Salade Nicoise exemplifies late summer. The perfect salad while our gardens and farmers’ markets overflow with an abundance of late summer produce. A beautifully composed Salade Nicoise creates a sumptuous collage. There are gold potatoes, ripe, red tomatoes, crisp green beans, fragrant green basil, chives and parsley. And all interspersed with white eggs and black olives.
Honestly I can’t remember where I first learned to make Salade Nicoise (nee-SWAHZ). Though, for sure, Julia Child taught me to make French Potato Salad in Volume One Of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not my mother’s potato salad, which I loved. But the kind of potato salad made with fresh herbs and an oil and vinegar dressing instead of mayonnaise. However/wherever I learned of it, with a few adjustments I’ve been preparing, serving and enjoying Salade Nicoise most every year since the early 70’s.
The word “Nicoise” refers to the foods found in and around the French Riviera city of Nice. Typical ingredients for all dishes “Nicoise” include tomatoes, black olives, garlic and anchovies. Julia Child’s Nicoise Salade added the French Potato Salad. Mine leaves out the anchovies and often replaces the usual canned or fresh tuna with wild salmon.
Easy to follow recipe
Although there are a number of steps, the recipe is easy to follow and not at all complicated. Use the freshest of summer vegetables and all will be well. I prepared Salade Nicoise for a Labor Day dinner with Lemon-Cured Salmon. The tomatoes, lettuce and herbs came from our garden. The beans, potatoes and eggs raised by local farmers . . . and the salmon harvested in Alaska.
Mashed potatoes for dinner
Attempting to get a head start, I began making the potato salad a day and a half in advance. I purchased beautiful red, gold and purple potatoes at the farmers’ market. Thoughts of having the best and most colorful potato salad passed through my mind.
I checked the simmering potatoes and found them needing another few minutes. When I came back the potato skins had exploded and the potatoes were falling apart in the pan. Needless to say, we had lots of mashed potatoes for dinner that night. And I was only somewhat comforted by this traditional “comfort food.”
Fortunately I had enough Yukon golds left to try again Labor Day morning. This time I never let the potatoes out of my sight. From this photo, you can see they were cooked just right.
Through summer’s end the days are still warm and the evenings pleasantly cool. Imagine yourself on the French Riviera or the coast of Southern California as you dine outside enjoying a plate of Salad Nicoise.
Greatly inspired by and adapted from Julia Child’s recipe in
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1
Salade Nicoise is known as a “composed salad.” Composed means to “artfully arrange” the ingredients versus tossing them all together. Compose Salade Nicoise on a single large platter or on individual plates.
Makes 6-8 servings
Active time: 65 minutes + 30 minutes for preparing the salmon
Total time: 25 hours for the salmon to cure
2 pounds wild salmon for Lemon-Cured Salmon
1 recipe French Potato Salad (recipe below)
1 large head soft lettuce such as Butter Lettuce, washed and dried
1 ½ cups Salade Nicoise Vinaigrette dressing (recipe below)
1 ½ pounds green (and yellow) beans
3-4 hard-boiled eggs
1 ½-2 pounds tomatoes
½ cup Nicoise olives or salt-cured olives
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Begin to prepare the salmon 25 hours in advance. Then sauté it when you’re ready to assemble the salad. Prepare the French Potato Salad a couple of hours in advance. For the best flavor serve it at room temperature. Prepare the vinaigrette dressing in advance so you’ll have it for the potato salad. Add the herbs just before using the dressing.
Cook the green beans in lightly salted boiling water 4-5 minutes till just tender. Immediately refresh them in ice water to stop the cooking and set their color.
Hard-boil the eggs
Place the eggs in a pot. Cover them with lightly salted water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit 10 minutes. Drain the water and replace with ice water to quickly cool the eggs. Peel the eggs and quarter them lengthwise.
Cut large tomatoes into wedges, cherry tomatoes in half.
Assemble the salad
This can be done on individual plates or on one large platter.
- Just before serving, separately toss the beans and the tomatoes each in about ¼ cup of the herbed vinaigrette dressing.
- Sauté the salmon filets.
- Cut the lettuce into large pieces and toss with a couple of tablespoons of the dressing.
- Line the bottom of the platter with the dressed lettuce.
- Leave the very center of the lettuce free. Arrange two sections of the beans, tomatoes, potato salad and egg wedges on top of the lettuce.
- Place the salmon filets in the center.
- Intersperse the olives; sprinkle with capers.
- Spoon additional dressing over the salmon and serve.
Salade Nicoise Vinaigrette Dressing with Fresh Herbs
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon seasoned, lite rice vinegar (or use all wine vinegar)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons coarse mustard
Scant ½ teaspoon coarse salt
Dozen twists freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Extra-virgin Olive Oil
½ cup mixed, finely chopped fresh parsley, chives, basil
Combine the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Continue whisking till the dressing has emulsified and thickened. Just before using, stir in the fresh herbs.
French Potato Salad
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
¼ cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot or green onions
½ cup Salade Nicoise Vinaigrette dressing
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Put the vegetable stock and the shallots in a mixing bowl. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove their skins. Slice the potatoes about ¼-inch thick and stir them into the stock.
Gently stir in the dressing. If you are using green onions, stir them along with the chopped parsley into the potato salad once the potatoes are cool.
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