You know it is important when a culinary scuffle can be set off by a salad. Not just any salad of course, but the traditional Salade Niçoise. In recent weeks, acclaimed French chef Cyril Lignac (who has several TV shows in France) set off an internet furor by including green beans and potatoes in his version of the salad. Sacrilege!
Alright, I suppose it is not the end of the world if you want to make the salad a bit hardier. This was after all the salad described as “simple food for poor people”. Originating in the town of Nice on the French Riviera, the salad nicoise (pronounced “ni-soise”) dates back to the 19th century and this provençale recipe has provoked debate ever since.
The Ingredient Controversies
There are so many different opinions on what goes into the salade niçoise that it is difficult to know where to start, even if we start with that classic French pantry. Much of the debate centers around what ingredients are local to Nice and what is not. If you really wanted to, you could toss in some avocados, except avocados are not native to Provence!
i) The Boiled Vegetables
The biggest controversy, as I mentioned above, is over the green beans and potatoes. Several famous French chefs have weighed in on the topic. Former Nice mayor Jacques Médecin proclaimed in his 1970s cookbook: “never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your salade niçoise.”
Other chefs have noted that 100 years earlier, even famed French chef Auguste Escoffier had dared to put those dreaded ingredients in his version of the salad. Ahh, but M. Escoffier was the town of Villeneuve-Loubet just across the river from Nice, and so obviously not a local. He seems however a very big fan to no-cook meals.
To each his own. If you really like green beans and potatoes, go for it!
ii) The Fish
In terms of fish, it has become rather acceptable to substitute different types of fish such as tuna instead of anchovies. But you must decide: either tuna or anchovies, not both together.
Most recipes call for the use of canned tuna and anchovies, but you can use fresh tuna filets as well if you wish. If you don’t have tuna or anchovies, salmon might do in a pinch.
iii) The Salad dressing
The classic vinaigrette is a very simple mix of olive oil and red vinegar, but non-traditionalists have been known to substitute lemon juice for vinegar. If you prefer a creamier sauce, you can use mayonnaise or a dash of dijonnaise mustard.
iv) Other ingredients
The base of the salad nicoise is usually mesclun, which is usually a blend of arugula, mâche, and other young green leaves. It is usually sold in grocery stores as a “spring mix”.
Black olives are a must in any salad niçoise recipe, but many people also decide to add items such as:
- bell peppers
- fève (fava) beans
- chopped shallots
- baby artichokes
- small onions
Heaven help you, however, if you decide to add rice to the recipe, as a certain Uncle Ben’s recipe did once for an advertising campaign!
If you are making the salad niçoise in your own home however, who is to judge? I won’t tell, if you won’t 😉
Frequently asked questions
What to serve with it?
A couple of slices of baguette are a must with a salad niçoise. If you are serving the salad as a starter, consider pairing it with a cold roti de porc (pork roast) and potatoes.
What drinks to serve?
A light local rosé from the nearby vineyards of Côtes de Provence or Côtes du Rhône will pair beautifully with a salad niçoise.
☞ READ MORE: Easy Guide to the French Wines
- 4 round medium-sized tomatoes
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup of sliced black olives
- 1 can of fava beans
- 3 chopped spring onions
- 2 cans of tuna (or anchovies)
- 400g of mesclun salad "spring mix"
- 1 clove of chopped garlic
- 6-7 chopped basil leaves
- 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of red vinegar
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 thinly-sliced bell pepper
- 1 chopped cucumber (if not including fava beans)
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice (if not including red vinegar)
- sweet corn
- small red onions (if not added spring onions)
- chopped radishes
Other Possible Ingredients
- 1 cup boiled green beans
- 3 boiled medium-sized potatoes (chopped)
- 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon of mustard
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), basil, and garlic in a bowl. Add salt and pepper, and any optional ingredients such as mustard or mayonnaise.
- Boil the eggs for 8 minutes, then let cool in a bowl of cold water. Remove egg shells and chop into quarters.
- Rinse the mesclun lettuce and arrange in a large serving bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes into quarters and toss into the serving bowl, along with the eggs.
- Shred the tuna (or anchovies) into small pieces and add in the bowl.
- Drain and rinse the canned fava beans and put in a pot of boiling water. Bring to a simmer and cook for approx 5-8min until soft.
- Add the rest of the ingredients into the serving bowl and toss the salad.
- Let salad rest for 20 minutes before serving.
Note: The portions above are for a starter. Adjust the quantities as needed, if you are serving as a main dish.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 625Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 257mgSodium: 457mgCarbohydrates: 52gFiber: 11gSugar: 10gProtein: 31g
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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