*This is subjective. You may think this blog post is bad. (But there are two FAMOUS PEOPLE mentioned in the story and everyone likes famous person gossip! Not even B-list. A-list celebs. Two of them! And one minor Canadian celebrity.)
On a dark and stormy night, five years ago, (it actually was dark and stormy; I was set to leave for vacation, and my plane got delayed due to the Toronto tornado of August 20, 2009 -the day after my 22nd birthday), I had plans to meet my then-boyfriend (I won’t go into detail about the boyfriend) at the Nice airport (he was already there). During my time at Toronto Pearson International Airport, I met a Parisian guy who "broke the ice" by discussing the weather, because after all, we get tornados around here approximately once every 20 years. He offered to show me around Paris. French men are extremely forward, in a good way (take note North American men!). Looking back, I totally should have taken him up on that. Regrets.
Anyways, the said then-boyfriend had an older brother. This older brother was married to a Russian billionairess. This Russian billionairess and the older brother lived in Monaco. The Russian billionairess’s father was having a birthday party. I decided to tag along, as my ex’s family were all going over there, and my ex and I had decided to make a little romantic trip out of it, and go to Paris after the festivities in Monaco. (And just to clear things up, the airport to get to Monaco is located in Nice, France, which is about a 30 minute drive.)
So, I went, and obviously it was a good party. And do you know who the entertainment was? ELTON JOHN. I’m not even kidding. I was about five feet away from Elton John and locked eyes with him as I sang along to Crocodile Rock. Odd? Yes, yes it was. But the Russians didn’t really know the lyrics and I obviously did, so I would like to think that Elton John liked me better. Also, just some insider information here: Elton John has the smallest hands I’ve ever seen. I don’t even know how he plays the piano. They’re très petite. Anyways, I’m sure you want more details of the party.
Have you ever seen photos of the inside of really, really fancy millionaire parties where all of wine glasses are rimmed with real gold and the lighting is that weird purple colour and the flowers cost more than you will ever make in your whole life? This party was fancier than that. The billionaire, billionairess, and older brother, even had their own body guards who were packing some serious heat. And I still have the pure silk pashmina that they gave to all the women in the later hours when it got “chilly” (Monaco is NEVER chilly; I was so uncomfortably hot that entire trip). I didn’t get rid of the scarf, because I like to take a page from Carrie Bradshaw when it comes to gifts from exes -they’re like a consolation prize, as if to say, “thanks for playing!” I’m not the only one, I’m sure.
Other things I saw in Monaco included The Monte Carlo Casino, made famous by James Bond (and speaking of James Bond, I "bumped into" Daniel Craig in NYC two years ago; we locked eyes while passing each other on the street, and he is basically the most incredibly handsome, startlingly attractive man, I’ve ever seen), the UAE prince’s yacht, and the Prince of Monaco’s car collection. Monaco is also very small, so I was able to do that thing where you stand on the border and jump from one country to the next -Monaco, France, Monaco, France! I was such a mature 22 year-old.
Obviously, my relationship didn’t last, but we did have a good time on that trip, followed by bad times. Isn’t that how it always is? I’ve had many memorable relationships and flings in my 26 years, and after this one, I randomly had a fling (fling, not relationship) with a minor Canadian celebrity, who if I give any detail about (well, maybe a hint: his employer is one of the major Canadian broadcasters), you’ll know who it is, so I won’t, because he’s a nice guy. The remaining flings and relationships I’ve had, the boys/men (there’s a difference, can I get a heck ya, ladies?) have been fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing epic. My current relationship status will be kept a secret, as I want you all to find me mysterious and interesting twenty years from now. Anywho, back to salad talk.
Before I get too out of control and drop any more names, I’ll get to the question I’m sure you’re all asking: just how good was the Salad Niçoise in France? Well, I’m here to tell you that it was really, really good. I’ve eaten Salad Niçoise in Monaco, Paris, Italy, Canada, and the US. I’ve eaten it on a train. I’ve eaten it on a plane. And I’ve even eaten it at Disneyland Paris (not even joking, my dad took me, my brother, and my sister to Euro Disney in 2007). The point is, I’ve eaten a lot of Salad Niçoise. I truly enjoy it. Clearly I needed to create a vegan variation for myself, because I can’t go through life without it. And I think I’ve done just that.
This Vegan Salad Niçoise (or Salade Niçoise, if I'm going to be authentic) is inspired by Salad Niçoise, not true-to-form. However, I find there are endless variations of this salad in every corner of the world, and this is my regional take on it, because heck, there’s no place like home!
Vegan Salad Niçoise with Kalamata Dill Dressing
1 lb mini new potatoes
1 cup french green lentils
¾ lb green beans, rough ends trimmed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or quarters if larger)
3 cups raw, shredded kale, massaged to tenderize (see this post for how to massage kale)
¼ cup chopped chives
1 cup fresh dill, loosely packed
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp sea salt
pepper to taste
2-4 tbsp water
To prepare the salad: In a medium pot, bring lentils and 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender (about 40-50 minutes). Drain excess water and set aside.
In a steamer basket or steamer pot insert, steam potatoes until tender (about 15 minutes). Set aside. Next, steam green beans for 5-10 minutes until tender-crisp. Rinse with very cold tap water, drain, and set aside.
To prepare the dressing: Add all ingredients to a Blendtec or mini food processor, puree until desired consistency (it can be super-smooth or textured, whatever you like). Add 2-4 tbsp of water until the dressing is thin enough for you.
To serve: In a large serving bowl or platter, arrange the cooked vegetables and lentils. Or, make individual plates of salad. Drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.
Make ahead option: All of the components can be prepared up to one day in advance, and kept separately in the refrigerator. Arrange the platter or individual bowls, and top with dressing immediately before serving.