Sometimes we just need a salad, even when it’s the middle of winter. Salads can be satisfying and restorative in the cold weather, especially when layered with protein and sturdy vegetables. For an enticing salad respite, a salade Niçoise comes to mind.
While this Provencal-inspired salad is easily associated with sipping rosé on a sunny terrace on the Cote d’Azur (don’t we wish?), a salade Niçoise is relatively flexible and composed of heartier ingredients for a light and fresh midwinter meal. The salad traditionally comprises a clockwork of ingredients, artfully arranged on a plate or platter. The co-star of the salad is tuna, and while you may sometimes find a piece of rare ahi tuna perched on your plate, I prefer to use jarred high-quality tuna in olive oil. Yep, the fancy stuff, which incidentally can be purchased in advance and stashed in the pantry, ready for an impulsive weeknight dinner.
Note that the olive oil truly makes a difference and is worth the caloric splurge. Unlike water, oil adds richness, body, and lip-smacking flavor to the tuna. And the term “co-star” is correct, because a salade Niçoise is essentially the sum of its ingredients—in this case, parboiled potatoes, al dente green beans, hard-cooked eggs, and a smattering of salty, briny garnishes, all of which complement each other beautifully and are bound together by an herby, piquant Dijon vinaigrette.
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Serves 2 as a light main course
For the Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press
- 1 teaspoon minced tarragon (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Salad
- 4 ounces green beans or haricots verts
- 8 ounces new or small potatoes
- Butter lettuce leaves
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved or quartered
- 1/2 small English cucumber, with skin, sliced on the diagonal
- 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup black olives, such as Kalamata or Niçoise
- 6 ounces tuna fillets in olive oil (half-heartedly drained)
- 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- Finely grated lemon zest
Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, tarragon, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Set aside until use (briefly whisk again before serving).
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook until bright in color and crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander, and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
To the same pot, add the potatoes. Bring the water back to a boil, then partially cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes, depending on size. Drain and cool. Halve the potatoes and place in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and toss to coat.
Arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving platter or in a large, shallow serving bowl. Mound the beans, potatoes, egg halves, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives in a clockwise fashion around the plate. Place the tuna in the center. Scatter the onions and capers over the salad, then drizzle with the dressing to your taste. Garnish with parsley and lemon zest and serve immediately.