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Salade Niçoise: The Perfect Hearty Meal When All You Want Is Salad

My family and I spent a lot of time in France when I was a child, and though I was never a picky eater per se, seven-year-old me wasn't super-enthused about foie gras or bouillabaisse. I was, however, a fan of salad, and my parents and I immediately managed to discover one that was available at pretty much any corner bistro pretty much anywhere in Paris and many places beyond. Salade niçoise.

I couldn't tell you how many platters of salade niçoise I've eaten in my life; let's just go with a lot. The beauty of salade niçoise, though, is that it's hugely variable; almost no two iterations are the same. This makes it very difficult to tire of my favorite salad.

I previously wrote about salade niçoise for a Bastille Day recipe post back in July, but I wanted to revisit it now that I've figured out a sort of salade niçoise life hack in the form of Central Market. I recently got a craving for the dish, but with little time and already a grumbling in my stomach, I didn't want to spend an hour cooking the various elements to complete my salad. Yes, it's a little more expensive to buy pre-cooked and seasoned potatoes, but I was grabbing ingredients to bring to a friend's house and didn't want to trouble him for various pots and pans.

The salad ended up being perfect. Just what I'd been looking forward to all afternoon, and, when paired with a sparkling rosé from the Loire Valley, even better. In total, the ingredients cost about $35 and make about four servings of salad, with a few things (like olives) left over.

The story continues on the next page.

Here's what you'll need from Central Market:

Produce Section 1 bunch salad greens (I used arugula because it's my favorite) 3 tomatoes 1 cucumber 1 shallot 1 head of garlic 1 lemon

Pantry Section 1 jar niçoise olives 1 jar or can anchovies 1 can tuna in oil Dijon mustard olive oil

Deli Section 4 hard-boiled eggs from the salad bar 1 small container of roasted rosemary potatoes 1 small container of green beans

First, make the dressing. Mince the shallot and one clove of garlic, then combine with the juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup olive oil, a generous squirt or dollop of Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until blended and let sit.

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Next, assemble the salad. Since the three ingredients that generally require cooking -- eggs, potatoes and green beans -- are already cooked, all you need to do is some washing and slicing. On a platter, make a bed of lettuce. Arrange tomatoes sliced in fourths and thin slices of peeled cucumber on the lettuce. Add olives, anchovies, tuna, green beans, eggs and potatoes in some artful manner.

Splash some dressing on top, and serve.

It's that easy. You'll likely end up with some leftover olives and anchovies as I did, but having those two things on hand is great for pasta sauces and simpler salads. Some recipes also call for artichoke hearts, asparagus, basil or onions, so add whatever you'd like.

Know that, traditionally (that is, according to Provençal cookbooks), salade niçoise contains nothing boiled other than eggs. No potatoes or green beans. Others argue that the salad must have canned tuna, not fresh, and it can't have both canned tuna and anchovies. I can tell you that I've had this all over France, and there doesn't really seem to be a rhyme or reason as to what's included and what isn't. Just make it something you'll enjoy.

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