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 make 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:
distilled white vinegar
apple cider vinegar
lemon-pepper spice mix (see Recipe Note)
Freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad:
green beans or haricot verts
unsalted butter, melted, divided
3 (4.5-ounce) cans
tuna packed in olive oil, drained
large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
medium ripe tomatoes, quartered
Pitted Niçoise olives (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the oil, white vinegar, cider vinegar, Dijon, and garlic in a blender or small food processor and process until the dressing is thick and creamy (emulsified). Add the mustard, lemon-pepper seasoning, and a generous amount of salt and pepper and process briefly to combine. Taste and add more vinegar, lemon-pepper seasoning, and salt as needed.
This dressing will make more than you need for one salad; the remaining vinaigrette can be refrigerated up to 1 week.
Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover the potatoes by a few inches. Add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook and simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender and can easily be pierced with knife, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl 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. Drain and place in a medium bowl.
Cut the potatoes crosswise into thin rounds and return to the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine; set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the green beans, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Place the drained tuna in a medium bowl, add a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and toss to combine. Taste and add more vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Arrange the salad greens on a serving platter. Arrange the potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, tuna, and olives if using on the lettuce. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.
Lemon-pepper spice mix: This is a mix of lemon zest, black pepper, and salt, sometimes with dried garlic. You can find it in the spice section at most grocery stores, or just add these ingredients on their own, to taste.