Sometimes in the rush of life, there is nothing better than an old standby to help nourish your soul. The very classic Salad Niçoise does exactly that for me. In the midst of trying out new recipes on a daily basis, this meal is like an old familiar friend — one I can always count on. May it continue to live on in the kitchen!
As a recipe developer, I maintain a fairly abnormal eating schedule. Rarely do I enjoy the "standard" three square meals plus a snack. A typical day for me might include breakfast for dinner, dessert for lunch, and sometimes even cocktails for breakfast. It only makes sense that after a particularly bizarre week I tend to crave one of a few constant staples to pull me back in line. The Salad Niçoise (minus the olives! I hate olives!) is one of those non-recipes that never fails to make me feel at ease.
There's really not much to know about Salad Niçoise, other than how good it is. The traditional French recipe includes lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, tuna, anchovies, olives, and eggs, but these days you might find bell peppers, radishes, corn, artichokes, and onions. The sky is the limit! Personally I prefer the original. I love how classic and elegant all of the ingredients look when composed on the plate, making even the quickest of weeknight dinners seem like an elegant affair.
This recipe is really just a jumping off point, but I highly recommend two things: use good-quality tuna packed in olive oil and this French vinaigrette. I've been dabbling with the ingredients and quantities in this vinaigrette for ages in an attempt to match a hard-to-come-by bottle of dressing from a village in Massachusetts. I think I finally found their secret — lemon-pepper spice mix — and it's just the boost I was looking for!
I'm definitely not reinventing the wheel here. Just reminding you guys to not forget about the favorites... What about you? What are your old standbys?
For the French vinaigrette:
1 cup canola oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper spice mix (see Recipe Note)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 pound fingerling potatoes
8 ounces green beans or haricot verts
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (melted or at room temperature)
3 (4 1/2 ounce) cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained
4 large hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
Niçoise olives (optional)
3 cups salad greens
For the dressing, combine the oil, vinegars, Dijon, and garlic in a blender or small food processor and blend until the dressing is thick and creamy (emulsified). Whisk in mustard powder, lemon pepper seasoning, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust vinegar, lemon pepper seasoning, and salt to taste.
For the salad, place potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with a few inches of water. Add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender and can easily be pierced with knife, about 10 minutes. Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Return the water to a boil and add the green beans. Cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beans with a slotted spoon (or drain through a colander) and set aside.
Slice the fingerling potatoes crosswise into thin discs, toss with 2 tablespoons of butter, and season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, toss the green beans with remaining tablespoon of butter and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, stir a few tablespoons vinaigrette into the tuna. Taste and add more until desired flavor is reached. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread lettuce onto a serving platter. Arrange potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, tuna, and olives over lettuce. Serve with remaining dressing on the side.
- Lemon-pepper spice mix can be found in the spice section at the grocery store.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)