We’ve been gone all last week on vacation. Shell, Wyoming, population 63(let me tell you about the night life). Riding horses and doing cattle work. I know, I know, WHAT?? Yeah, we’re somewhat non-traditional that way. After a week of beef, beef, beef, we needed something a bit less bovine for our first dinner home and preferably that was 80% plant-based, as veggies on a ranch are pretty well limited to potatoes and beans…and not the green kind. It’s about an hour to a grocery store (small) from the ranch and the commercial supply truck only comes once a week, so ingredients must last. Thus not many perishable greens and vegetables are served at meals and full days on horseback mean lunch is meat and cheese in a wrap, smashed in a saddlebag with potato chip crumbs and a piece of fruit…if your horse doesn’t steal that from you first. So for Monday dinner, I was thinking about what was light, refreshing, required basic seasonal ingredients and would not make me think of a slobbering, bawling cow. How people think cows are cute are beyond me…just go on a cattle drive. But I digress.
My dinner of choice that first day back was a classic Salade Nicoise. A 10 minute stop at the grocery store on my way home from work and I had everything I needed. This well-known dish is a traditional salad from France in which the fresh produce of the market are complemented with typical Provencal seasonings. Originating from Nice in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, this salad has as many variations as there are cooks, but pretty much everyone agrees that the dish traditionally includes tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, black olives, French beans and lemon juice. The original version of the salad always included raw red peppers, shallots, and artichoke hearts, never potatoes. The French, especially in the Nice area, will clearly state no cooked vegetables are to be used. ” la salade Niçoise ne contient pas de légumes cuits.” However, now this salad is served all over the world and many liberties have been taken with the ingredients. Some, frankly, without success. In this recipe, I have kept mostly true to original tradition, except with additional of the more contemporary tuna, the expected potatoes and blanching the green beans. It’s a filling, healthy meal especially served with some French bread.
Classic Nicoise Salad
1 lb. red skinned potatoes, sliced 1/3” thick or tiny red potatoes, if you can find them
2 TBL. dry white wine(optional)
10 oz. haricots verts (French beans) or thin green beans, trimmed
4 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
¼ C. lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
½ a medium shallot, minced
2 TBL. Dijon mustard
1 TBL. fresh thyme
1 tsp. anchovy paste or 1 canned anchovy, mashed
Fresh ground pepper
¾ C. extra virgin olive oil plus 2 TBL. for tuna
8 cherry tomatoes, halved, quartered or sliced
2 heads Boston lettuce, washed and leaves separated
6 radishes, washed and trimmed and quartered
2-5 oz.cans of tuna packed in water, drained, patted dry and separated into chunks**
½ C. nicoise olives*
- Cook the potatoes in salted water until fork-tender. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with wine and let cool.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water and set aside.
- Drop the beans into the boiling water and cook, uncovered for 2-4 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain and immediately drop the beans into the ice water. Drain and pat dry.
- Put the drained a dried tuna in a small bowl and add 2 TBL. olive oil and pepper to taste. Gently combine.
- Make the dressing: whisk the vinegar or lemon juice, garlic, shallot, mustard, anchovy, thyme and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Whisk in the ¾ C. olive oil in a slow steady stream until emulsified.
- Toss the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
- Slice the potatoes and add about ¼ C. dressing. Toss.
- Quarter or slice the hard-cooked egg.
- Divide the lettuce among 4 plates. Arrange the potatoes, haricot verts, radishes, eggs and tuna on top. Pour any juices from the tomatoes into the dressing, then add the tomatoes to the plate. Scatter the olives over top of the salads and drizzle with dressing.
*I used Kalamata olives cut in 1/2 that I had on hand-the grocery on the way home from work didn’t carry nicoise olives. The biggest difference between the two are size(the Kalamata being larger) and after brining, nicoise olives are packed in oil.
** You can use canned tuna packed in oil (Italian or Spanish is best), but I prefer a white tuna where I control the amount and quality of oil.