Nicoise Salad with Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon and Kalamata Vinaigrette

I feel like I became just a wee bit sophisticated while I was preparing this delicious salad……
You see I have always loved a good Nicoise salad; French-inspired and traditionally a composed salad featuring some combination of tuna, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes and potatoes. Often restaurants will have their own unique version of this famous salad and I love to try these fun, innovative creations.

I do have a confession to make – I have always been somewhat reluctant to order a Nicoise Salad because I was never quite sure how to pronounce the darn thing! I was positive that my pitiful attempts at French (usually rhyming with noise) would be enough to make dear old Napoleon roll over in his grave! But no more!!! I decided that if I was going to blog about Nicoise Salad that I would have to educate myself – I found this fun website that gives an audio pronounciation of just about any word – check it out here! How cool is that? Now you can say you are making nee-swahs salad from the ka-FAY sōō’krā fareen – are you starting to feel a bit fancy-dancy? 🙂

Seriously, this is a wonderful new twist on Nicoise Salad that Fine Cooking came out with in their June/July 2011 issue. The minute I saw the picture I knew I would have to give this salad a try and we were not disappointed – it was a fantastic light meal on a hot summer evening. The salmon is grilled on a cedar plank which are readily available during the grilling season – I found mine at Costco but I’ve seen them at Williams Sonoma and even at Home Depot. The fabulous smokey flavor permeates the salmon as it grills and in combination with the other fresh ingredients makes an incredibly delicious dinner.

I’ve made this salad twice now, the first time following Fine Cooking’s recipe quite precisely. While thoroughly enjoying the salad itself, I wasn’t super crazy about their dressing. I thought it was too vinegary and yet not real flavorful. The second time I used my House Salad Dressing recipe and added the chopped Kalamata olives: we loved the adaptation and so did our guests!


A few notes:
I am giving the salmon recipe separate from the salad; you may want to prepare this amazing salmon on it’s own for a delicious summer meal entreé, but be sure to try the salad too!!

 You might want to grill a little extra salmon for the fabulous Patty-Cake Salmon Salad with Blueberries and Mango that I will be posting later this week; a totally unique salmon salad with  fresh blueberries, mangos and a delicious citrus-ginger dressing. It’s a wonderful way to use leftovers or to stretch your salmon a bit.

Cedar Plank Salmon
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, minced
1 1/2tsp. chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds salmon filets, sliced into serving size portions

1. Soak the cedar planks in water to cover for for at least 4 hours. Drain the planks. (I used a small cooler to soak my planks.)

2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, thyme, sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbs. pepper. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until the zest is distributed throughout. Rub the salmon fillets on both sides with the olive oil and then set each fillet skin side down on a plank. Sprinkle the fillets with the lemon-pepper mixture, dividing it evenly. Gently rub the seasoning into the fillets. Let stand at room temperature while the grill heats.

3. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking with high heat: On a gas grill, heat all burners on high; then turn off all but one burner* just before cooking the salmon; on a charcoal grill, bank the coals to two opposite sides of the grill. Arrange the planks over the cooler part of the grill, positioning them so that the thickest part of the fish is closest to the heat source. Cover the grill and cook until the thickest part of each fillet registers about 135°F on an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 35 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. The planks may smoke a bit (this is fine) and will become very aromatic. Let the fillets rest on the planks for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

*These are the directions from Fine Cooking. Our grill wasn’t hot enough once we turned two of the burners off so we ended up having better results with one burner left on high and the other two on low heat setting.

Salmon Niçoise Salad with Kalamata Vinaigrette

¼ cup pitted and minced Kalamata olives
1 cup House Dressing (aka Greek Dressing)
¾ lb. baby red potatoes (each about 1-1/2 inches in diameter), cut into quarters
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
½ lb. cherry or grape tomatoes (preferably mixed colors), halved
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
½ medium seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped; about 1 lb), halved and slice about 1/4 inch thick
2 cups baby arugula
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ lb. Cedar-Planked Salmon , in 4 serving size pieces

1. Combine the Greek Dressing with the Kalamata olives.

2. Put the potatoes in a 4-quart saucepan, cover with 2 quarts water, add 1 Tbs. salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently until the potatoes are just tender when poked with a skewer, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a large bowl (save the cooking liquid).

3. Whisk the vinaigrette to recombine, drizzle 2 Tbs. of it over the potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

4. Bring the water in the saucepan back to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drop the green beans into the boiling water and cook until bright green and no longer raw but still very crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and spread the beans on a clean dishtowel to dry.

5. When the potatoes have cooled, add the green beans, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and 2-3 Tbs. of the vinaigrette and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the arugula and toss gently. Transfer to a platter and top with the salmon. Drizzle with a bit more dressing, to taste, serve and enjoy!

Serves 4
Adapted from Fine Cooking

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