Gordon Ramsay said, “Niçoise salad must be the finest summer salad of all.” I agree. It is perfect —full of protein, light, colorful, savory, and filling. As we near the end of summer, it seems only fitting to enjoy this delightful French dish.
Unlike a tossed salad, the niçoise salad is arranged or composed on a platter or plate; thus, it is called a salad composée. The plate or platter is layered with greens and then the ingredients are arranged in an artistic way over the lettuce.
There is little argument that the niçoise salad originated in the French Riviera town of Nice. In fact, niçoise means of the city of Nice. In the 19th century, niçoise salad consisted of tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil and was referred to as “simple food for poor people.” It has, like any other dish, evolved over time. Now, depending on the recipe, a niçoise salad can include many different raw vegetables including bell peppers, artichoke hearts, cucumbers, and fava beans as well as a variety of herbs.
Julia Child introduced Americans to the niçoise salad. A recipe for potato salad, which included green beans, tomatoes, tuna, and anchovies and dressed with a vinaigrette, appeared in her cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, published in 1961. In her cookbook, “The Way to Cook”, published in 1989, this salad evolved to include lettuce, green beans, ripe red tomatoes, black olives, boiled potatoes, egg slices, shallots, a freshly opened can of tuna, and capers and anchovies in oil.
I am not terribly fond of canned tuna, so I make my niçoise with salmon. I like using the traditional ingredients—green beans, potatoes, ripe red tomatoes, hard-cooked eggs, and olives. You can add whatever veggies your heart desires or what needs to be used before it passes its prime. I compose my salad over baby spinach leaves, but you can use any green. The vinaigrette I think pairs nicely with this salad is made with champagne vinegar. As Julia would say, Bon Appetit! And in keeping with Gordon Ramsay’s thoughts, let’s end the season with the finest summer salad.
Salmon Niçoise Salad Serves 4
For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup champagne vinegar 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons shallots, minced ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon large grind black pepper ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, place champagne vinegar. Add mustard, shallots, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. While continuing to whisk, slowly add olive oil, whisking to emulsify. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the salmon:
1 ½ pounds salmon fillet Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling Salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place salmon skin-side down in an ovenproof baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Using a pastry brush, spread olive oil evenly over salmon and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast for 30 minutes, or until flesh is barely opaque in the center yet still quite soft.
For the salad:
½ pound Yukon gold new potatoes ½ pound fresh green beans or haricot verts 5 ounces fresh baby spinach or your favorite greens 4 hard-cooked eggs, quartered 4 Campari tomatoes, quartered ½ cup kalamata olives Salt to taste Large grind black pepper to taste Lemon wedges Halve potatoes into bite-sized pieces. In a large saucepan, place potatoes with just enough water to cover over a medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently until pieces are tender yet remain firm when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes and cool. Trim and clean beans. Fill a large kettle half full with water and bring to a boil over a high heat. Add beans and cook until tender but not limp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice water. When beans are tender, immediately immerse in ice water to retard cooking and set color. Cool beans, drain thoroughly, and set aside.
In a large bowl, place spinach and toss with 3 tablespoons vinaigrette. On 4 salad plates or 1 large platter, place dressed spinach. Arrange one-quarter of salmon on each plate. Top evenly with potatoes, green beans, eggs, tomatoes, and olives. Have fun composing your salad! Drizzle evenly with remaining dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Shopping for salmon: To purchase really fresh salmon, shop with your nose. Fresh fish never smells “fishy” but has a fresh, mild order. Fish only smells “fishy” or like ammonia when it starts to decompose. Also, shop with your eyes. Fresh fish should have a firm texture and moist appearance. Avoid fish that is dry or brown around the edges. Always buy fresh fish that has been refrigerated or properly iced. The best fish is the freshest, no more than 2 to 3 days out of the water.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Insider Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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