I love a good tag sale...

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a good tag sale. It's a wonder I haven't gotten into more fender benders the way I brake at the sight of one.

In fact, when I decided to take a pause from journalism to run farmers markets my closest friends were less concerned about my career detour and more worried about how working weekends would impact my favorite hobby.

But what most people don't realize is that I love hosting tag sales almost as much as I like shopping at them.

Of course it always feels good to clean house - physically and emotionally.

But, more importantly, throwing a tag sale is the perfect excuse for a Salade Nicoise lunch.

When I was growing up my French expat parents threw a tag sale once a year.

(I got the tag sale bug from my mother who exquisitely furnished our Santa Monica  home almost entirely from garage sale finds.  She routinely had to purge).

My parents would invite their friends -- all French expats working in the restaurant business like my father -- to join in the selling.

And, at lunchtime, my mother would bring out a giant Salade Nicoise for lunch.

Customers were always charmed at the sight of our French crew crowded around a card table draped in Provencal fabric in the middle of our sale. There was always a bottle of rose wine, some crusty bread and my parents' giant green salad bowl filled so high that tossing was out of the question. Everyone piled some on their plate and dressed it with the vinaigrette my father would make directly in the near-empty Grey Poupon mustard jar.

Salade Nicoise, made with ripe red tomatoes, carefully-cooked green beans,  potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, Nicoise olives, chunks of tuna fish, anchovies (optional) capers and crisp butter lettuce, coincides perfectly with summer tag sale and farmers market season.

You can make it with tuna in a can (as my parents did) or with grilled fresh  if you're lucky enough to find fresh tuna at your farmers market!

The recipe adapted from Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, by Julia Child, most closely resembles my parents version, though they liked to add strips of yellow and green pepper for "une touche de Californie."

Salade Nicoise Ingredients: 1 large head Boston-lettuce leaves, washed and dried 
1 pound green beans, cooked and refreshed 
1-1/2 tablespoons minced shallots 
1/2 to 2/3 cup basic vinaigrette 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
3 or 4 ripe red tomatoes, cut into wedges (or 10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved) 
3 or 4 "boiling" potatoes, peeled, sliced, and cooked 
Two 3-ounce cans chunk tuna, preferably oil-packed 
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved 
1 freshly opened can of flat anchovy fillets 
1/3 cup small black Niçoise-type olives 
2 to 3 tablespoons capers 
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley Instructions: Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Shortly before serving, toss the beans with the shallots, spoonfuls of vinaigrette, and salt and pepper. Baste the tomatoes with a spoonful of vinaigrette. Place the potatoes in the center of the platter and arrange a mound of beans at either end, with tomatoes and small mounds of tuna at strategic intervals. Ring the platter with halves of hard-boiled eggs, sunny side up, and curl an anchovy on top of each. Spoon more vinaigrette over all; scatter on olives, capers, and parsley, and serve.

Yield: Serves 6

You can find a variation of this salad made with grilled instead of canned tuna at epicurious.com

You don't have to throw a tag sale to make a crowd-pleasing Salade Nicoise. But I guarantee it will tastes better served in an inviting bowl purchased at a tag sale...

Morgiewicz will have their first eggplant of the season tomorrow (check out the recipe for eggplant "Calabrese" pesto in Saveur Magazine this month).  And Hummingbird Ranch will be here with their raw honey and slow-mo syrup.

See you at the market!