I’ve been eyeing these delicious bistro salads that are served all over Paris. They are the perfect antidote to rich food and have a fitting spring quality to them. After tasting a few different varieties over the past few days I decided to try making my own. It was wonderful!
I used red leaf lettuce, mache, and parsley as my base of greens. Mache, also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad, has been cultivated in France since the 17th century. It has recently started to gain popularity in the US as the next “it” baby salad green. Interestingly, mache leaves grow in rosettes very low to the ground, so they can’t be mechanically harvested like other salad greens. This can cause high production costs, but can also mean smaller crops that are handled with care. Mache has nearly three times as much vitamin C as regular lettuce, as well as offering a good source of beta-carotene, vitamins B & E, and omega-3 fatty acids. It has a subtle nutty flavor that mixes well with other lettuces or can stand on it’s own.
Another hallmark of many french bistro salads is the addition of one or two warm ingredients to the bed of cool greens. I used potatoes and eggs as my warm ingredients and they really made the simple salad feel like a complete meal.
I found the eggs at the market in this beautiful basket. They were clearly fresh from a local farm, complete with some feathers! As a Vermont farm girl at heart, I have a soft-spot for fresh eggs from chickens on a true free-range farm. I notice such a difference in taste and color, not to mention quality of life for the chickens. I was thrilled to find these eggs in Paris and put them to work in this salad. I boiled the eggs until they were just in between hard and soft – about 4 minutes boiling and then 7 minutes sitting in the warm water. I wanted them to keep their shape, but still have creamy yokes.
I also added diced tomatoes and capers to the salad. The capers provided a nice tangy flavor that complimented the warm, sweet potatoes and eggs. For the dressing, I mixed olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon mustard in roughly equal parts. For a salad like this I strongly encourage you to dress the entire salad and spend some time really tossing it. It tastes so much better when the greens are completely dressed and all the flavors have a few minutes to come together.
Finally, to complete our bistro salad we needed cheesy toasts! I used slices of baguette and fresh goats cheese and lightly grilled them in olive oil on the stove-top.
Put it all together and viola – the perfect french bistro salad!