I eat a lot of salad year-round, but admittedly do eat much more of it during the summer when our gardens and farms are ripe with crisp, bright green lettuces and beans, when tomatoes are so ripe they’re sweet as can be. Toss in some farm-fresh eggs and our summer salads are completely unrivaled, unparalleled. Originally, the Niçoise calls for canned tuna, but you’ll see it with fresh salmon or tuna instead. I happen to love all three versions. Add a crusty baguette and perhaps even a nice hunk of cheese and you have a perfect summer meal.
The Salade Niçoise (pronounced Neese- wahz) hails from the town of Nice in the South of France (pronounced Neese). The above picture created for me by my friend Patricia Van Esche years ago inspired this post.
To create the perfect, original, salad Niçoise, you must do as they do in France. It's imperative that you use a high quality tuna packed in oil, not in water. Please do not even attempt to try this with Bumble Bee or Starkist…. Please don’t! Opt for a high quality tuna packed in oil. You can serve the salad on top of a bed of Boston or Bib type lettuce, serve it with all the ingredients tossed together or, for groups, you can arrange the ingredients on a platter and have everyone serve themselves family style.
FOR THE DRESSING:
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar (I add even more)
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
A traditional Niçoise dressing is very basic. There are many variations now and some like to add shallots or garlic or anchovy paste to the dressing. I tend to stick with the basics. Though sometimes I will infuse a clove of garlic or two for a couple of days. This dressing goes with everything so we make it in large batches and it's ready to use on any salad.
FOR THE SALAD:
1 lb. small new potatoes, boiled until tender
8 oz. haricot verts, blanched
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved (any in season tomato will do - we like to use heirloom tomatoes when available.)
½ cup black Niçoise olives (If you can't find Niçoise olives, Kalamata will do perfectly.)
8 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed and drained
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
3 (4-oz.) cans high-quality oil-packed tuna, drained. (Again, please no Bumblebee or Chicken of the Sea!)
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
As mentioned above, fresh tuna or salmon can be substituted, but canned is the most authentic.
You may add or omit the lettuce - the choice is yours. If using lettuce choose a soft variety like a bibb, butterhead or Boston.