I almost titled this post Salad Not-çoise because my starting point, with the recipe, was David Lebovitz’s blog post where he beautifully describes a salad–an authentic Niçoise–that is nothing like the one I ended up making. In fact, David might be horrified by the one I made, especially since he quotes Jacques Médecin, the authority on Provencal cuisine, as saying: “Never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your Salade Niçoise.” Shield your eyes, then, David and Monsieur Médecin. What you’re about to see may disturb you.
See, here’s the thing: I knew the kind of Salad Niçoise I wanted to make and it’s the kind that I eat in America. It’s what they serve you at French bistros in New York or L.A. or any cosmopolitan American city and it usually consists of high-quality canned tuna, boiled green beans, boiled potatoes, olives, tomatoes, capers, and sometimes an anchovy. Maybe it deserves its own name if it’s not an authentic Salad Niçoise because, whatever it is, I find it delicious and want to eat it.
Here’s how I made mine: I sliced a red onion on my new cutting board.
I shoved the onion into a jar, mixed together two cups of white wine vinegar, a tablespoon or two of sugar, a big pinch of salt and some peppercorns and poured that over the onion, making sure it was covered, and then put a lid on it. I set it aside for an hour.
After that, I filled two pots with water, brought them to a boil, and created an ice bath in my largest bowl:
I salted the water once it was boiling and dropped in a bunch of string beans into one pot, let them cook for one minute, then removed them to the ice bath with tongs; into that same boiling water, I added a bunch of red potatoes (which cook in 15 to 20 minutes).
See, I had two pots going because I was going to boil eggs too and I didn’t want the potatoes or the green beans to taste eggy. So in the other pot, I added six eggs and cooked them for 8 minutes before removing them to the ice bath. This is how I got the insides so yolky and creamy and beautiful.
Then, all I had to do was make the dressing. In a measuring glass I put a big spoonful of spicy Dijon mustard, a big spoonful of capers, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of white wine vinegar…
…then whisked in olive oi, slowly, until it emulsified. Yummy.
Finally, I cut my tomatoes (cherry ones, which are good all year round) and pitted my olives. I arranged everything, including the expensive oil-packed tuna that I bought at the Broome Street General Store, on a plate:
Looks like a still life. To finish, I spooned the dressing everywhere and piled the pickled red onions in the center.
I think a dinner like this proves that, to be happy, you just have to cook whatever you’re craving, even if it breaks the rules. Cheese on fish? Go for it. Ketchup on your steak? Who am I to judge.
Just don’t show this post to David, ok? Let’s keep this between us.