When you don't want a salad, have pasta niçoise. ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

18 August 2008

When you don't want a salad, have pasta niçoise.

When I want lots of vegetables but also need some actual filling food, I tend to make substantial salads. One of the best is Salade Niçoise: greens, boiled potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, black niçoise olives, and capers if you have them, all soaked in good vinaigrette. I could eat pounds of it. Then there are niçoise variations, which can be any combination of the salad ingredients down to just potatoes and green beans in dressing, with egg optional. It really depends on what's in the kitchen and how much effort you're willing to make.

Last week I was willing to make a little effort, but I didn't want salad. I wanted pasta. So I took a bunch of niçoise ingredients, messed around with them, and turned them into pasta niçoise.

Usually I'd say potatoes were essential for a good niçoise, but since I was making pasta, I left them out. I didn't use vinaigrette, either, but dressed the pasta in garlicky olive oil and vegetables. The best vegetables here were the beans: when I went to the store one night, I discovered that the usual bin of sturdy 6-inch blue lake beans was actually filled with beans about half that size. Ha ha, haricots verts for $2 a pound! Regular green beans will work fine, though.

Pasta niçoise

olive oil
green beans
salt, pepper
grating cheese

Put on a pot of salted water for pasta first thing. You can either put on a separate pot to hardboil the eggs, or cook them and the pasta together, pulling the eggs out after ten minutes. I think I used separate pots this time, but either way will work. Just make sure not to cook the eggs longer than ten minutes, or boil the pasta into floppy oblivion. It's easiest if you're cooking a kind of pasta that takes about ten minutes. I used three eggs for two people. You can also make this with no eggs, in which case you might want to toast some walnuts to strew on top instead.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, warm a substantial splash of olive oil in a wide saute pan. Smash and chop several cloves of garlic, then throw them in the oil to soften slowly. I used about 8 cloves. While they're filling the kitchen with garlic fumes, bust out a zucchini and a couple handfuls of green beans, or an appropriate amount considering how many people you're feeding. Chop off the ends of the zucchini, halve it, and chop it into thin half-moons. Top and tail the green beans and chop them into inch-long pieces. Try for a roughly equivalent volume of beans and zucchini.

Add the green beans to the garlic and cook to soften. Then add the zucchini and do the same thing, cooking just until the zucchini is done: probably 2-3 minutes. Add some salt and lots of fresh black pepper. If you want to add any fresh herbs, you can: fresh parsley would be really good. I didn't have any. I think I used a little dried marjoram (added earlier) instead.

When everything is done, drain the pasta and pour it into the garlic pan. Toss to coat with garlicky oil, then serve onto big plates. Grind some more pepper over each.

Chill the eggs just enough to hold them; I run them under cold water for a couple minutes. Then whack them all over with the back of a spoon, peel them, and chop them into chunks. Or you can leave them in halves, or thin slices. Whatever sounds good.

Strew the eggs over the plates of pasta. Or you can use toasted walnuts, like I said before, or niçoise olives. You might also want cheese in the parmesan family. Any of those would be good.

Eat it with a fork.

If you really like good vinaigrette, I can see adding some when mixing the pasta and vegetables, or maybe pouring a few drops of good wine vinegar over the served plates to mix spontaneously with the oil. Or you could just add a splash of vinegar while actually cooking. I'm going to have to experiment with this further and see what I can see.

1 comment:

kabonfootprint said...

I am learning how to cook (decent meals :-) ) thanks i love pasta too! Busby SEO challenge