Salade Niçoise, originated in the Côte d’Azur region of France along the Mediterranean; a land who’s good olives, plentiful seafood and sunny climate are well represented in this vibrant salad. Named after its city of origin, Nice (pronounced like niece), Salade Niçoise typically includes tuna, haricots vert, tomatoes, olives and eggs, but it’s another one of those dishes where depending on who you ask and what country you happen to be in, you’ll get a different list of ingredients every time. In the US, Niçoise Salad was popularized in the sixties by Julia Child, and it’s taken its place along with Cobb Salad in the American brunch landscape.
Today, I found myself sporting a serious hankering for salad, and given my proclivity for all things porcine, this struck me as a bit odd. But who am I to scoff at the salacious whims of my stomach? After all, isn’t it my stomach that also commands inspires me to cook things like this and this?
One of the things that usually turns me off salads is that I really hate devouring a whole plate of leafy greens, only to find myself hungry again in a few hours. This invariably leads to me stuffing my maw with something like twinkies or chicharrón which kind of defeats the whole purpose of consuming the rabbit food in the first place. Thankfully, Niçoise Salad is not only tasty, it’s full of protein, carbs, and dense veggies between all the leafy bits, keeping my stomach occupied until the next meal. It also hits just about every color of the rainbow, which means it covers a similarly broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
Personally, I like to have a little of everything on my fork, so the salad usually ends up as a colorful mess on my plate, but if you have some picky diners at the table, the structure of this salad makes it a lot easier to avoid certain things.
Don’t let the ingredient list for this Niçoise Salad intimidate you. There are a lot of repeated items many of which you probably already have in your pantry anyway. I like to dress and season each component separately, but if you’re really pressed for time, you could always toss everything in a giant bowl and dress them together to save some time. You can also prep most of the components in advance, giving you time to attend to more pressing matters the next time you host a Sunday brunch.
for master dressing
- 1/2 cups olive oil
- 1/4 cups champagne vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sweet mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1 tablespoon shallots (minced)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (less if you use regular salt)
- ground black pepper (to taste)
for roasted red pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- olive oil
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 medium yukon gold potatoes
- 3 tablespoons master dressing
- 1 tablespoon parsley (minced)
for haricots vert
- 1/2 pound haricots vert
- 2 tablespoons master dressing
- 2 small tomatoes (cut into wedges)
- 1/4 small red onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 tablespoons capers in brine (drained)
- olive oil
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 can Italian tuna
- 1 small head butter lettuce
- 1 cup Niçoise olives
- To make the dressing just whisk all the ingredients for the master dressing together. Other things will get added to this base as we season each item.
- For the roasted peppers, quarter and core the pepper then put it right under a broiler with the skin side up, until it is completely charred on that side (it's okay if there's a little red still showing). Transfer the peppers into a plastic bag and seal it. The steam helps loosen the skins and when the peppers have cooled, you should be able to remove the skin with no difficulty. Once you've peeled them, put them back in the bag and drizzle enough olive oil on them to coat, then toss them with the oregano salt and pepper. This can be made in advance
- For the potatoes, boil them in well salted water until you can just barely pass a fork through them (they should still be a little firm). Remove them from the water and allow them to cool enough to handle. Slice them into cubes then toss them with 3 Tbs of dressing and parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed and set aside. This can be made in advance
- For the haricots vert, return the potato water to a boil and add more salt (it should taste like the ocean). Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl with water and ice cubes. Add the haricots vert and boil until they're bright green and tender, but they still have a bit of crunch (a minute or two, longer if you're using older beans). Drain and put them into the ice bath to "shock" them, this should make them turn a very vibrant green color. You don't want to dress these too early since the vinegar will make them discolor. If you're doing this in advance, wrap them and refrigerate until you're ready to serve them.
- For the tomatoes, toss them with the onions and capers along with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
To assemble the salad, add the oregano and thyme to the master dressing and toss the whole lettuce leaves in enough dressing to coat each leaf. Lay them down on a serving platter then arrange the roasted peppers, potatoes, haricots vert, boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, tuna and anchovies around the plate.
Serve the Niçoise Salad with a crisp, dry white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.