Making French cuisine simple
June 27, 2007
In the region of France where I grew up, the meals we ate changed according to the season; it was a natural occurrence. In winter, we devoured hearty stews, deeply red wine-flavored boeuf bourguignon or a creamy veal stew like blanquette de veau.
Spring would arrive, and we would crave all things green: the first asparagus, early sweet beans and the versatile artichoke. Then glorious summer would arrive with a bounty of tomato salads and eggplant au gratin.
A popular summer dish served in many restaurants is a “Salade Composée” comprised of a variety of lettuces, meat or seafood and sometimes cheeses, creating a dish with different textures and contrasting flavors. More than a salad – a meal!
In the South of France, such a dish would be a Salade Niçoise, made with marinated tuna, green beans (haricot vert), tomato, olives, hard-boiled egg and spiked with fresh herbs.
The southwest of France, where I grew up, is home to a robust “Salade Quercynoise,” which surrounds a walnut oil-laced frisée lettuce with smoked duck breast, proscuitto-like hams, duck confit and cantal cheese. There is no better meal!
At Z Bistro, I aim, in modest proportion, to recreate a part of this world.
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In the same spirit as the Salade Quercynoise, here is a recipe that can easily be made from ingredients found at our local supermarkets.
Spinach and Lentil Salad with Herb-Crusted Salmon and Curry Vinaigrette
Roasted salmon with herbed-mustard crust on a bed of spinach and lentils, tossed with a curry vinaigrette.
For the salmon crust:
4 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon chopped dill
2 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 2-pound section of salmon filet cleaned, skinned and de-boned
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place salmon on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together to form a coating for the salmon.
Spread the mustard mixture evenly over the top of the salmon with a rubber spatula. Roast in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes, or until just cooked through but still pink inside. Set aside to cool.
For the lentils:
1 cup of French or green lentils
2 cups of chicken stock
Combine in a medium saucepan and simmer covered until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. All of the stock should have been absorbed into the lentils. Set them aside to cool.
For the curry vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Salt to taste
In a small pan, gently heat the curry powder until fragrant. In a mixing bowl combine shallots, garlic, vinegars and curry powder, and let them infuse for 15 minutes. Whisk in mayonnaise, mustard, sugar and oil until emulsified. Add salt to taste.
For the salad:
Spinach for 4
2 fennel bulbs (sweet anise)
1 red onion
Cut fennel bulbs in half lengthwise, then thinly slice both halves. Repeat the process for the red onions.
In a large bowl ,combine spinach, fennel, onion and lentils. Gently toss the ingredients with the vinaigrette and divide into four servings on dinner plates. Break up the (lukewarm) salmon into medium chunks and scatter over the top of the salad.
• Gilles Galhaut is the chef at Z Bistro in Carson City.