Salad Nicoise, if you’re hungry for summer
Salad Nicoise tastes like summer to me. This is how I generally cook in the summertime, it’s more “assemblage” than cooking and my favorite way to throw together a meal. My daughter mentioned Salad Nicoise on a long car ride home from snowy New England last weekend, while we were talking about what we are looking forward to in summer, and it occurred to me that there’s nothing in Salad Nicoise that makes it necessary to enjoy only in the summer. In fact, I had almost all the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator when we arrived home, shivering while unpacking our winter gear.
You could dress this salad up by grilling fresh tuna, but I chose to keep with traditional French (and let’s face it, simpler) way of using canned tuna. I always have a variety of little tomatoes, olives, eggs, lemons, anchovies, garlic and olive oil. All I had to pick up to make this salad today was some fresh Boston lettuce, little potatoes and asparagus. Since it’s (technically) spring, I decided to take the liberty of substituting asparagus for the traditional green beans in this salad.
At the market they had some multi-colored potatoes so I chose those since I’m craving color right now. While I was there I also picked up some spicy olives from my favorite olive bar and they have artichoke hearts mixed in with them so I got some of those, too. I was going to get a french baguette but they had this great looking rustic olive bread and I couldn’t resist. You may think that I actually could have resisted it but you would be wrong, okay? It’s a non-life-threatening condition and I’ll seek treatment when I’m good and ready.
Let’s talk about the dressing. I love this simple anchovy lemon vinaigrette and it’s very easy to whip up in less than 5 minutes. If you don’t love anchovies, but can tolerate the idea and like lots of salty umami flavor, give it a try because it’s worth it. My hubs doesn’t love anchovies but he ate this tonight and said it’s the best salad he’s ever had. (How can I not cook every night with encouragement like that?) If you can’t stand the idea of anchovies, you can leave them out and add some of your favorite herbs, a little more Dijon mustard, or nothing. If you can’t bear the thought of boiling a few potatoes and eggs AND making salad dressing at the same time….I mean like, it’s just TOO MUCH today…I get it. Take a chill pill. I’ve been there. And here’s what I do when I get there: I buy Briannas Real French Vinaigrette (it’s the one with the artichoke on the label). It’s delicious and there’s nothing bad in it and I won’t tell anyone if you won’t either. Don’t let a little thing like that stop you from enjoying this glorious taste of summer any time of the year.
- 4 eggs
- 1 pound small potatoes, scrubbed
- 1/2 lb asparagus spears, bottoms trimmed
- 1 head boston or butter lettuce
- 1/2 pint small tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 pint kalamata olives, pits removed
- 12 oz. can albacore tuna, in water
- Radish slices, optional
- Artichoke hearts, optional
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Boil the eggs for 8 minutes. Cool, peel, cut in half and reserve.
- Boil the potatoes in water for 10 minutes, until tender. In the last minute, drop the asparagus into the water with potatoes and cook, then remove all vegetables and cool quickly. Cut the potatoes into halves or quarters.
- Place the lettuce on a large platter or on individual plates. Arrange all salad ingredients on top of lettuce.
- Mash garlic, anchovies, and salt to a paste in a small bowl using two forks. Stir in lemon juice, zest and mustard. Whisk in oil until dressing is emulsified.
- Serve dressing on salad.