Thursday, July 23, 2015

Recipe: Salade Nicoise: The Best Summer Salad

     I hesitate calling this a Nicoise Salad because I am not true to the standard recipe.  However, I do think that it is in the "style of Nice" which is the meaning of the word, Nicoise.  This salad, as you may have figured out, originated in Nice, France.  It was designed to be a seasonal salad with ingredients fresh from the market or from a backyard garden.  Originally, the salad contained tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers, and green beans.  This was seasoned with a simple dressing of olive oil, basil, garlic, parsley and mustard and topped with canned tuna.  None of the vegetables were to be cooked and of course, the best beverage to serve was a simple, light wine from Provence.  It was the essence of the Mediterranean.

    I love the idea of this salad.  A large platter of summer vegetables lightly seasoned placed in the middle of a table invites a communal atmosphere.  In addition, my favorite summer wine is a Tavel so I will use any excuse to open a bottle.  Another benefit of this salad is that it can be made ahead of time and travels well (for picnics).  However, I am not a big fan of anchovies or olives and Dear Daughter is not a big fan of canned tuna.  So over the years, I have changed my "Salad Nicoise" to better accommodate our tastes and what we have available.  The beauty of this salad is that you can add just about anything that you want to add.
     My first change centers around the ingredients.  I use cherry tomatoes, green beans, and small red potatoes.  Sometimes, I may include thin slices of red onion.  Secondly, I blanche the green beans for just a few minutes and steam the potatoes.  Finally, instead of canned tuna, I grill marinated chicken breasts and salmon.  All of the work is done several hours ahead of time and I put everything in separate ziploc bags and chill in the refrigerator until just before serving.  To the bags of tomatoes, beans and potatoes, I add just a bit of the dressing to coat.  Then I take a large platter and place the potatoes in the center.  I arrange a mound of green beans on one side of the potatoes and then the tomatoes on the other side.  Next, comes the proteins...slices of grilled chicken and flaked salmon.  Finally (and I almost forgot), I add a ring of hardboiled potatoes that have been sliced in half.  I usually keep the dressing in a small container and let everyone use to their liking.  Alfresco dining is a must along with a baguette and a nice bottle of wine.  If you listen, I think you will hear the sea and drift off into parts unknown.

My Nicoise Salad

My Nicoise Salad


Small red potatoes, boiled and sliced in half
Hardboiled eggs, sliced in half
Green beans, blanched for several minutes and then plunged into ice water to stop the cooking
Cherry tomatoes
Sliced, grilled chicken breasts
Cedar planked grilled salmon, flaked

Adapted from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup Dijon mustard
3 cups olive oil and canola oil (half and half)
3 shallots
fresh herbs
salt and pepper

Blend everything together and adjust the flavor by adding more or less herbs.  The dressing should be think and pale green.  Goes will with marinated vegetables as well.

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