Haute Cuisine: Salad Nicoise

The Dish: Salad Niзoise, featuring seared ahi tuna on a bed of butter lettuce, surrounded by steamed red potatoes, cooked and refreshed green beans, tomatoes and a boiled egg. The dish is topped off by capers and kalamata olives and a dressing prepared from white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, pepper, garlic crushed with salt and extra virgin olive oil. In deference to varying tastes, anchovies are optional. Pressed olive oil and lemon wedges are served on the side, along with sweet butter and Italian bread.

The Caterer: Mireille's Inflight Catering, Lakewood, Calif., near Long Beach; (562) 938-1580, www.mireillesinflight.com. Other kitchens in Van Nuys and San Francisco.

According to co-owner Eric Pevar, the caterer's signature salad Niзoise resulted from customer demand for an entrйe salad in the "spa cuisine" category that is low in fat and calories and high in lean proteins. Salad Niзoise originated in the city of Nice, in the heart of the French Cфte d'Azur. There are probably almost as many variants as there are chefs who prepare it. Some may use tarragon vinegar, others may add artichoke hearts. But for the purist, substitutions for the nutrient-rich seared ahi tuna would represent culinary heresy. Pevar said organic meals have become very popular with clients of the 22-year-old Mireille's, but added that there remains considerable demand for "good old comfort food," particularly among sports teams.

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