On our recent honeymoon to Europe, we spent a few days in Nice, where O had spent time previously and fallen in love with the coastal town. From our bright little apartment up in the hills on the Mediterranean, I could understand just why he developed a fascination with the city. From the brightly painted buildings to the strangely amazing Italian food, the fresh fish markets to the boardwalk, I started mentally planning return week-long vacations to a villa on the shore…
But before our trained even pulled in to the station, I knew what I wanted from Nice: a salade niçoise. I’ve been eating Nicoise salads for years, obsessed over the seared tuna, the olives, the boiled potatoes, the.. wait, what? That’s not a Nicoise salad at all?! I stomped around Paris, eschewing salades niçoises without “real” tuna–seared, in other words–on them, only to find out that that’s a completely American interpretation to begin with! In Nice, Nicoise salads are simple, but probably not much like what you’ve had before.They typically include…
– high-quality canned or bottled anchovies or tuna, but not both
– olives, preferably Nicoise, obviously
– fava beans
– red bell pepper
– artichoke hearts
Notice any boiled potatoes on there? Haricots verts? Non? Real Nicoise salads don’t include any boiled veggies at all! I was taken aback to find diced red bell pepper and celery in my first Nicoise salad in Nice, but quickly learned to love the flavor combination.
There’s nothing wrong with a very Americanized Nicoise salad, and I still absolutely adore them, but an authentic dish looks a lot more like this!
If you can’t find fava beans, lima beans or shelled edamame will do. Feel free to add a hard-boiled egg on top, as well as artichoke hearts, if the spirit moves you. Also feel free to omit any veggies for which you don’t particularly care. I abhor celery, oddly enough, so I always leave it off!
- a few handfuls lettuce
- 1 tomato sliced into 1/8s
- 1/2 red bell pepper diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped cucumber
- 2 tablespoons fava beans or lima beans or edamame if you can't find fava beans
- a tablespoon or two of olives preferably Nicoise, but kalamata or dry-cured work, as well
- about 5 anchovy filets or half a can of good-quality tuna
- 1 small clove garlic chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- light olive oil or salad oil vegetable oil, etc, to make 1/4 cup dressing
- fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, or tarragon, chopped, to taste, optional
- sea salt
Sprinkle sea salt on the tomatoes and let drain in a colander while you prepare the rest of the salad.
To make the vinaigrette: Sprinkle a bit of sea salt over chopped garlic and mash into a paste with the back of a fork or a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
In a handled measuring cup, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Then, whilst whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in oil, a few drops at a time, until perfectly incorporated. Continue to drizzle in oil until you have about 1/4 cup salad dressing. Stir in garlic-salt paste. Taste, then add salt and fresh herbs to taste.
Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and drizzle salad dressing over. Toss with tongs to coat. Serve immediately.