Slightly Modern Salad Nicoise

Slightly Modern Salad Nicoise

Usually I start dinner already having decided whether it will become a blog post. This is a dish I wasn’t planning to post. I was trying to come up with a way to use as many of my CSA vegetables as I could before we left on vacation. I was also looking for a healthy weeknight meal. However, two weeks later I am still thinking about how good this salad was so knew I had to post it.

A traditional salad nicoise is deconstructed, with potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs, and often tuna, arranged in separate piles on a bed of lettuce. My mom used to make salad nicoise on hot summer days and I hated it. The whole concept seemed weird to me. Potatoes, green beans, eggs, and tuna fish? I used to pick at the cold potatoes and green beans, asking to be excused as fast as possible. So I was as shocked as anyone when I started googling salad nicoise recipes and texted Will instructions on what additional ingredients to buy.

This Serious Eats article really convinced me to give salad nicoise another shot. This article solved many of the problems I had with the salad as a kid. As Serious Eats points out, dressing the salad and mixing all of the components together is a game changer, tying all of the flavors together and seasoning each element. I also loved the addition of basil to the salad. It adds an unexpected pop of freshness and sweetness against the spicy arugula.

For my version, I left out the tuna. Honestly, I have an aversion to canned tuna and with the eggs and potatoes I think the salad is substantial enough without it. If you like tuna, definitely add it. I think this would also be great with some leftover roasted chicken.

I also left out the anchovy, which is traditionally a main ingredient, largely because I didn’t have any and didn’t want to bother buying another ingredient. However, I don’t think the salad misses them at all though. The capers and the kalamata olives provide a good amount of briny-saltiness without the anchovy. If you want to use anchovies, reference the dressing recipe from Serious Eats for the proportions.

My salad consists of smashed potatoes, crisp green beans, grape tomatoes, soft-boiled eggs, kalamata olives, capers, and basil tossed with arugula and a classic French dressing. This salad was substantial enough for dinner. I also stored the un-dressed veggies separate from the arugula and took it to work as lunch the next day with great success.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously for about a minute until it emulsifies. This is a great versatile dressing that you could use for all sorts of salads if you like.

Cook the potatoes in a pot of well-salted water for about 30 minutes. When they are done, smash the potatoes with the side of a knife to break them into large clumps.

While the potatoes are cooking, cook the beans. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring the saucepan to a boil and cook the beans until crisp, about three minutes. Transfer to ice bath to chill, then drain. Slice beans into 1 ½ inch pieces.

Lastly, cook the eggs. My favorite method, which I learned from this article, is to bring the water to a boil and immediately turn it off. Place eggs in a pan large enough that they crowd and fill with an inch of water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a full rolling boil. When the water reaches a boil, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let sit for 10 to 12 minutes. We wanted ours to be a little softer so we let sit for about 8 minutes. After letting sit for your desired amount of time, remove the eggs and run cold water over them to cool them quickly. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into quarters.

Assemble the salad. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. Shake or whisk the vinaigrette to re-emulsify before dressing the salad. Toss gently until everything is lightly coated. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with eggs.

 

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Modern Salad Nicoise

This salad, inspired by Serious Eats, is a major improvement on the original. By tossing all of the ingredients together the flavors marry and you can ensure every piece is dressed. I left my vegetarian but tuna fish, leftover chicken, or anchovies would make great additions. If using, add them before dressing the salad.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author the brave radish

Ingredients

Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbls minced shallot from one small bulb
  • 1 small clove of garlic minced
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbls white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbls water
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • ¾ lbs small waxy potatoes such as fingerling or Yukon Gold
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 1 lbs green beans trimmed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • ¾ cup pitted kalamata olives drained and sliced in half
  • 2 tbls capers packed in brine drained
  • 20 leaves of basil torn
  • 4 cups arugula

Instructions

  1. Combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, vinegar, water, and olive oil in a jar. Shake vigorously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with water. The water should be at least 2 inches above the potatoes. Add the ¼ cup salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are easily poked with a fork, about 30 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. After the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them with the back of a knife so they are crumbled into large chunks.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, fill a large saucepan with water and season with salt. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring the saucepan to a boil and cook the beans until crisp, about three minutes. Transfer to ice bath to chill, then drain. Pat dry and slice beans into 1 ½ inch pieces.
  4. Lastly, cook the eggs. My favorite method is to bring the water to a boil and immediately turn it off. Place eggs in a pan large enough that they crowd and fill with an inch of water. Turn the heat on high and bring to a full rolling boil. When the water reaches a boil, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let sit for 10 to 12 minutes. We wanted ours to be a little softer so we let sit for about 8 minutes. After letting sit for your desired amount of time, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and run cold water over them to cool them quickly. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into quarters.
  5. Assemble the salad. In a large bowl, combine the arugula, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. Shake or whisk the vinaigrette to re-emulsify before dressing the salad. Toss gently until everything is lightly coated. You will probably have some dressing leftover. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with eggs.
  6. Only dress the amount that you will eat. If you expect to have leftovers, store the potatoes and beans together, keeping the other elements separate. I had good success combining all ingredients in the morning and dressing at lunch time.

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