Niçoise Salad is a perfect, show-stopping salad for your next summer get together. It's easy, delicious, refreshing, and most of all stunningly beautiful! You can prepare all the components ahead of time to make it a cinch to put together before your guests arrive.
Niçoise Salad is essentially the French version of a Cobb Salad. It originated in Nice on the Medeterranian Sea. There are countless versions of this salad even in France so you really can mix up the components to include your favourites or what's best in season. Classically the salad contains tomatoes, eggs, green beans, potatoes, olives and anchovies. I have included a few extra things.
Since this salad originated in Nice the olives of choice are Niçoise, of course. If you have trouble finding them just substitute with any of your favourites. I used good quality Greek Kalamatas and some soft and sweet Italian Castelvetranos.
Then there's the tuna. I prefer to use top quality jarred or canned tuna packed in olive oil. The best are imported from Spain or Italy. Be sure to buy tuna packed in olive oil for this salad. Packed in water will just be dry and yuck. Just don't do it. If you really want to kick this salad up a notch feel free to pan sear or grill a fresh tuna steak and slice thinly.
In the photo above I've included 2 examples of good tuna that are fairly easy to find. The anchovies are for the vinaigrette (more on that later) and large, juicy capers.
potatoes & green beans
The potatoes are boiled with a few aromatics such as rosemary, onion, whole peppercorns and a whack of salt. This infuses them with some extra flavour. Once the potatoes are cooked they go directly into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Remove the potatoes from the boiling water with a slotted spoon so you can use the same water to blanch the beans.
The beans get a flash blanch to take the raw-ness out but still leaving a nice crunch. Drain and add to an ice water bath to stop the cooking and maintain a vibrant green colour. You can add them in with the potatoes but you may need to add some extra ice to make sure it's nice and cold.
Let's talk about eggs for a minute. I love eggs. In fact, I would call myself an eggoholic. I eat them almost every day and have tried every "hack" out there to make easily peeled boiled eggs. So trust me when I say that this is the best way to do it. You take cold eggs and put them directly into one inch of boiling water so they steam rather than boil. Steam for the desired doneness. Remove from water and put directly into a very cold water bath. The coldest tap water works just fine. The drastic change in temperature both at the beginning and the end is what separates the membrane from the shell. This makes them easier to peel. I cooked mine for 7 minutes. If you prefer a firmer yolk you can add 1-2 minutes.
This vinaigrette is a twist on traditional. Honestly, when it comes to Niçoise Salad there are as many variations of the vinaigrette as there are with the salad itself. For me the most important thing is that it's "punchy". I like to achieve this by adding anchovy fillets. Traditionally a Niçoise Salad has whole or chopped anchovy fillets as one of the salad components. Personally, I'm not a fan of biting into a chunk of anchovy so instead I put them in the vinaigrette. If the thought of anchovies makes you squeemish you can leave them out but trust me they really take this vinaigrette to new heights. It doesn't taste fishy I promise. Whole fillets in olive oil are best. The flavour is more mild and subtle. Just mash them up with a fork or chop fine before adding into the other ingredients.
I mix everything together and store in a mason jar. When you add fresh herbs, shallots, anchovies etc. to a vinaigrette you should store it in the fridge. It will keep for a month so make some extra! Run the jar under hot tap water to bring it back to room temperature before using.
PRO TIPS FOR BEST RESULTS
- Gather the freshest produce you can find. Don't be afraid to steer from the traditional vegetables if you feel like something different. For example asparagus would be a lovely substitute for the beans
- Use Niçoise olives if you can find them or substitute Kalamata olives or any of your favourite quality varieties.
- Use good quality tuna packed in olive oil. The best ones come from Spain or Italy. Fillets in a jar are nicer for presentation but canned works just fine too.
- Include some aromatics to your potato water to infuse some extra flavour.
- Blanch the beans in the same water you used for the potatoes.
- Use oil packed anchovy fillets to punch up your vinaigrette. Don't be afraid to add any and all the fresh herbs!
- Store your vinaigrette in a mason jar so you can just shake it up before you pour it over your lovely salad. Make extra and store it in the fridge for up to a month. It's delicious on any salad or grilled vegetables.
- Line your serving plate or platter with fresh salad greens.
For the salad
- 12 new "baby" potatoes washed
- 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1/4 of an onion
- 15 whole peppercorns
- 1 tbsp salt heaping
- 200 g French green beans haricots verts
- 3-4 eggs
- 1 jar tuna, packed in olive oil, drained
- 12 small tomatoes cut in half
- 8 radishes washed and cut in half or quarters
- 12-15 sugar snap peas rinsed
- 1/4 cup large capers
- 1 cup good quality olives
- 8 balls mini Boconcini cheese
- enough salad greens of your choice to cover your serving platter. washed and dried if necessary
For the vinaigrette
- 2 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil, drained and mashed with a fork
- 1 small shallot minced
- 1-2 tsp. each of fresh parsley, dill and basil finely chopped
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE POTATOES: Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Add the onion, salt, peppercorns and rosemary sprigs. Bring to a boil and let simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until when pierced with a sharp, small knife it slips out easily. You can also test for doneness by removing a potato and cutting it in half to check. Prepare the ice bath (cold water and ice). When the potatoes are done remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place directly into ice bath. Let cool completely, remove from water and dry. Set aside.
- FOR THE BEANS: Bring the potato water back up to a boil. Add the beans and blanch for 1 minute only. Drain and add to ice bath with potatoes. Add more ice if necessary to keep it cold. Let cool, drain and dry. Set aside.
- EGGS: In a medium pot bring enough water to a boil to cover eggs but don't add the eggs yet. When water is boiling gently submerge cold eggs into pot with a spoon. Turn down the heat so the water is simmering and let eggs cook for 7-9 minutes depending on how well done you like your yolks. Drain and place directly into a bowl with coldest tap water and let cool completely. At least 15 minutes. Crack the shells on the counter top and peel. Rinse, dry. Cut in half if using in the same day but leave whole if storing overnight. Set aside.
- Prepare all of the other ingredients as instructed in the ingredient list. Everything can be kept covered, separately, in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
- In a bowl whisk together the chopped anchovies, shallot and herbs with all the other ingredients. You can do this in a mason jar or any other jar and just shake it up instead of whisking.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD
- On a platter, large enough to hold all your goodies, arrange the salad greens in one layer or more as per your preference.
- Here's your turn to get creative! Gather all your prepped ingredients. Use my photo for reference of how to arrange everything or get your artistic juices flowing and do your own thing. At this point the salad can be covered and kept in the fridge for several hours.
- When ready to serve, drizzle vinaigrette over the salad. Serve extra vinaigrette on the side for everyone to add as much as they like.