When it comes to making a great salade niçoise, it's all about the quality of the ingredients. But that doesn't mean that you need to make a special trip to Whole Foods Market just to make this humble summer dish. In fact, I make my niçoise using ingredients I buy at H-E-B (except the extra-virgin olive oil, San Giuliano from Alghero, Sardinia, which I buy at Central Market, our favorite brand of commercial olive oil).
The other thing to keep in mind is that salade niçoise, like a spaghetti alla puttanesca, is a spur-of-the-moment dish, made with ingredients that you already have in your pantry and fridge.
For the tuna, I use my favorite everyday brand, Starkist, cured in olive oil (olive oil-cured tuna is essential to good niçoise or any recipe that calls for tuna). Unless you're going to go for high-end Spanish or Italian olive oil-cured tuna, I think that the Starkist is just as good as the "premium" brands that cost up to three times as much.
For the potatoes, be sure to boil them with a handful of kosher salt, and put the potatoes in the pot with the water before you heat it (it should take about 40 minutes to boil them).
For the green beans, it should take about 7 to 10 minutes to steam them to the desired tenderness. But be sure to shock them in ice water in order to retain their color and snap.
Use the measurements below as guidelines: The art of niçoise is its spontaneity and its celebration of summer. If you like your dressing spicier, add a little more mustard power and an extra dash of Tabasco. If anchovies are your thing, don't hesitate to toss a couple extra into the mix.
During summer, we generally have boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and green beans in the fridge: I can grab the rest of the ingredients from my cupboard and... voilà...
Serves 4 people
For the salad:
Prepare and chill the lettuce, green beans, potatoes and eggs beforehand and chill well. Arrange all the ingredients in a large salad bowl or individual salad bowls (if serving in individual bowls, chill the bowls beforehand).
For the dressing:
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and emulsify using a whisk. For best results, toss the salad with the dressing in a large bowl up to 20 minutes before serving in order to allow all the ingredients to macerate in the dressing (or dress the individual bowls immediately before service).
The ideal wine pairing for this dish? On Friday, I'll post on what many consider to be the greatest rosé of all time, Bandol Rosé by Domaine Tempier.
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