On hot summer days, my dinner plans often revolve around salad. One of our favorites is Salade Nicoise. As its name suggests, this salad was created in Nice, France. Julia Child popularized the in the U.S. several decades ago and it is now popular in this country, especially in warmer months.
Like many dishes, there is no unanimity over what should be in Salade Nicoise and how it should be made. For example, some insist that the vegetables in the salad should never be cooked, but I often use parboiled vegetables. Typically Salade Niçoise is composed or arranged on a plate or in a bowl, rather than mixed, but again, there are tossed versions.
I never make Salade Niçoise exactly the same way twice. Except for the base of greens and three other essentials: boiled and chopped potato, hard boiled egg and canned tuna, what goes in it depends on what is on hand and my mood.
In this version, the green beans went from the vegetable bin to a starring role in the salad when I opened the refrigerator and realized that they should be used pronto. So much for planning ahead.
The proportions below will give you a few more beans than you will probably use for 2 servings of salad, but they are great for snacking on at other times and you can toss them with other vegetables later in a chopped salad or just on top of mixed greens. This salad is hearty enough for dinner, especially with a French bread and a glass of nice wine.
My canned tuna preference for this purpose is solid light packed in oil, but you can substitute another type. Albacore white, “plain” white or light, solid or chunk, all work well too. And although I like the flavor of tuna packed in oil, it does have more calories than tuna packed in water, so you might prefer the latter.
Servings – 2 Cost – $7
- 4 large handfuls of washed and dried greens (lettuce, spinach, and/or arugula). I prefer baby versions of those greens.)
- 2 medium red or Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 cups chopped fresh vegetables (e.g. cucumbers, peppers, carrots, cherry or grape tomatoes)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 heaping cups of fresh green beans (about 8 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon of mixed fresh herbs, minced (I used parsley, thyme, chives.)
- 1 tablespoon of minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil (The more oil you add, the less lemony and acidic the dressing will be. See tips for making vinaigrette dressing.)
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard (French-style, sharp mustard)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Cutting board
- Vegetable peeler – optional (depending on whether you peel potatoes, carrots, and/or cucumber)
- Small pot with lid
- Strainer or colander
- Bowl with ice cubes
- Large plate to hold cooked and cooled vegetables and eggs
- Small jar or other container with tight-fitting lid
- Paper or clean cloth towel
- Peel (if necessary) and chop the 2 cups of fresh vegetables – not including the string beans, and set aside.
- Mince the herbs and the shallot into tiny pieces and set aside for the dressing. I used shallot instead of garlic or a yellow onion because a shallot provides tang without sharpness. You can substitute either or those (or red onion or scallions) if you prefer.
- Pinch or cut off the tips of the string beans and set the beans aside.
- Peeling the potato skins is optional, and you can do it either by hand after they are cooked (as in potato salad) or with a vegetable peeler when they are raw as I did. In any event, cut the potatoes into large chunks and place them in the pot with enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil and cook the chunks just until they are tender when you pierce one with a fork – about 5 minutes. Pour them into the colander or strainer over the sink to drain out the water and cool them quickly by running cold water over the potatoes. Then set them in the bowl with ice to cool down further.
- Hard boil the eggs, cool them as you did with the potato chunks. If you will use them immediately, peel them and cut in halves. Tip: knocking the hard-boiled eggs together makes it easier to peel them. If you will make the salad more than an 1-2 hours later, refrigerate the cooled eggs and shell and halve them just before making the salad.
- Boil enough water to cover the green beans by about one inch. (I use the same pot for the potatoes, then for the eggs, and finally for the green beans. No sense washing multiple pots.) Add the green beans and cover, bringing the water back up to a boil as quickly as possible. Boil covered for approximately 3 minutes, just until the beans turn bright green. Using the same steps as for the potatoes and the eggs, drain them over the sink, cool them with cold running water, and leave them for a few minutes to cool further in the bowl with ice cubes. This technique is called blanching, and it results in green beans that are still crunchy and are more vibrant in color and taste than those used raw.
- Put the lemon juice, oil, herbs, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard in the jar or small container, close the lid tightly and shake vigorously to combine those ingredients.
- Throw away the ice cubes cooling the green beans, tip the bowl to drain off any remaining water and lightly dry the green beans with the paper or cloth towel. Pour the dressing over them and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes. (If you are making the salad 1-2 hours later, refrigerate them with the dressing.)
- To make the salad, put the greens on the bottom of the bowl or plate, add the chopped vegetables, and arrange the potato chunks and hard-boiled egg halves on the sides. Open the can of tuna and drain off the oil or water. Divide the tuna between the two salads, in the center of the salads. Finally, add cooled beans and their dressing on top.