Quite a few things came together, all at the right time, for this meals inspiration. Lettuce, cucumbers and green beans from the garden, 2 quarts of fresh chicken stock in the fridge, and really warm weather. Inspired by the fabulous cucumber soup I had at Les Halles the week before, I decided to give it a whirl. You will want to start early in the day, as everything needs to be prepped and chilled before serving.
Chilled Cucumber Soup
3 large, fresh cucumbers – peeled, seeded, chopped
1 large leek, cleaned and chopped, white and tender green parts
3 tablespoons of butter
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the chopped cucumber and leeks and sauté over low heat about 20 minutes. Do not brown, just soften.
Add two cups of chicken stock, and a little salt. Simmer very low, about 30 minutes.
Place mixture in blender in two batches, and blend thoroughly. Pour into bowl and chill until very cold. (I put the bowl in the freezer to speed up the process.)
Once the soup is cold, place it back in the blender. Add 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, one additional peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber and 1 cup of heavy cream. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Put back in fridge until ready to serve. Serve in chilled bowls and garnish with minced dill or mint.
For the Salad Nicoise
These are the basic ingredients. You will need to adjust the portions for the number of servings you need.
Small baby potatoes
Simmer potatoes until just done. Cool immediately in a colander with a little ice. Place in bowl, add a little of the salad dressing. Chill thoroughly.
Hard-boiled eggs – quartered and chilled
Tomatoes – quartered and chilled
Green beans – cooked and chilled
Sauté until just done, cool down immediately in ice water, drain, place in bowl and add a little dressing. Chill well. (I cook green beans as follows: heat a little olive oil in a skillet. Sauté about 5 minutes. Add 1/2-3/4 cup of dry vermouth, reduce heat, cover and steam until done. Season with salt and pepper. I also add dice onion in the first step, if having the beans on their own.) Your eyes are not deceiving you….those are purple beans. They turn green when they cook. My grandpa always grew that variety and I continue to do so today! We threw in a few wax beans as that is what was ready to pick.
Red onion, sliced into 1/4 round slices
Cold, grilled or poached salmon (or, traditionally, canned tuna packed in oil)
We always grill the salmon on foil coated with a little olive oil. Dave is really picky about the pin bones. I use a pair of very sharp tweezers to remove them.
Capers for garnish (optional)
Anchovies for garnish (optional)
For the dressing
1 cup fresh, fruity olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 Teaspoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Whisk all together in measuring cup or glass jar.
Assembling the Salad
Bring all your ingredients together. Make sure your bowl and plates are cold. Start with a base of lettuce. We are using romaine from the garden. Place all ingredients in sections around serving bowl. You can also plate individually, using the same approach. When finished, drizzle with a little dressing, garish with capers and anchovies if desired.