Salade Niçoise is one of my husband’s favorite things to have for lunch – if we are out at a restaurant and this is on the menu then he will choose this almost every time, usually accompanied by a glass of chilled rosé. This year we are celebrating 21 years together – holy cow where did all that time go? This salad comes from one of the places in the world we love the most – it’s where we met, where we chose to spend our summer and where one day I hope to live – Provence.
With a classic like Niçoise there’s always debate as to what must be in it to make it a Salade Niçoise – I always thought tuna, eggs, haricot vert, new potatoes, tomatoes, black olives and red onion. However, sometimes even tuna isn’t a part of it – Escoffier didn’t include tuna or eggs – I’m shocked. One year in Provence we were cleaning out the refrigerator at the end of the trip and Triona made a variation of a Niçoise with tuna, eggs, olives, potatoes, dill and a very mustardy dressing – no tomatoes, no lettuce, no beans to be had.
Why is it classic recipes cause such intense debate? If tuna is to be included then a traditionalist would insist on Mediteranean tuna cured in olive oil from a can or jar – none of your fancyschmancy seared fresh tuna.
Lean Luxury Salade Niçoise
For my Lean Luxury Salade Niçoise I have used tuna poached in olive oil, bibb lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber (I didn’t have french beans so I cut them in long batons), olives and quails eggs and I skipped the potatoes. I also have a hard time with raw onion in a salad so I topped it with pink pickled onions. If you don’t have time to poach the tuna use a good quality canned or jarred variety. For a quick and easy lunch I often open a can of tuna fish in olive oil and add cucumbers, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes – whatever I can find in the fridge and toss it all together in a lemon/mustard dressing for a quick and satisfying Lean Luncheon. The important point to make is if you don’t have egg don’t fret it.
To poach the Tuna Fish
Fleur de sel
3 cups olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 lemons rind peeled with a peeler and then sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
6 garlic cloves
2 sprigs of fresh lavender
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Position the rack to the middle of the oven allowing enough space for the Le Creuset and preheat the oven to 350 F.
For the Salade Niçoise
Tuna – poached or high quality canned/jarred
Hardboiled quails eggs – peeled and halved
Persian cucumber – cut into batons
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
Baby lettuce leaves
Pink pickled onions
olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard – mixed to make a salad dressing
salt and pepper
Arrange all the ingredients (or a mix of what you have in the fridge/pantry) on the plate – serve the salad dressing on the side. Imagine you are sitting outside on the terrace, enjoying the salad with a glass of chilled Provence rosé and a warm breeze carries the scent of lavender from the field. Life moves at a slower pace and everyone is happy.