Ever since I can remember, I have loved Salade Niçoise. When I was a little girl and we would go to France, I would always order “une salade nicoise sans anchois, s’il vous plait”. It would make my parents laugh, because that was one of the only phrases of French that I had memorized. Now that I am grown up, I love the anchovies the most.
The Salade Niçoise, is a composed salad (salade composée), which gets its name from the combined ingredients that are associated with the city of Nice: tomatoes, tuna, anchovies, hardboiled eggs, and green beans. I have had so many of these salads over the years, that I have self-appointed myself to be the world expert in the field. In culinary school we learned to make the correct Salade Nicoise, which as a composed salad, means that every element is prepared and dressed separately before being arranged on the plate. My own experience with eating these salads in restaurants and making them for myself at home has taught me a few things: 1) it is always fun to add unconventional ingredients to the salad, as long as you keep the basics there. There have been many occasions in Paris when my salad was served with corn kernels and grated carrots. Even Parisians break the rules. 2) It is also better to put the salad together and then just dress everything as a whole. I hate salads that are over-dressed, and very often, when each element is individually dressed, there can be excess oil on the plate. So to keep it simple at home, dress the salad as a whole.
The other day I made a big Nicoise salad for my mother and my picky boyfriend at the beach in Rhode Island. I had brought some ingredients from the Greenmarket, and my mom had just gone to the Stonington Farmers Market, so we had a lot of local vegetables. We had already roasted the little fingerlings that she had bought the day before, with some olive oil and rosemary. We had also already roasted some avocado squash. I boiled the French green beans as well as two fresh eggs, and I was halfway there. In our cupboard I had found some tuna packed in olive oil and anchovies. I took a large platter, arranged the lettuce and all of the veggies in an even pattern, added the canned tuna and anchovies, some heirloom tomatoes, and then dressed it with a simple vinaigrette of mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. You can see in the photo how delicious everything looked together on the plate, and how simple it ended up being. Summer never tasted so good!