Salade Nicoise Season

The best composed salad, straight from the south of France to SoCal

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In the composed-salad category, salade Niçoise is a favorite. It’s originally an unprepossessing assembly of olive-oil-packed tuna, sliced tomatoes, cooked potatoes, green beans, with wedges of hard-boiled eggs. In California restaurants, it’s likely served with rare-in-the-middle seared fresh tuna instead of canned. Not traditional, but very good.

Now that salmon’s in season, I’ve been cooking it a lot, and love to use it in this salad. Saturday at the Irvine Farmers Market—absolutely the most packed I’ve ever seen it, which is really saying something—I serendipitously scooped up haricots verts, great-looking tomatoes, and small yellow potatoes, not yet knowing they’d all come together in this salad after I added a Costco sockeye fillet. Local Costcos have had troll-caught king salmon, too, this year, and one big side we grilled was so good—but I do like the fine-textured sockeye best.

Anchovies are said to be optional as a garnish for salade Niçoise, but essential is more how I see them—though of course you may keep your own counsel on this. Dress with extra-virgin olive oil and red-wine vinegar, or take my advice and use a bold vinaigrette with mustard and shallots—perfect with the flavor of oily fish like tuna or salmon, not to mention those small-but-mighty anchovies. Author and food blogger (and former Chez Panisse pastry chef) David Lebovitz has a great tutorial for this simple salad sauce you can read by clicking here. Break a baguette, pour a glass of any one of the rosés I wrote about earlier, and be reminded that there’s more than one Riviera in the world.

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