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Niçoise Cobb Salad

2 Aug

This is the type of salad that defies definition. It is also my favorite type of salad, boasting a variety of elements, tastes, and textures. Containing elements of both a Cobb salad and a Niçoise salad, it is the type of salad that, undoudtedly, some people will declare an unholy mess and then simply disregard. Those people are making a big mistake.

I’ve long been tempted by many elements in a classic Cobb salad, but there are a few things about it that temper my enthusiasm. One is the presence of blue cheese, a cheese that I enjoy in small amounts, but when paired with eggs, bacon, and avocado, seems to provide a bit of overkill. And now that I have mentioned it, I am no fan of bacon (I know, I know—this makes me wholly unqualified to talk about food, right? But there you have it). As for a Niçoise salad, I’m nearly always a fan, what with its high presence of crisp, textural vegetables and subtly tangy dressing, but my affection always seems to falter when the salad happens to be served with canned tuna, one of the few food items I can unrepentantly admit to absolutely detesting.

The only logical thing for me to do, of course, was merge the two salads together, along with a few unsanctioned ingredients that I thought seemed like a good fit. I’ve been on a big sweet potato kick lately (the dark, thick-skinned type that is often referred to as a yam), so when I was mentally constructing my hybrid salad, I knew I wanted to include a bit of sweet potato in lieu of the standard red potato often found in a Niçoise salad (except when it’s not, as some salad purists insist that a Niçoise salad must only contain raw vegetables). I also included cucumbers, because it’s tough to forgo their crisp coolness when constructing any type of salad, and since I was already bringing shame to the name of both salads, why not just keep going?

Culinary liberties in full effect, this salad came together wonderfully. The lemony shallot dressing provides a lovely balance to the creamy egg and avocado, and the piles of fresh vegetables just make everything seem so crisp and friendly. The best aspect of the salad, I think, just might be that, with its ratio of vegetables to protein, it makes a suitable, satisfying meal for both cold nights and warm afternoons. Totally inauthentic as it may be, it’s still awfully fantastic.

Niçoise Cobb Salad Recipe

Strictly speaking—though there is nothing really strict about this salad to begin with, it being a total deconstruction of two different salads—both a Niçoise salad and a Cobb salad include fresh tomatoes, but I didn’t have any lying around. Feel free to add some. You can also add some really nice, salty olives to the salad, as found in a classic Niçoise salad.

Dressing

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon fresh chopped tarragon, or a pinch of dried tarragon

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Salad

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 large eggs

4 ounces turkey bacon or regular bacon

handful of fresh green beans, ends trimmed

½ an avocado, peeled and sliced into cubes

½ a small cucumber, sliced into coins, then half moons

1 small head of Bibb lettuce leaves, or a similar type of tender lettuce (I used some Tom Thumb lettuce from our garden), rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a heavy baking sheet, combine diced sweet potatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with your hands to evenly coat the potatoes with oil, then place in oven and roast for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft on the inside and caramelized underneath. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While the potatoes are roasting, season the chicken breast on both sides with salt and pepper, then grill over medium-high heat (an indoor grill pan is just fine for this) until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit, then dice into cubes.

In a medium saucepan, place eggs in just enough water to cover them. Place pan over high heat until the water comes to a steady boil. Immediately remove pan from heat, cover, and allow eggs to cook in hot water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove eggs from pan and place in ice water to cool. When cool, peel then slice each egg in half lengthwise.

While eggs are cooking, cook turkey bacon or regular bacon until crisp, then remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool a bit. When cool, crumble into medium-small pieces.

Drain the water from the saucepan in which you cooked the eggs, then refill with about 2 inches of water. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then add green beans and boil rapidly for 2 minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender. Drain immediately and rinse under very cold water.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until thoroughly emulsified and quite thick.

To assemble plates of salad, divide half of the lettuce leaves amongst two plates. Divide and arrange half of the sweet potatoes, chicken, eggs, turkey bacon, green beans, avocado, and cucumber on top of the lettuce leaves on each plate. You can arrange everything in neat rows, as in a Cobb salad, or you can place things in individual piles around the lettuce, as in a Niçoise salad. You can also just dump everything on top and call it good. Drizzle salads with dressing.

Makes 2 large salads. You can also divide the recipe amongst 4 plates for lighter servings of salad.

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