Our State of the Union speech night dinner was a nice Niçoise, which is a really awful pun, since Niçoise basically means “Nice-style,” after the city on the French Riviera. I promise not to do it again.
Ditalini and I wanted a salad, and after Caesar and his sidekick Cobb, Niçoise is probably the best-known salad around, but one we couldn’t remember ever having before. I found an easy and not-too-Americanized recipe online and based my own Niçoise on that, with a few modifications. Apart from the vinaigrette dressing (true believers insist on olive oil alone, possibly with a little salt & pepper), I think Salade Niçoise purists would find my version acceptable, or at least not to be scorned. After all, I didn’t add corn. Or bacon. And don’t think I wasn’t tempted.
2 small tuna steaks (about 4 oz each), or 2 cans tuna
3-4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
6-8 small potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 head of Boston or butter lettuce
2 small Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
half a small red onion, sliced thin
a handful of green beans
1/4 cup pitted Greek olives
1 can flat anchovy filets
salt & pepper
Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper, set aside.
Boil the potatoes in salted water for 5-8 minutes until just done. Save the water, set the potatoes aside. Boil the green beans 3-5 minutes, then transfer them to a bowl of iced water to stop them from cooking any more.
Tuna: if using fresh, sear in a hot pan with a little olive oil, then cook until just done. Alternately you can use canned tuna, which doesn’t require cooking.
Pull the lettuce into bite-sized pieces, toss with vinaigrette until coated, arrange on a platter or individual dishes. Cut the potatoes in quarters, toss them in vinaigrette, arrange to one side of the lettuce. Toss the green beans in vinaigrette, arrange alongside the lettuce. Toss the tomatoes and onions in vinaigrette and arrange on top of the lettuce. Lay the flat anchovy strips on top of that. Toss the cooked tuna with vinaigrette and arrange the tuna on top (if using canned tuna, just drizzle a little vinaigrette over the tuna after putting it on top). Arrange the quartered eggs and olives along the sides of the platter or plates.
Serve with good crusty bread.
I was making two large salads. The recipe is enough for four smaller ones.
I cooked the potatoes and green beans early. I think the potatoes are prettier if you leave the skin on. When I started assembling the salad, I had everything else cut up and ready to go.
It’s very easy to overcook tuna, so don’t get distracted. Some say it’s better to just use canned tuna. Some of my friends use fresh tuna but only sear the outside, preferring it raw. Your call.
The anchovy averse (you poor sad things, you) may use capers instead of anchovies.
You can hard-boil and peel your own eggs if you prefer, but I get them at Safeway, where they come in 2-packs and 6-packs.
Seriously, don’t use mayonnaise, or bacon, or corn. I’ll sic the Gendarmerie Nicois on you if you do!