Pickled Red Onions and Niçoise Salad

Two things that continue to amaze me about Latin American women: 1) How they flawlessly float along city streets in the highest of heels even beyond the ripe old age of 90  and 2) How they cut their onions so razor thin.

I’m sure these amazing features extend to other countries and cultures (Italian women in heels + cobblestones = WOW!), but I’m pretty much a cranky mess in any heel higher than 1.5-inches. And I can barely keep my burning eyes open for long enough while cutting onions to be able to shave them into the beautiful corte pluma my Peruvian friend, Cristine taught me.

My initial instinct with onions is to cut them in half through the mid-section and then cut them into hamburger-style rings, but corte pluma is a thin, lengthwise cut.  Think little half-moons.  It’s perfect for ensalada chilena and ceviche.

More about Latin Americans, specifically Chileans and onions: There are so many smart things Chileans do to make onions more tolerable.  You can salt them, wash them, strain them, squeeze them.  You avoid onion-breath and heartburn that way.  It’s brilliant.

I decided to pickle them for this salad, which is optional, but totally worth it!

I soaked them in red wine vinegar in the fridge…the longer the better.

While onion salad is totally something that exists in Chile (onions, salt, chopped cilantro, lemon juice and oil) these onions were a part of two different salads this week.  Today is Niçoise Salad.

A French classic.  This is in my weekly recipe rotation because it’s filling and so healthy.  When frozen tuna steaks are on sale at Trader Joe’s I’ll throw them on the grill for something a bit more elegant.  Any other day it’s oil-packed Tuna in a can.  If you don’t like a fishy taste, get Wild-Caught Albacore.  Otherwise, Chunk Light has more flavor.

Salad Niçoise

  • handful of pre-washed mixed greens
  • 1 can oil-packed tuna fish, drained
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup canned olives, drained
  • 1 cup haricot verts or green beans, steamed
  • 1 cup chopped asparagus, steamed
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pickled red onions, peeled with ends chopped off, shaved into corte pluma then soaked in red wine vinegar for at least an hour

Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

  • 2 cups loosely packed herbs such as cilantro, basil and parsley
  • juice of 2 lemons or 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 4 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • dash of salt
  • a few turns of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

To make the vinaigrette:

  1. To make the vinaigrette, place all ingredients except oil in food processor or blender and pulse until thin and creamy.
  2. Slowly add oil, blending mixture in between additions.  Set aside.

To make the salad:

  1. For the salad, create a bed of greens.
  2. Assemble onions, haricot verts, asparagus, tomatoes, olives on top of greens.
  3. Place can of tuna and eggs on top.
  4. Dress with vinaigrette.  Salute Julia Child.  Bon appétit.

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