I have loved this salad since I was a 20-year-old college student traveling in the south of France, and looking for something I recognized and could afford and eat.
From the first time I discovered it in the south of France, Salade Nicoise has held favored-nation status in my world of salads.
My first encounter, as a 20-year-old college student traveling abroad, was an introduction met with sheer gratitude. I was a not-too-adventurous eater, trying to get by on a meager budget, and was thrilled to find something made of ingredients I actually recognized. Tuna, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, olives, onions, tomatoes. Not only things I knew, but things I loved. I think I lived on those salads during my stay in Nice.
Over the years, I’ve often sought out this favorite salad in restaurants, but I’ve also made it quite often, both on weeknights and when entertaining, or when asked to bring something to a party.
It appeals not only because it is so easy to assemble, but because, packed with protein and vegetables, it is a meal in itself.
But, in truth, it is also popular, because, at my house dinner is sometimes about what is in the kitchen.
I’m often trying to make good use of what is left in my crisper drawers or in my pantry. It’s always a bonus if you can put together something that satisfies.
As I scanned my pantry the other day, I came across a lovely jar of imported tuna. Close by were a few potatoes approaching the end of their shelf life. I had a shallot, some lettuce, and some olives in the fridge, and eggs that could be hard-boiled. And right there, a Salade Nicoise was born.
I had no tomatoes or green beans, so I made do without. But please do add them, if you’re shopping for ingredients, not only for the taste, but also for the spot of color they add to this perfectly composed salad.
Makes 4 servings
1 large head butter lettuce, or the equivalent of other mixed greens
2 potatoes, peeled, sliced thin
1/2 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
6 to 8 ounces of imported tuna (I like Ortiz), drained
15 to 20 grape tomatoes
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 can of anchovies, drained, optional
10 to 12 black olives (your choice, I love Nicoise)
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Wash and dry the lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces. (Make sure the lettuce is dry. I like to wash it and spin it in a salad spinner and let it finish air drying while I prepare the rest of the ingredients.)
2. Hard-boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 13 minutes. Next plunge the eggs into a bowl with ice water and let sit until you are ready to use.
3. Put potatoes in a pot with cold water, bring to a boil, and boil until potatoes are soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and put in cold water until ready to use.
4. Cook green beans in boiling water or steamer until cooked but still crisp, about 5 minutes.
5. Prepare other ingredients: (Drain tuna, wash tomatoes, slice the shallot; drain anchovies if using.)
6. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Place Dijon mustard into a measuring cup. Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Add the sugar and stir. Then, while continuing to stir (a fork works best here), slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until it emulsifies. Set aside.
7. Place the lettuce in a salad bowl. Peel and slice the eggs and add. Add the potatoes, green beans, tuna in chunks, tomatoes, shallot, anchovies (if using) and black olives.
8. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss and serve.
Per serving: 418 calories, 21 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams sugar, 23 grams fat, 200 milligrams cholesterol, 219 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber.