On a hot summer day, instead of overcooking green beans and serving them hot, I opted for a cold salad. My first thought was to make salade nicoise. However, I quickly ran into a buzzsaw of controversy.
Salade nicoise (the salad traditionally served in the city of Nice) was originally a simple combination of tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil. However, the famous early twentieth-century French chef and cookbook author Auguste Escoffier—and his protege Julia Child—added other ingredients, such as olives, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, potato salad, and cooked vegetables, as well as green beans.
In the city of Nice, an organization called Cercle de la Capelina d’Or, established in 1972 to uphold the traditions of the food of Nice, opposes the addition of other items to the original three.
Capelina was an unfamiliar word to me. It’s not French, it’s actually Occitan, the regional language of southern France, including Nice.
The only reference to capelina I could find was a word in an Occitan song “Nissa la Bella” (Nice the Fair), said to be Nice’s anthem. A footnote in the song’s English translation defined capelina as a wide-brimmed sun straw hat now worn primarily as a symbolic accessory for traditional costumes at festivals.
So rather than choose sides between Julia Child and the Capelina crowd, I opted instead for another cold nicoise dish, one with green beans. Trim 1 box (1/2 pound) of green beans. Add the green beans to a pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked beans to a bowl of ice water.
In another bowl, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced shallots, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 tablespoon capers, 1/2 teaspoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 cup olives, 1 tablespoon basil, and 1/2 tablespoon dill. Use an immersion blender to make a smooth mixture. Drain the cold beans, dry them on a towel, and combine with the vinaigrette.
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