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In my last post, I really didn’t deliver on the story department, so I think I have to make up for that. I’m going to tell you my most interesting story ever! I’ve had the great fortune to visit some fabulous locations in my life, meet some interesting people, acquire several “dining out” stories, and live luxuriously, if only for a week. What does this have to do with salad nicoise? Well, I’ve been to Nice, France, the birthplace of  Salad Niçoise, and the setting for one of my better stories. I don’t really like to talk about this trip because it makes me sound a bit snooty, but I will for the sake of a good blog post.*  

*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.)
My Most Interesting Story So Far (aka It’s all downhill from here!) 

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!  
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Vegan Salad Niçoise with Kalamata Dill Dressing

Serves 4-6 

Ingredients: 

Salad 
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 

Dressing 
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 

Directions:

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. 

Do you have a "best story ever"? Have you had a memorable meal abroad that brings back memories? 

 


Comments

04/28/2014 2:58pm

I love your story! I'm a huge sucker for celebrity gossip :) I also really, really love this salad! I've been dreaming about making a Nicoise salad for a while now and haven't gotten around to it yet. Your dressing sounds amazing, dill and kalamata olives are two of my favorite flavors. I need this salad now! :)

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04/28/2014 3:06pm

Hey Isadora! Hehe, I was hesitant to put the story up, but I know everyone loves a little celeb gossip now and then :)
I rarely make nicoise at home because I always have when I go out. This was my first time making it, I think. And I love those flavours too, they're super in yo face!

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04/28/2014 3:48pm

First off the salad looks fanastic. The green of that dressing is so vibrant! And second that party sounds insaaaane! I bet it was so surreal!!

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04/28/2014 3:51pm

Hey Lauren! Thanks so much! :) And yes, the party was a little surreal -I certainly don't live like that, but it was a nice once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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04/28/2014 6:13pm

Awesome story! Cool that you got to live that, even though afterwards wasn't so great, sorry :(
One of my favorite stories is when I asked a London guard (you know the ones who are stalwartly still) if I could pet his horse, and he actually gave a slight nod -- and we have it on video! I really appreciate what he did for a little horse-lovin' girl! :)

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04/28/2014 7:08pm

Hey Am! Relationships are at least always good for a new story! hehe
That's amazing! I love those guys with the hats! What a great experience. London is a beautiful, modern place. So awesome that you got that on video too! As a fellow horse-lovin' girl, I totally appreciate your story!

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This is beautiful! Love your photos, they're so bright and fresh!! So glad I found your site today :)

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04/29/2014 7:38am

Hey Deryn! Thanks for stopping by! I'm a big fan of your blog :)

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Millie
04/29/2014 8:26am

Awwww Allison ;)
Wonderful story and recipe...beautiful and freshhhh :)
Always love your blog posts, full of interesting memoirs of yours :)
Have fun girl!!!

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04/29/2014 9:34am

Hey Millie! Thanks so much! I love sharing my stories :) Talk to you soon, sweetie! xo

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What a story! Maybe one day I will get to go to Monaco and receive silk pashminas as a goodie bag gift while Elton John serenades me ;) Gorgeous, gorgeous salad- can't wait to try! Also, I just visited your about page and saw you went to CSNN! I'm currently thinking about whether I want to go to IHN or CSNN. Any thoughts/advice you'd have would be great!!

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04/29/2014 5:46pm

Hey Genevieve! Anything is possible!!! I never thought I'd experience it :)

Well, I'm obviously biased and like CSNN, but I think they both have a similar curriculum and the similar texts. I really enjoyed my time at CSNN and found it a very nice community, but I know people who when to IHN and had a fantastic experience there. I didn't live in Toronto, so I went to CSNN as they have more schools in different parts of the province/Canada. Either one I would highly recommend! It was one of the best things I've ever done for sure. Please let me know which one you choose! I'll talk school anytime :)

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04/29/2014 1:25pm

This looks like such a gorgeous and healthy salad! Perfect for these warmer days!

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04/29/2014 5:47pm

Hi Kelly! Yes, it's finally salad season! Woo!

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04/30/2014 2:00pm

I love that elton john has small hands! weird, yes but totally fascinating :)

I love salad nicoise! And I finally learned how to properly pronounce it last year in paris. Yes, I was corrected and my english pronunciation was no where close. NO where close- whoops! Your salad looks delicious!

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04/30/2014 4:24pm

Hey Alexandra! Hehehe I can only imagine. My french is also "tres" rusty. I love that they corrected you! What the heck!? At least it makes for an amusing story here :)

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04/30/2014 9:37pm

Nomnom! Kalamatas are my fave! That creamy dressing looks like the perfect finishing touch :)

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05/01/2014 7:21am

Hi Alexis! Me too, I love kalamatas! And I don't think you can ever have enough dressing. More is more!

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05/10/2014 3:54am

Oh wow, that really is the best story ever! I love that you decided Elton would like you better as you knew the words to Crocodile Rock, that is my type of logic ;) I don't think I have a story that quite compares to that, although I did briefly meet the queen (well, I waved at her, which counts right?) on my first day of working at Edinburgh airport - we were out on the tarmac when a VIP call came through so we got to go to the royal runway and watch her flight arrive and her and Prince Phillip disembark. That was a pretty cool first day at work, I have never met any royalty on any other first days (or ever, actually). On another note - this salad looks delicious, I love anything with lots of veggies in it, and especially the sound of that dressing - yum!

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05/10/2014 11:59am

Hey Dearna! Haha, we think alike for sure ;) That is a fabulous story!!! Better than any first day of work I've ever had, by far. I am a bit of a royalist and LOVE monarch gossip, so I am seriously impressed! Also, Edinburgh is somewhere on my to-go list -I hear great, great things about that place!

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05/13/2014 6:23pm

Your story is incredible. This party - I am starstruck just hearing about it. The opulence of it all! I want to say I am disgusted by that kind of show of wealth but just once, I'd like to be a guest at that kind of affair. (Related: I once watched an Elton John show from just behind the piano and he *does* have curiously small hands!) Anyway, it sounds like your love of Salad Nicoise rivals mine but this one looks better than the best I've ever had so far.

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05/14/2014 9:36am

Hey Nora! haha, yeah, I was starstruck at the time, as you can imagine. And that's so funny that you noticed that too! They're teeny tiny! :)

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