It is surprising that for a recipe so many people get truly worked up about, there is no canonical recipe for salade Niçoise.
To quote the inestimable Nigel Slater:
Heyraud, author of La Cuisine à Nice, wrote in 1903 that the true salad of that name should contain quartered artichoke hearts, raw peppers and tomatoes, black olives and anchovy fillets. The dressing should be olive oil (what else in that part of the world?), vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and chopped ‘fines herbes’ – by which he meant parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon. Not even a lettuce leaf here, and certainly no sign of any tuna.
The more you travel, the more you eat, the more you realize there are no real rules to this one, but there are constants. The omission of one of these ingredients is to miss the point. To be true to its name this salad must be true to its geography – it must reek of olives, garlic, anchovy and tomatoes. Crisp lettuce also turns up every time. The rest – the beans, the artichokes, the hard-boiled eggs, the onion, broad beans, new potatoes and chopped onion – will depend on the whim of those in the kitchen. I don’t go along with the peppers, partly because they confuse the issue, and partly because I can’t eat them raw.
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Slater’s assertion that canned tuna should not be served with a salade Niçoise – to me, it defines the dish and helps to truly evoke the ocean breeze of the South coast of France.
So – in my version, I eschew potatoes (but feel free to use them if you can’t find fresh Fava beans), and I do use tuna, as well as having added some capers as well as sliced beets, cucumber and radish.
You don’t like my changes to “the classic” recipe? TFD respects your dissent, and you may feel free not to make the Niçoise recipe, Citizen (but you’d be missing out on a gloriously evocative salad that is the essence of Summer!). I enjoy it very much with another classic and potently flavored recipe of the region – anchoïade provençale. You can buy my preferred brand of anchovy here – please do not substitute!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
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