Classic Niçoise salad – a little piece of the south of France on a plate
We were in Paris last September and Im truly missing it and Europe on the whole! I wish I could visit every year but that’s not possible so the best way to get my fix is to bring Europe to me by making and enjoying some of the fabulous dishes we enjoyed over seas and bringing them right to our dinner table.
What is a Niçoise salad? Well it’s said to be the finest summer salad of all time and I couldn’t agree more. It originated in the South of France but you can pretty much order a Niçoise salad wherever you go. It’s popular worldwide. There are so many interpretations of even a classic Niçoise salad but there are still some key ingredients that go into one and even with those there is some flexibility.
The basic components of a Niçoise salad are Niçoise olives which I learned are not really a variety of olives but instead a style of prepared olives. They come from a tree called Cailletier which is grown in the south of France. The olives are darker in colour, brownish-black to be more accurate, with a large pit and are cured in brine and packed in olive oil. This is one part of the salad as I mentioned earlier that allows for some variations. I did not have Niçoise olives so I used whatever I had and that is ok. At least it is by me anyways!
Now that we have the olives out of the way, the other components include some sort of fresh greens, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, green beans, good grade canned tuna packet in oil, chopped tomatoes and a few anchovies and a nice dressing.
I like to steam my beans and potatoes and I like to add some lentils and some crunchy veggies like cucumbers and radishes which also add some beautiful colour. I like to also add some marinated onions which thanks to Teri from @nocrumbsleft I now make all the time, and I also like to add something pickled or oil packed like artichokes or like I did in this one, roasted red peppers that were in brine. That’s pretty much it. It sounds like it would take a lot to prepare but once you know what you would like to add to it, the rest is easy. There’s a lot of room to improvise so add in some more veggies or even throw in some shrimp or smoked salmon. Make the salad your own.
The dressing varies as well from just olive oil and salt and pepper to a full blown vinaigrette which I insist on with some herbs added to it. I also like to add the anchovies to the dressing instead of the platter, but adding them at all is optional. You can toss all the ingredients like you would a regular tossed salad but classically I would say that is not how it was intended to be eaten. All the ingredients are usually spread on a large plate or platter and before plating all the ingredients they are tossed with the dressing individually to ensure all the components get treated with the yummy dressing.
One great thing about this salad is that you can make or prep most of it in advance. This is great if your planning a dinner party or having people over for lunch. You can prep things like the vinaigrette and precook the potatoes, eggs and green beans in advance and have it already to toss and arrange before serving. Simple and sophisticated is how it looks and it’s absolutely delicious! Great with some crusty baguette or bread of your choice and a crisp chilled wine. Rosé would be nice but I opted for a white this time. Here’s how to prep it!
Serves at least two or more
2-3 boiled eggs (place eggs in small pot covered with water, bring to boil and then turn off the heat and cover for 8-10 minutes, drain and then rinse with cold water and soak in cold water until ready to peel)
½ cup of cooked lentils (simmered in salted water with a clove of garlic and some thyme until they are tender and then remove seasonings and drain excess water) — can used canned as well just rinse and drain
½ lb. of new or fingerling potatoes washed and steamed until tender but not mushy
1 cup of green beans steamed until bright green and tender crisp (then put in an ice bath to keep them tender crisp)
1 can of tuna packed in oil or water, drained
1 cup baby tomatoes sliced in half or regular tomatoes chopped in quarters
A few forkfuls of marinated red onions (a red onion sliced thinly and packed in olive oil with lots of salt pepper and oregano — let it marinate for an hour and will last covered and unrefrigerated for up to two days) optional
½ cup sliced roasted red peppers packed in oil or brine or you can roast them yourself too and then peel
1 cucumber washed and sliced
1½ cups of greens of your choice (I used watercress but mixed greens or arugula would work nicely too)
4 radishes washed and sliced finely
½ cup of olives Niçoise or a variety of them
For the dressing
½ cup olive oil
1-2 anchovies packed in oil mashed (optional)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1-2 tbsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of Dijon mustard or grainy mustard
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey (optional)
1 clove of garlic grated
2 tsp of finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions and assembly
For the dressing combine all the ingredients in a jar and store in the fridge until you need it.
Before plating all the items on a platter individually toss each part of the salad with a couple tsps of the dressing and then plate the items, and that way everything is well coated. You can keep the rest of the dressing on the side and drizzle more on as needed.