In France and the US there are hundreds of variations of the niçoise salad that depart from the traditional preparation, some with successful and some with not-so-successful results (I've had more of the latter unfortunately). But like I said, you can do what you want with this salad, adding, omitting or swapping ingredients to your palette's content.
So how do you ensure you get a kick-ass salad? With regards to the protein, I add anchovies and tuna to the salad. If you don't like anchovies, uh… I don't even know what to say. They're incredible. Start learning to love them. As for the tuna, get good quality tuna, like albacore that is packed in olive oil. Even if you're concerned with fat content, don't get tuna packed in water. It's a salad for gods sake! As for the produce, be sure to get it fresh and be meticulous in preparing it. You can read my rantings and ravings below with regards to prepping them.
- 1 head of lettuce, chopped, rinsed and dried (Boston, Bibb, whatever pleases you)
- 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 5-7 small potatoes (red, fingerling, again whatever pleases you)
- 1/2 lb of haricot verts (French green beans)
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
- 10 anchovy fillets, drained
- 2 cans of good tuna packed in olive oil, such as albacore, drained
- 1/3 cup of Niçoise olives
- juice of one lemon
- 1/2 cup of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon of dijon mustard
- 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon of minced fresh herbs, such as tarragon, basil, chives, parsley (optional)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
The Green Beans: Haricot verts are thinner, smaller green beans and I prefer them with this salad, but you can use whatever is available.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with cold water and ice on the side. Dump your green beans into the pot and cook for about 6-7 minutes. Quickly drain your green beans and shock them in the bowl of cold water. This stops the cooking, leaving a bright green hue and crisp texture.
Fill a medium sized pot with water and put in your potatoes. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the potatoes until they are done (approximately 10-15 minutes, although this will vary depending on the size of them). You can tell they are done when you can stick a knife in one and it easily comes out. When they've cooled enough to handle, cut them into wedges and toss them in a couple spoonfuls of the salad dressing. Potatoes absorb flavor when they are warm.
The Eggs: I love eggs. So when I see overcooked hard-boiled eggs with chalky yolks and rubbery whites, I just think what a shame. Just keep an eye on the time and you'll end up with perfect eggs!
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Carefully, slide in your eggs (being careful not to crack them). Turn the heat down and gently simmer them for 9 minutes. Take the eggs out and put them in a bowl of cold water. When they've completely cooled, peel them and cut them in half lengthwise. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them.
Put all the ingredients into a jar with a lid or any tightly-sealed container. Put the lid on and shake all the ingredients vigorously, et voilà! Taste the dressing to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
Now assemble all your ingredients. Toss with the dressing and enjoy with a glass of chilled rosé!