Salade Nicoise and Corn, Buttermilk and Chive Popovers

I had decided on a Nicoise salad for a light dinner on Monday night, with memories of our recent trip to France, but was trying to add something to round it out in case the kids got picky. I've never seen Julia Child add popovers on the side of this classic and they aren't something I usually associate with the middle of the summer either--reserved instead for some stick-to-your-ribs fare on a snowy Sunday in February--but whatever, I figured we had nothing to lose. Especially since my sister had put me onto this particularly light, summer-sounding recipe from Smitten Kitchen about a week ago and I'd been wanting to try it ever since. Fresh and full of corn flavour, all puffed up and totally bronzed on top, they managed to steal the show. Since this recipe only makes six (perfect since I only have a six-popover pan), we were already doing the math and figuring that everyone would get 1.5 popovers, but then Austin bailed on dinner at the last minute and suddenly the remaining three of us realized that meant no sharing and a full two each. And they all disappeared pronto, with requests from Maddie that they be part of her birthday meal in October. Wow. There's an endorsement. Notsomuch for the salad.

Salade Nicoise
serves 3

1 large head Boston lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 lb green beans, cooked and refreshed
1 tbsp minced shallots
1/2 cup basic vinaigrette (see below)
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
6 to 8 mini-potatoes, boiled and cut into chunks
1 can good-quality tuna or fresh tuna steak, grilled
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup small black olives
2 tsp capers
3 tbsp minced parsley

For the vinaigrette, mix together 1 tbsp finely chopped, 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp wine vinegar and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter. Toss the beans with the shallots and a bit of the vinaigrette. Baste the tomatoes with a spoonful of the vinaigrette. Arrange each of the ingredients in a corner of your platter, with the tuna in the middle, or however you choose to present them. Spoon more vinaigrette over it all and top with the olives, capers and parsley.

Corn, Buttermilk and Chive Popovers
makes 6

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup corn kernels (from most of one cob)
3 large eggs
2 tbsp melted butter, cooled, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp yellow cornmeal
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp snipped fresh chives

Put buttermilk and corn in a blender together and blend for just 3 seconds--just to break up the corn a bit, not puree it. Add the eggs, one tbsp of the butter and blend for one second more. Add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and pepper, and the chives, and blend again until barely combined (some lumps are fine).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, allowing the batter to rest for about 15 minutes while it heats. Brush your popover cups with the remaining melted butter. Fill each cup slightly more than halfway. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes and don't open the oven door to peek. Popovers are done when they're tall and bronzed. Flip them out onto a cooling rack for a few moments before serving.

Rest of the week

August 5 Pizza night

August 6 Dinner at Q's parents

August 7 Greek food a la Taste of the Danforth

August 8 Nicoise salad and popovers, Maddie's amazing peanut-butter choc chip cookies