I’m a planner in lots of areas of my life, but dinner’s not always one of them. Instead, I try to keep the pantry stocked with things that I know I like and can do different things with, and most of the time, this works just fine.
Like this salad, a variation on My Big Fat French Salad in the cookbook, an idea born out of the brillllliant idea of putting roasted potatoes on a salad which I had for the first time years ago at the bistro Le Relais Gascon in Montmartre with my friend Suzanne.
I wasn’t even thinking about salads or anything beyond getting a kilo of coffee beans at the little roaster at the market at Ternes not far from where I live. I love this little coffee roaster. The gleaming fire engine red roaster takes up nearly the whole shop, and you have to step sideways to get to the cash register. It’s all about the coffee here, and they have one roast, the Orientale, that I really like – super-dark, glossy beans that are strong without being too coarse or bitter.
On another note, I’m trying to imagine what I might do with the coffee bean sacks, which they sell here for 2 euros apiece. I haven’t bought any yet, but I do think they’d make for a very interesting chair cover. Maybe.
Anyway, once I had my coffee beans in hand, my head already started to clear and I started to imagine dinner when I saw broccoli on sale at the veggie seller adjacent to the coffee place. I may have mentioned that I am the only one in the apartment who loves broccoli, but that doesn’t stop me from buying it and making it all the time.
That’s how it always begins. One thing leads me in, then that leads to another…in this case, some beautiful potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, and a big box of salad greens that for 2 euros I couldn’t resist. Oh, and little cherry tomatoes, which yes, I know are not in season, but they looked so pretty, I just had to give them a try.
Still no idea about dinner beyond broccoli but I now had a whole sack of veggies to tote home on the metro.
I decided to roast the potatoes and see where that would take me, and when I reached into the fridge to grab the Dijon so I could make a vinaigrette, I saw the last bit of the smoked salmon that X had brought home the day before, some seriously wonderful stuff that claimed on the package to have smoked the salmon “the Russian way,” meaning that it was smoked over a wood fire and not in an oven. Like barbecue, I guess. Anyway, this salmon wasn’t salty as so much smoked salmon can be. It was lightly smoked, moist and, well, perfect.
So there I was, with dinner.
Which is often how things go, right? You set off in one direction to do one thing and end up on a completely different path.
Yes, sometimes a salad is just a salad, but often what I end up putting on the table is a reflection of how I try to live my life. The not-knowing exactly how things will turn out is the fun of it all.
Saturday Night Salad
Makes 2 dinner-size salads
- 1 pound/500 grams of red-skinned potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- sea salt and pepper
- 5.30 ounces/200 grams of mixed salad greens
- about 7 ounces/200 grams of smoked salmon, chopped into small pieces
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- E-Z French vinaigrette, recipe here
1. Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss your potatoes onto the cookie sheet along with with the olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and make sure they’re evenly coated. Bake for 30-45 minutes, flipping the potatoes over to the other side about halfway through so they’ll brown on both sides.
3. Put all of your salad greens in a large bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of E-Z French Vinaigrette — less is more because you just want these delicate leaves lightly coated with the vinaigrette. Divide this between two dinner plates and top with some of the potatoes, half of the cherry tomatoes and the salmon. Voilà! — easy enough for a TV night or fancy enough for a casual dinner party.
Cowgirl Tip: Warm up any leftover potatoes the next night and serve with a couple of fried eggs on top. Pass the Valentina.