Top | Susan Troccolo
(recipe, Susan Troccolo)
On a summer’s evening, there's nothing better than a cold salad for dinner.
Originating in the Mediterranean French city of Nice, salade Niçoise falls into the category of composed salads. In other words, you arrange the ingredients on the plate in the way you want and in the quantities you want. It's not all tossed together, as a mixed salad would be.
Salade Niçoise is open to interpretation — there's another version on Culinate, in fact — and that's part of what makes it so easy and fun to do. Some cooks prefer to update the classic salad with grilled fresh tuna cut into chunks. I prefer to use the best can of oil-packed tuna available, something I always keep on hand.
Here in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I buy high-quality albacore tuna, troll-caught locally. There's something very satisfying about ordering a case of tuna from the fisherman who's bringing the tuna to market. My favorite suppliers are Island Trollers, Inc., out of Whidbey Island, Washington, and Josephson’s, out of Astoria, Oregon.
In any case, never discard the albacore’s natural juices, which are rich in omega-3 oils.
- ¾ lb. haricots verts or other small green beans
- 1 lb. small new potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
- ½ to ⅔ cup basic vinaigrette
- 4 large eggs, hardboiled, peeled, and halved
- 1 head butter lettuce or red lettuce, washed and dried
- 1 to 1½ cans oil-packed tuna
- ½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion, sliced paper-thin and separated into rings
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes (I like Sungold)
- ½ lb. Niçoise-style olives
- 6 whole anchovy fillets (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed
- Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Crusty baguette, for serving
- Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil in a steamer and steam the beans until just tender. Do not overcook. Set aside and let cool on a wire rack.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the scrubbed new potatoes. (Some people like to cut them in half, but I prefer to select smaller potatoes and keep them whole.) Cook until tender, which usually takes about 15 minutes. Drain and place them back in the warm pot. While the potatoes are still very warm, add about ⅓ of the vinaigrette, toss gently, and set aside.
- Arrange the lettuce on the plate. Just before serving, toss the prepared beans with the fennel slices, some of the vinaigrette, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a few more spoonfuls of vinaigrette to the tomatoes. Break the tuna into bite-sized chunks, keeping the oil on the tuna.
- On the beds of lettuce, arrange your colorful ingredients: mounds of warm potatoes, chunks of tuna, piles of tomatoes, olives, beans, and fennel. Put the sliced hard-boiled eggs in a ring around the plate. Decorate the top of your salad with the anchovy fillets and rings of red onion, spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the salad, and scatter the capers over it all. Garnish with several sprigs of flat-leaf parsley.
- Serve with a loaf of crusty French bread and your favorite wine.