Salade Niçoise

This dish has its origins in the city of Nice, on the French Riviera, where I’ve read that to be considered truly “à la Niçoise” (“as prepared in Nice”), a dish must contain tomatoes, black olives, garlic, and anchovies. This salad fits the bill. The key is to be liberal with the oil and vinegar, and to use the best olive oil you can afford. My kids have always loved this salad, probably because I arrange it on a platter and they can pick and choose what they want. (Since neither will eat tuna or anchovies, I put these items way at the edge of the platter, or on a separate plate.)

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • good-quality olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 to 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • red wine vinegar, preferably balsamic
  • 1 cup black olives, preferably Niçoise olives, pitted
  • 3/4 pound tomatoes (2 regular tomatoes), cut into wedges, or 2 cups sherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 (6.5 oz.) cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 (2 oz.) can anchovy filets, drained (optional)
  • fresh basil leaves, shredded (optional)
  1. If using golf-ball-sized new potatoes, leave them whole. If using larger red potatoes, cut in halves or quarters.
  2. Fit a large pot with a steamer basket and pour in water to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil and steam the potatoes until tener when pierced with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes depending on size. (If using the tiny new potatoes, start checking after about 10 minutes.)
  3. Drain and arrange on a serving platter. Season immediately with salt and pepper, and drizzle generously with olive oil.
  4. Meanwhile, bring the pot of water to a boil, and boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set them aside to cool, but keep the water boiling.
  5. Add the green beans and cook until just tender (5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your beans).
  6. Drain and arrange on the platter with the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.
  7. Scatter the olives, tomatoes, capers, and garlic over the potatoes and green beans. Add the tuna, in a mound, and drizzle generously with oil. Add the anchovies, if using, to the tuna mound.
  8. Shell and halve or quater the hard-boiled eggs, place around the edge of the platter, and season them with salt and pepper. Scatter basil leaves (if using) over all.

From Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the Modern American Family by Marialisa Calta, Perigee Books. © 2005 Marialisa Calta. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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