add a few tablespoons more vinegar and mix it, then slowly add some olive oil. When you’ve mixed in a few tablespoons of olive oil, have a taste and see if you need more oil or anything else. It shouldn’t taste too acidic, but you also don’t want it to be too oily.
3. Pour some salad dressing over the veggies and toss them until everything is coated. Chop up a few leaves of basil and garnish the salad with them.