Ooh La La, It’s Nicoise Salad Day!

Ooh La La, It’s Nicoise Salad Day!

When The Artist was young, he and his mother used to drive into San Francisco for special mom and son days. They would have “drinks” at the Hyatt Regency while listening to the orchestra playing, they went out to Lands End to watch the sunset, and they ate Niçoise salads together. He still loves Niçoise salad and usually orders it when he sees it on the menu. It always brings back fond memories for him.

Niçoise (nee-swahz) is a term used for dishes served with foods used by the chefs in Nice, France. The most often utilized ingredients are garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers, and lemon juice. Niçoise salad is usually made with potatoes, olives, and green beans tossed in a vinaigrette dressing. There is some debate about how to plate the salad, with some using a bed of lettuce to hold the other ingredients, others use a sliced tomato as the base, and still others toss everything together. Use whichever method works best for you!

Somewhere along the line tuna became a standard ingredient. This was originally canned tuna, usually dry and unappealing. If you can find it, tuna canned in oil, especially if it is imported from Italy, is a much better option. With the growing popularity of sushi around the globe and people’s diminishing aversion to eating raw fish, lightly seared tuna steaks are now becoming the norm much to my husband’s delight. If you are a vegan, you can leave out the fish and eggs.

Ingredients

  • When The Artist was young, he and his mother used to drive into San Francisco for special mom and son days. They would have “drinks” at the Hyatt Regency while listening to the orchestra playing, they went out to Lands End to watch the sunset, and they ate Niçoise salads together. He still loves Niçoise salad and usually orders it when he sees it on the menu. It always brings back fond memories for him.
  • Bunch of Watercress
  • Back in the dark ages of food appreciation in this country, Julia Child shined a light on the beauty of cooking with fresh ingredients using techniques she learned at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. Her favorite main course salad was Niçoise. She loved the contrast of the halved hard-boiled eggs, ripe red tomatoes, and black olives. She gives detailed directions on how to lay out the ingredients so that your presentation is just like you would see in a restaurant.
  • Today’s second version comes from Ina Garten, one of the most popular hosts on the Food Network and an amazing cook. She has a way of breaking every recipe down so that nothing is complicated or beyond our capabilities. When planning a luncheon for a baby shower, she chose to make her Niçoise with roasted salmon in place of the tuna. I love the beautiful pink salmon, tender and moist.
  • A staple of Mediterranean cuisines, olives grow profusely in the region, creating a distinct look to the landscape. One of the most common and a major component of today’s salads are Niçoise olives. They are small, purplish-black, with a distinctive sour flavor. They are close to Kalamata olives in taste and texture. Green olives are picked while unripe which makes them denser and more bitter than brown or black olives. Those stay on the tree until fully ripened and are then cured in brine.
  • The “Mediterranean” diet has historically been an extremely healthy way to eat. Full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and olive oil, it provides a substantial amount of healthy Omega-3 fats. These help protect our brain, reducing strokes, prolonging our vitality and cognitive function, as well as helping reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Including more of these foods in our everyday menus is a smart and healthy move. If you would like more information, The Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA) is a great source.
  • During the summer when you are looking for cool dinner options, if you are hosting a ladies luncheon, or just want a healthier alternative to burgers and fries, either of these salads are a terrific choice. Enjoy!
  • Gluten-Free Tips:
  • While this salad appears to be naturally gluten-free, and for the most part it is, there are several components that might contain gluten if you are using store-bought ingredients. The packed tuna, anchovies, olives, and capers, for example, may be processed in a facility that also processes gluten-containing products. Always carefully read the labels.
  • Kitchen Skill: How to make Perfectly Hard Cooked Eggs
  • Place a single layer of large eggs in a large saucepan. Cover with enough cool tap water to cover by at least one inch and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to just below boiling over high heat. The water will be steaming and small bubbles will regularly break the surface.
  • Remove pan from burner and keep the eggs in the hot water for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • When time is up, place them in a bowl of ice water until completely cooled. Store hard-cooked eggs unpeeled in the refrigerator and eat them within one week.
  • For the easiest peeling, roll the eggs on the counter under the palm of your hand, cracking them all over. Place them back in the bowl of water and let sit for about 10 minutes. The water will work its way between the shell and egg, loosening it and making it easy to peel.
  • Salade Niçoise
  • From Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child
  • Yield: Serves 6
  • INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large head Boston-lettuce leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 lb green beans, cooked and refreshed
  • 1-1/2 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup basic vinaigrette
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 or 4 ripe red tomatoes, cut into wedges (or 10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved)
  • 3 or 4 “boiling” potatoes, peeled, sliced, and cooked
  • 2 (3 oz) cans chunk tuna, preferably oil-packed
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
  • 1 freshly opened can of flat anchovy fillets
  • 1/3 cup small black Niçoise-type olives
  • 2 to 3 tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
Read the whole recipe on The Heritage Cook