Simple Salade Niçoise
I think summer salads should be a showcase of summer produce, easy to prepare, and fun to eat when it’s hot out. To that end I’ve simplified the cooking process, using only one pot and salting the water heavily to season the vegetables (you can even use ocean water if the sea near you is clean), and using spices to reduce the number of fresh ingredients you need on hand.
I include cooked ingredients, which I find delicious, much as they might offend some traditionalist residents of Nice. Most of the preparation can be done the night before, so it’s perfect for summer parties. And serving it as a composed salad allows everyone to take what they like and season it to their taste.
Simple Salade Niçoise
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp vinegar (wine or cider both work)
3 quarts water
2/3 cup salt
1 Tbsp Sel d’Antibes
1 1/2 - 2 pounds of red skin or yellow potatoes, whole if small, quartered if large
6 - 8 eggs
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups (2-3 whole) Persian cucumbers, sliced thin on the bias
1 cup onion slices (red, Vidalia, or both)
1 cup olives (if you prefer pitted try Taggiasca from next door in Liguria, it's the same olive varietal as in Nice, where they are generally kept whole and called Calletier)
One large can of olive oil canned tuna
Optional additions (as you like): capers, sliced radishes, pickled peppers, anchovy fillets, scallions, fresh lemon
Blend dressing ingredients together until well incorporated, set aside. The olive oil from the tuna has great flavor so add it in if you like.
Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add salt and Sel d’ Antibes. To make it even simpler, add a frying basket to the pot so you can remove everything easily. Add the potatoes and boil for 8 minutes, add the eggs and boil for 5 minutes more, finally add the beans and boil until tender (3-5 minutes depending on size). Remove all items from the pot to a bowl of cool running water to chill.
Peel the eggs and quarter them (putting a bit of olive oil on the knife will help keep the yolk from sticking to the knife and tearing).
Plate the salad, sprinkling the eggs with Espelette if you like. Goes great with a mineral-rich Rosé wine.
Variations & Ideas
- Add 2 parts fresh water to 1 part of the used cooking water and use to boil fusilli. Chop the salad ingredients roughly and add some Japanese mayonnaise to the dressing. Mix everything together for a fun twist on pasta salad.
- If you're dead set against canned tuna you can make the salad with fresh tuna. Try seasoning the block of tuna with either Salvador N19 or Yagenbori to add flavor, cook over high heat tataki-style, slice thinly, and add some strips of blanched sweet pepper to the salad to add sweetness.
Use the model as a starting point for salad in any season:
- Fall - boil kabocha cubes, eggs, and shaved fennel with Borneo N26, serve with sliced fresh pear and radishes, pickled raisins, feta cubes and/or smoked oysters, with a sumac and paprika dressing made with sherry vinegar
- Winter - boil baby sweet potatoes and baby beets with Cancale N11, then drop the temperature and poach some salmon fillets, serve warm with pickled green beans, cornichon and pearl onions, lemon juice and Lula N41 dressing and fresh citrus supremes
- Spring - boil new potatoes, eggs, and asparagus with Galil N13, serve with pickled artichoke hearts, sliced spring onions, garlic misozuke, smoked trout, and a fresh herb (sorel, chervil, etc.) dressing with Breeze N5
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