Get in the Easter spirit with perfect hard-boiled eggs

Nicoise salad made at The International Culinary Center

(CBS News) There is nothing better than a delicious salad...especially when you are in culinary school, and your mantra is to be able to still fit into your uniform by graduation.

Fantasy: I stuff myself silly with all the deliciousness that's endlessly available at school (truffle mac and cheese, never-ending supplies of French bread).

Reality: One-bite tastes of all the yummy food, and holding out until I can make a salad at home.

Video: The perfect hard-boiled egg for Easter

Salads in restaurants have always been more delicious than ones I make myself, even if all the ingredients are the same. I've never really understood why. Then, salad day happened.

A Nicoise salad is like a party bag of ingredients: tuna, potatoes, peppers, olives, string beans, tomatoes, eggs...all great stuff. I was very excited about this recipe. I'd finally get the inside scoop on why restaurant salads are so much better. I did not, however, expect that my breakfasts would also improve.

Hard-boiled eggs, one of the ingredients in a Nicoise salad, are my go-to breakfast food to bring to work. I'm so happy to finally understand the best way to cook them. With Easter in mind, I thought this would be the perfect time to pass the knowledge on to you. Make a large batch for the holiday, and split them up: some to decorate and some to eat. Healthy, delicious and a festive canvas. You can't go wrong.

Watch the video above to learn a foolproof method for cooking hard-boiled eggs.

Apply your knowledge to our Nicoise salad recipe. Perfect for a light Easter lunch! Here's the recipe:

Nicoise Salad
Adapted from The International Culinary Center

Yield 4: Servings

Vinaigrette:

  • 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 1 - 2 garlic cloves, peeled, lightly crushed
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Salad:

  • 1 1/4 cup new potatoes (approx. 2 potatoes)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup plum tomatoes - about 8
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup hericots verts (These are just baby string beans. If you can't find them, regular string beans are fine)
  • 1/2 cup green bell peppers, peeled
  • 1/2 head Boston or red leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 cup canned tuna
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 20 Nicoise olives, pitted

Vinaigrette:

1. Combine vinegar, garlic and seasoning and infuse for 10 minutes

2. Slowly add olive oil, whisking gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Salad:

1. Cook potatoes with skins on, starting in cold water

2. Hard-boil eggs. Start them in cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 10 to 11 minutes. Refresh in a bowl of ice-cold water. When cool, peel, cover and set aside.

3. Emonder tomatoes (peel - see video on peeling tomatoes). Cut into 4-6 wedges, depending on their size. Remove excess seeds. Lightly sprinkle wedges with kosher salt and place in a colander to drain.

4. Snap both ends off the string beans. Cut them on the bias into 2-inch lengths and blanch them in salt water (boil water, salt it, put green beans in until they are slightly tender, put into ice bath).

5. Peel green peppers. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the center core and seeds. Trim the ends and cut the peppers into slices.

6. Carefully wash the lettuce leaves in a bowl full of cold water. Rinse at least twice. If any sand or grit remains in the bowl after the second washing, rinse a third time. Dry the leaves completely on clean paper towels or gently in a salad spinner.

7. If the anchovies contain excess salt or oil, soak them about 5 minutes in cold water or milk. Remove the small bones by scraping with a paring knife. Drain on paper towels.

8. Check the potatoes; they are done when easily penetrated by the point of a paring knife, usually about 20 minutes.

9. Place the potatoes in a colander to cool partially, do not refresh in cold water.

10. While still warm, peel the potatoes with a paring knife, slice them into rounds, and coat with vinaigrette.

11. Drain tuna into colander then break it into large chunks

When ready to eat:

1. Cut hard-cooked eggs into quarters or sixths

2. Dress each of the components separately with the vinaigrette. Start with the tomatoes, string beans and strips of pepper.

3. Toss lettuce leaves in a little vinaigrette and use them to line the bottom of a bowl.

4. Place tuna in the center and arrange the other components around it, keeping each separate. Decorate the top of the tuna with the anchovy fillets, drizzle with vinaigrette, and sprinkle with chopped herbs. Sprinkle olives around the salad and serve immediately. 


Here are some more tips that will allow you to make delicious restaurant-style salads at home:

  • Dry your lettuce and veggies very well after washing them. Wet lettuce will wilt faster and your dressing won't stick as well. Also, the water will mix with your dressing, diluting it. Not good.
  • Season your salad! Salt and pepper are great in salads. Fresh chopped herbs are also a great addition.
  • If you are making your own vinaigrette, take some garlic or shallots and let them hang out in the vinegar for a while. The vinegar will pick up some of the flavor, giving it an extra kick when you mix it with your oil.
  • Oil to vinegar ratio: 3-4 parts oil, 1 part vinegar.
  • Drizzle your dressing around the sides of a bowl and then toss your lettuce in with your hands, lightly rubbing it against the sides. It gives you more control over the amount of dressing you use and it coats everything evenly.

  • Alison Stravitz

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