Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Salade Niçoise Sandwiches

Although a specialty ingredient is required for this recipe, it's still really fun to make -- if you can get your hands on some olivada, a intense black olive paste made from pitted and brine cured black olives. We could not find this ingredient, and I'm afraid to say that the sandwiches suffered slightly as a result. Instead, we used an olive tapenade made primarily from green olives. I can only imagine how good the sandwiches with the black paste are -- I'm still looking for some good olivada, and I'm sure that Treasure Island, a "European-Style" market we go to often, has it somewhere.
Anyhow, these sandwiches are great to bring for lunch if you have access to a fridge, excellent paired with a bowl of soup for a dinner, and are easy to make in bulk. You just need some time to let them sit in the fridge. The recipe is another one from The Bon Appetit Cookbook (sponsored link) which I truly, truly love. It's a hefty tome, but it's beautiful and bright (I love the orange text and dust jacket, and the white embossed cover is a really nice touch) and it stays quite flat so you don't lose your place. I hold it open with a big binder clip when necessary and that works perfectly.
We made these sandwiches over the weekend while working on our graduate applications. He's done now, but at the time I believe he had two left, and we were working most weekends trying to get everything put together. These were a simple distraction and allowed us to continue our work practically uninterrupted as they sauced around in the fridge until it was eatin' time. We served them with some state fair potato salad (recipe forthcoming) and it was a splendid, fatty meal. Although fish is quite good for you, and we halved the amount of mayonnaise in both recipes, so it wasn't as naughty as it could have (or should have) been.
The recipe is named after a traditional French dish from Nice, Salade Niçoise (pronouced ne-shwa) that consists of tuna, egg, capers, green beans, artichokes, cucumbers -- a slew of things that aren't in these sandwiches. I suppose that's because they're a variation on the dish and wouldn't taste as good in this form, but it's hard to explain why they chose this name in that case. Most likely because it sounds fancy, and this is a fancy sandy. You could even serve it at a dinner party if the theme was right. The original recipe makes six, so something tells me that's exactly what the maker intended. I have cut it in half, to make three sandwiches -- save one for later and split it with a bowl of soup for a tasty lunch or dinner, if you've got a lot of soup. I'll bet this would be fantastic with red lentil soup.

Salade Niçoise Sandwiches
Start with a 1-pound loaf of soft french or italian bread. Cut into three sections crosswise, then cut each piece in half. These will be the bases for your sandwiches. Open the slices so that you are working with six pieces of bread.
Mix 1 drained can of tuna packed in water with 2 tablespoons drained capers, 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Season with ground pepper. Make sure the tuna and sauce are combined well.
Spread 1/2 a tablespoon of olivada on each piece of bread and cover each slice with a fair amount of arugula or watercress -- trim off the bitter, hard-to-chew stems as you're washing the leaves.
Spread the bottom slice of bread with approximately 1/3 of the tuna mixture -- there will be no leftovers that aren't in sandwich form -- and top with thin slices of tomato and red onion. Place the top piece of bread on the sandwich.
Wrap each individual sandwich tightly in aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least an hour. They get saucier the longer you can wait, so bear with the clock for as long as you can before digging in. The result? An intensely briny, delectable sandwich with just enough zest and flavor. Plus, it's not very complicated to make, and most of the ingredients are already in my kitchen. You can substitute the olivada with a homemade version by throwing some pitted, brine-cured black olives in a food processor and hitting "puree" until they form a tasty paste.

This post was edited on 2/6/2007 to add a link to the Red Lentil Soup recipe.

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