Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fancy Schmancy Pasta Salad Nicoise


Pasta Salad Nicoise

The French-inspired Salad Nicoise is one of my favorites.  There are traditional recipes out there, such as Julia Child’s, as well restaurant variations.  I’ve had it with grilled, pan seared, and good quality canned tuna. 

While I prefer rare seared tuna, I am using a good quality canned tuna (Tonno) here.  Fresh tuna is expensive right now and some of my readers have told me that fresh seafood is often hard to find where they live.  


I am also kicking it up a healthy notch by using whole grain pasta instead of the usual potatoes that you find in a traditional Salad Nicoise.  Not that there is anything wrong with potatoes in moderation, but the whole grain pasta makes this salad a little more figure-friendly and, yes, fun.

The vinaigrette starts with a Good Seasons® salad dressing packet. I add fresh parsley and dried tarragon to the mix, a dash of Dijon, a little lemon juice, and a little anchovy paste for good measure.  You can substitute your favorite vinaigrette.

What a great idea for a bridal or baby shower lunch or for a light meal if you're concentrating on your swimsuit body-to-be.  Serve with sparkling water and a lemon slice.  Even if it's still cold where you are, you can put on some French music, grab yourself a glass of Chenin Blanc, and take a virtual vacation.  

Ooh la la!

Cook's Notes: 

I do not add any extra salt to this recipe.  I believe the olives, capers and the dressing contain enough salt.  That is entirely your call.  I am not the Food Police.

This dish can be made ahead and served cold or at room temperature as I am showcasing it here.  My recipe is written to serve four.  You can double or triple it as desired for a big group.

Fun substitution:  Don't like tuna?  Try using canned white meat chicken instead.  

Tip:  If you are making this for a party, you might wish to whip up a batch with tuna and one with chicken to give your guests a choice.  Purchase several different kinds of salad greens and let your guest decide.

The leftovers won't go to waste!  It's even better the next day.

Ingredients:

Vinaigrette:

  • 1 packet of Good Seasons® Garlic and Herb salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 small Lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried Tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons Cold Water
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Anchovy Paste

Pasta Salad:

  • 4 large Eggs, hard boiled and chilled
  • 1/3 pound Whole Grain Penne pasta
  • 1/2 pound French green beans, stems trimmed and halved
  • 1  5 ounce can Tonno or good quality oil packed Tuna
  • 1/4 cup yellow or red Tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup Julienne Cut Sun Dried Tomatoes (not oil-packed), reconstituted in two tablespoons of hot water
  • 1/4 cup nicoise or oil-packed black Olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 teaspoons chopped Capers
  • Fresh Chives, snipped, for topping (optional but recommended)
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon slices (optional)
Other:  4 cups Field Greens, baby Spinach, or Frisee blend lettuce, washed/stemmed

Note:  Hard boil eggs at least one hour before preparing this salad and chill for best results.

Chop and dice pasta salad ingredients.

In a jar or dressing container, mix all ingredients for salad dressing together except for the oil and the anchovy paste.  Shake well. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and the anchovy paste.  Once combined, add to salad dressing jar or container and shake.  Let it sit at room temperature while preparing the salad.

Slice hard boiled eggs.  Keep chilled until ready to use.

Prepare pasta per package directions.  Drain.  Transfer to bowl and immediately toss with dressing, to taste.  Set aside.

Steam green beans in two tablespoons of water in a covered microwave safe bowl.  You can place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl or you can simply place a piece of paper towel on top to hold in the steam.  Microwave on high for two minutes.  Drain. 

Helpful tip:  You can soak the beans in a cold ice water bath if you would like to stop the cooking process, but this step is optional.  It all depends on how you like your beans.  They will continue to cook if left warm.

Drain canned tuna and flake.  Toss tuna, both types of tomatoes, olives, capers and cooked green beans (drained if you had them in cold water) with pasta.   Add a little more dressing if desired. 

Plate the greens on four plates and top each with 1/4 of the pasta salad mixture.  Top it all off with hard boiled egg slices and chives, if using. 

  • Pass extra dressing at the table
  • Add pepper to taste
  • Serve with lemon slices

Leftover dressing can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
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