Salad Niçoise (More or Less)
The reason the title of this entry is Salad Niçoise (More or Less) is because even though I’m pretty easy-going and not rules regulated when it comes to cooking, the classically trained side of me does get a little irritated when people take liberties with certain iconic dishes like this one. There are millions of variations on the traditional Salad Niçoise, and most of them stray from tradition altogether. I’ve committed the sin of omitting the Niçoise olives with which the salad shares its name (the name itself comes from the Nice Region of France), however the most common and cardinal of sins you see these days is when people replace the canned tuna with seared Ahi. While this is a delicious deviation, and one that I endorse if you like to do so, it does negate the classic element of the salad – as oil poached tuna is the central point of a true Salad Niçoise.
Niçoise Salads should include Niçoise olives, anchovies, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes and hardboiled egg all served over tender lettuce, like a butter lettuce or bib lettuce, dressed with a light yet flavorful vinaigrette.
The salad pictured omits the olives for two reasons: my other half is not a fan of olives, and for that reason, I did not bother to go on the hunt for them, because I recall the last time I tried to locate Niçoise olives I went to 4 different stores and found every olive but those. I’ve added red onions to this salad, and used mixed greens rather than bib lettuce. I also hid the anchovies in the vinaigrette because neither of us are fans of salted anchovy filets, but I very much appreciate them as a flavoring component in dressings. I used red potatoes that I cut into wedges for presentation purposes, but fingerling potatoes would look very nice here.
I love these types of composed salads, because they give you the opportunity to create a really impressive presentation. As pictured I broke the salads up into single portions, but I will often do a large one on a platter that serves more than one just for the wow factor.
Probably the most valuable part of this recipe is the vinaigrette – it came out really well – and as long as you have the basic idea of what a salad Niçoise is, you can prepare it with whatever combination of ingredients you like.
The herbs I used in this dressing I chose based on what I had growing in my herb pots, and what I had in my pantry. You can substitute dry herbs for fresh and vice versa, and definitely tailor the herb mix to suite what you have available and what you prefer. For example you can substitute tarragon for basil, marjoram for oregano, or add parsley if you have it. Fresh chives are a classic in this recipe.
Conversion for fresh to dry herbs is as follows:
1 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs = 1 tsp. dry herbs
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD
- 2 Cans of Tuna – (Oil cured is the most tender, but I used water packed because I tossed it with dressing)
- 2 Eggs – Hardboiled
- Handful of Green beans – blanched and chilled
- 1 Medium Red skin potato Cut, boiled and chilled
- Handful of Cherry Tomatoes – halved
- Handful Olives – Preferably Niçoise
- Red Onion – Sliced or diced
- Mixed Greens
Yield – about 1 Cup (Serves way more than 2)
- 1 Clove garlic – minced
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano – chopped
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme – Chopped
- 1 tsp. Dry Basil
- 1 tsp. Colemans Mustard Powder
- 2 Small Anchovy filets – minced
- ¼ tsp. Sea Salt
- ½ tsp. Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- Juice from half a lemon
- ¼ C. Red Wine Vinegar
- ¾ C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine the herbs, garlic, mustard, anchovies, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then add the lemon juice and vinegar. Using a small whisk or fork vigorously stir the mix while slowly streaming in the oil. (This is not an emulsified dressing but you do want to blend everything well.) Taste and adjust for salt and acid as needed by adding a pinch of salt or a dash of vinegar. Cover and refrigerate – best if made a few hours in advance. This will make enough dressing so that you have left-overs for a salad or two later in the week. I didn’t scale this down because making a smaller portion of it is a little awkward.