Summer has arrived in London! Shh, don’t say it too loudly – or it might go away again.
Seriously, 2 days ago I was in a little village outside of London and it was so cold that evening that I could see my breath! I am not joking. And it’s mid-July!
So imagine my absolutely joy when I woke up this morning to bright sunshine and low 80s temps!!
Finally an excuse to dig out my summer clothes! Reveal my pasty-white (erm, English Rose complexion) legs! And forget a hot breakfast – this nice warm weather calls for a delicious, cooling smoothie. (A green smoothie actually … but that’s for another post soon…)
And, a quick stop at the grocery store to get ingredients for my very favorite warm-weather lunch: a salade nicoise.
Like being in a sidewalk cafe on the Riveria… kind of.
At least, that’s what the name implies. Literally, it means salad from Nice. (Nice, like the town on the French Riveria… not ‘nice’, like ‘oh, that’s a nice salad’)
I have had Nicoise salads in the South of France, but really, the are served across the country. It’s kind of like getting Texas BBQ in New Hampshire… the dish isn’t native to that region, but we embrace it and try to recreate it (with mixed results!)
While I was living in Paris, I often got intense cravings for salads. (Don’t worry, I got intense cravings for ice cream, pastries, wine and chocolate too!) One great thing about eating in the USA is that you can almost always find a massive salad, filling enough to make a meal. I hesitate to say anything negative about French food because I absolutely love it… but it’s true that in France, salad tends to be a starter or a side dish. And as a homesick American, sometimes you just want a big, huge bowl of salad!
Around the corner from our office in the 1ere arrondissment was restaurant Le Moliere, which is one of the few restaurants that had a separate salad menu. And these were big, proper bowls of salad, covered with lots of hearty things like ham, emmental cheese, smoked salmon, duck gizzards and goats cheese encrusted bits of Poilane bread (best served with a glass of vin rouge, merci.)
So I would often eat their Salade Nicoise, although I disagreed with the inclusion of corn in their version of the salad. But I guess that just meant I was adopting a French outlook on food because…
The ingredients of a salade nicoise are controversial
No one can seem to agree on what actually makes a proper salade nicoise! It seems like the only constant in the recipe is the tuna. Even the lettuce is up for debate!
Generally, you find a salade nicoise is a bed of nice lettuce, with:
- tuna (canned or seared)
- baby potatoes
- green beans
- black nicoise olives
- red peppers
- vinaigrette dressing
- a hard boiled egg
Depending on the region on France, and the chef, there will be more or fewer ingredients, or a regional touch (maybe corn is the Parisian touch?)
Don’t stress out about this recipe – use what appeals to you and what you have available. Here is my personal version…
Salade Nicoise a la VintageAmanda
Nice lettuce leaves
TUNA!! (Either use nice canned tuna in OLIVE OIL, or better yet, sear a piece of fresh tuna steak)
A few cherry tomatoes
One hard boiled egg, sliced
A few baby or fingerling potatoes, gently cooked and sliced
Green beans, lightly cooked (I simply plunge mine into the hot potato water for 2 minutes, just to brighten them up)
A few black nicoise olives or greek olives
A few slices of red bell pepper
3 fillets of anchovy (for the salty flavor)
Top with freshly ground black pepper and a generous dose of homemade French Vinaigrette (or oil & vinegar)
This salad takes slightly longer to make than a normal salad because you need to cook the potatoes and hard-boil an egg. I start the egg and potatoes first, and by the time everything else is assembled, they’re usually ready to eat.
If you love salade nicoise like I do, make an extra egg and a few extra potatoes, and keep in the refrigerator for another day!
Best served with a glass of crisp, dry white wine and a piece of crusty bread. Bon appetit!
What’s the equivalent of the controversial salade nicoise in your area? Is there a classic dish where the ingredients are hotly debated?