The first time I encountered the famous salade niçoise was at my university work-study job when my co-worker Magali, an exchange student from France, feasted upon this colorful salad day after day. My tastebuds cried out in agony as I ate my poor excuse for a sandwich. I finally asked her for the “recipe” one day, and from there on out I regularly made what my roomates and I came to call “French Salad.” It wasn’t until I arrived in France for the first time that I realized it had a more specific name. With such an abundance of fresh produce in every market stall, springtime and summer are definitely salad seasons! And the great thing about salade niçoise and about salads in general is that you can totally improvise, adding ingredients you love and leaving out those you don’t. Here’s the “real” recipe for salade niçoise, which professional chef, author, and fellow American expatriate David Lebovitz cites in his self-titled blog. The recipe he uses is taken from Jaques Médecin’s Cuisine Nicoise. But anyone, except for hard-core traditionalists from Provence will tell you, there is no “real” recipe for this classic. Feel free to make it your own!
Here’s David’s, or rather Jacques Médecines recipe:
Ingredients for 2 Niçoise Salads:
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
- 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
- 2 spring onions, or 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup (90g) peeled fava beans
- 1/3 cup (55g) small black olives, preferably Niçoise olives, pitted or unpitted
- 1/2 head of lettuce, torn or shredded
- 3 hard-cooked eggs (see below)
- 6 tablespoons (90ml) extra-virgin olive oil or French vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3-4 anchovy filets, cut into thin strips lengthwise, or a 6 ounces (180g) tin of tuna
Directions to make the perfect Salade Niçoise
1. Rub the clove of garlic all over the insides of a wooden salad bowl.
2. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and put them in a colander. Sprinkle them with salt, and let them drain for a few minutes while you finish the salad.
3. Add the cucumber, onions, fava beans, olives, and lettuce to the bowl.
4. Peel and cut the eggs into wedges.
5. Mix the olive oil with the herbs and a bit of salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes to the bowl and toss most of the dressing with the salad, reserving a bit to drizzle over the eggs. (If using tuna, toss that with the salad as well.) Season with additional salt, if necessary.
6. Place the eggs on top of the salad and drape the anchovy strips over the eggs. Pour the remaining dressing over the eggs.
To make hard-cooked eggs: Begin with room temperature large eggs. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and gently lower the eggs in. Let cook for 9 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and plunk them into a bowl of ice water, cracking the shells a bit after a few minutes, which aids in peeling.
Et voilà! Bon appétit!