Salade Niçoise, how we all love this blend of potatoes, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, anchovies, tuna and…WAIT !!! STOP!!!
Do not EVER tell any self-respecting Niçoise that you like your Salade Niçoise with potatoes, green beans, lettuce, or tuna and anchovies at the same time. This will make you an outcast and possibly consider you a poor, sad excuse for a human being. Why? Because a true Salade Niçoise includes nothing cooked except an egg, and would never entertain the green bean, the potato, lettuce, or two species of fish at once.
The potato and green bean are said to have been added by August Escoffier, “king of chefs and chef of kings,” who is from the Var, south of Nice. As kilometers go, it’s not that far. As culinary traditions go, it might as well be in outer Mongolia and Chef Escoffier took unacceptable liberties because he simply didn’t know. As for anchovies and tuna, one or the other is allright, though the salted anchovy is the traditional choice. But never both in the same bowl at the same time.
The Plot Thickens
The Salade Niçoise plot thickens. There is a club in Nice called Le Cercle de la Capelina d’Or which holds all Niçoise culinary traditions dear. They would agree with the recipe below, with the possible addition of celery hearts in substitution for the cucumber. Another blog would refuse this, and yet another insists that the actual Salade Niçoise is simply tomatoes, olives, and anchovies. There are other sources who say other things. The reason I mention this is because each Niçois cook has his or her own recipe, though everyone agrees that certain ingredients are simply defendu, or forbidden.
It’s high Salade Niçoise season right now, so use the recipe below and you will run no risk of crossing an inhabitant of Nice. Keep the potatoes, green beans, and the lettuce for another dish, another day.
ASTUCES: if you us tuna in the salade, use either canned albacore, or the quantity of fresh tuna you like. i suggest 12 ounces; 400g. Sear the whole fresh piece first on each side, season with salt and pepper and let cool. Then, thinly slice the seared tuna and arrange it atop the salad after you've tossed the other ingredients together. Don't use anchovies if you're using tuna.
1pound (500g)cherry tomatoestrimmed and cut in half
1medium - about 12 ounces (360g)cucumberpeeled and thinly sliced
fine sea salt
2pounds (1 kg)fava beans in their husksshucked
One4 ounce (120g)green italian pepper (can use cubanella)trimmed, kept whole, seeded and cut in thin rounds,
4smallround spring onions or 8 scallions,trimmed and cut in thin rounds
½cup (3 ounces; 90g)black olives such as Niçoise,with pits
3largeeggshard-cooked, peeled and cut in quarters
1clove garlic, cut in half
12anchovy filets or 8 ounces (250g) albacore tuna*
1cup (10g)basil leavesgently packed
About 1/4cup (60ml)extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Basil leaves – for garnish
Place the tomatoes and the cucumber slices in a sieve set over a large bowl. Salt them with an even shower of salt (about 1 teaspoon), shake the colander so all the vegetables are evenly salted, and reserve while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Bring a small saucepan filled with lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the shucked fava beans, let boil for 2 minutes, then remove the fava beans from the water, leaving the hot water in the saucepan. Carefully make a slit in the outer skin of each fava bean and squeeze or take out the tender green been inside. Discard the skins. If the outer skin doesn’t easily cut and peel off, return the fava beans to the hot water for a minute or two.
Cut the anchovy fillets into large dice. If using tuna instead, crumble it into bite-sized or smaller pieces.
Tear the largest basil leaves into bite-sized pieces. Reserve several sprigs of smaller leaves, for garnish.
To serve the salad, rub a large salad bowl with the garlic clove. Place all the ingredients (except the tuna if using, and the eggs) in the bowl.
Pour over the olive oil and toss all the ingredients together, very gently, so they are all coated with oil. Taste for seasoning. Garnish the salad with the crumbled tuna (if using) the eggs and additional basil leaves and serve immediately.