A Twist on Nicoise Salad, plus an Amazing Vinaigrette!

Before I get to this beautiful and delicious Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise aka Salad Nicoise, and an amazing vinaigrette to go with it, a quick ramble..

Isn’t that the norm with me these days?

So, here I am again.  Life has thrown some nasty curve balls at me and loved ones the past month, so I haven’t been able to concentrate on cooking, baking, writing, and really LIVING.  I’m basically on auto-pilot, functioning as best I can.

However, I managed to take some photos of lunch, a lunch I made intentionally to take part in Monthly Mingle, founded by the lovely Meeta, of What’s for Lunch, Honey?  This month, my friend, the equally lovely Jamie, of Life’s a Feast, is hosting Monthly Mingle, and the theme she chose is April In Paris, which basically means make something French, sweet or savory.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!
Initially, before everything happened, visions of profiteroles filled with a unique mousse, or crepes suzette, danced through my head.  I wanted to keep it classic, but I was going to go completely postal on the fancy factor.  As mentioned above, life got in the way, so I needed to keep it quick and simple.  I’ve existed on take-out, oatmeal, and yogurt the past 3 weeks or so, except for the occasional salad I whip up, only because it’s easy.  Outside of searing the tuna for this Nicoise Salad, I haven’t cooked or baked in a month.  Last time that happened was after my knee surgery a few years ago and many, many years before that.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

So, here’s a salad; a classic French salad called a Salad (or salade?) Nicoise (Most commonly called Nicoise Salad in the US).  It’s pronounced Ni-Swahz, not Ni-Coy or Ni-Kwa, but if you hear someone call it Ni-Coy or Ni-Kwa, don’t correct them in front of people or laugh at them because it’s freakin’ embarrassing.  OK, maybe find a way to correct them without correcting them..like…

“Mmm..a Salad Ni-swahz sounds delicious – maybe I’ll have one too!”

…OR, just whisper “Ni-swahz” to them.  Up until the age of 22, I called potpourri, POT – pourri instead of POH-pourri.  I was mor-teee-fied when a new boyfriend’s sister corrected me upon first meeting his family, in front of his whole family.

I’m feeling very PC today.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

That being said, the Nicoise salad originated in Nice, France, and traditionally everything should be raw, using a good quality canned tuna in oil, but it’s morphed over the years into different versions, the most common containing fresh, seared tuna, blanched green beans (usually haricots verts; the skinny green beans) and roasted, steamed or boiled potatoes.  As usual, I took some liberties and added some not so traditional ingredients to this Nicoise salad and made a few slight changes.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

First off, those of you who read this blog know I have a thing for rainbows, but not in a rainbows, unicorns and lollipops way; I’m just attracted to the sequence of colors and love to see that sequence incorporated into food.  I’m absolutely crazy about those gorgeous, mile-high rainbow cakes you see all over the food blogosphere, but all that food color in one cake bugs me.

I don’t mind using it in small amounts, like for macarons, and even red velvet cake; it’s just that these cakes are 6-layers of food color! Food color is not a flavor, so that’s a lot of food color with no flavor pay-off. However, I have been devising a way to make one those cakes using homemade fruit syrups and/or dehydrated fresh fruit powders to color each layer of cake batter, sort of like THIS BEAUTY.

Obviously, this will make it a lot more laborious, not to mention probably not as vibrant as the ones made with food color, but I think my little experiment will be worth it for a special occasion.  Knock wood, err..formica soon to be marble.

I digress.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

I turned this Salad Nicoise (or Nicoise salad) into a rainbow.  Red tomatoes, Orange carrots, Yellow bell peppers and egg yolks, Green beans, Blue potatoes, Violet (well, purplish) olives.  There’s your Roy G. Biv, minus the Indigo because I don’t think blue and purple need Indigo squished between them – too similar either way.  I placed the tuna where I could fit the most slices, the rareness a lovely dark magenta, although my knife wasn’t sharp enough, hence the raggedy cuts.

Man, I need to get on the ball with sharpening my knives.

Anyway, I think this Nicoise salad looks beautiful. The ‘rainbow’ rows lie on a bed of tender, baby spinach leaves tossed with a little of the vinaigrette.  I used bagged baby spinach leaves because the leaves are already washed (of course I washed them again), and as mentioned above, everything has to be easy at this time. BUT, truth be told, a Salade Nicoise (or Nicoise salad) does take a little more time than your average salad to put together.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

Oh, how could I forget? The anchovies. I love the flavor of anchovies, but I don’t love biting into hairy, whole anchovy filets. When I cook them into sauces or use them in salads, I chop them very fine, then saute them until they melt into the oil, or simply grind them to a paste and add them to a salad dressing.  This is what I did for the dressing for the Salade Nicoise (or Nicoise salad.  Sorry, I have to keep giving the option.). Instead of placing them whole, on top of the Nicoise salad, which is traditional, I did something similar to how you make a Caesar dressing, minus the coddled egg, but with red or white wine vinegar, shallots, a little honey, mustard and herbs.

To put it simply, this vinaigrette is divine.

You can serve this Nicoise salad on 4 separate plates, or one big platter that everyone can share, passing the dressing, which is what I did.  However, I didn’t have a platter big enough (only 12-inches across) to fit the full amounts of each ingredient, so I just lined everything up in rows with as much that would fit.  I’m sure you all have bigger platters than mine, so no worries.

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

By the way, are the blue potatoes not gorgeous? What a deep, stunning blue hue (I almost want to wax poetic on just blue hue).  I wish I could get these potatoes year ’round because they not only excite me, but I really need to make blue mashed potatoes..as much as possible..and yes, I have no life!

Nicoise Salad aka Salade Nicoise with fresh seared tuna and the best vinaigrette you will ever have!

Nicoise Salad

Rainbow Nicoise Salad with an Amazing Vinaigrette
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 4 lunch or dinner sized servings or 6 small servings
 
The vinaigrette for this salad is out of this world!
ingredients:
Vinaigrette
  • ¼ cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (taste and add second tablespoon if needed)
  • 1¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used light olive oil, but for those who like a stronger olive flavor, extra-virgin is perfect)
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 to 3 anchovy filets, chopped
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salad
  • 6 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 1 pint red grape or teardrop tomatoes
  • 4 carrots, peeled
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • ½ lb haricots verts (skinny French green beans), ends snapped off
  • 1 lb small blue or purple potatoes *
  • ½ lb nicoise or any small black or purple olives
  • 1 lb tuna steak, or two ½ lb tuna steaks, super fresh, sushi-grade (about 4 oz per person) - if you prefer it well done, it doesn't have to be sushi-grade
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
directions:
  1. Make the vinaigrette. Finely chop the garlic together with the chopped anchovies and a pinch of kosher salt, to almost a paste. Add to jar with a tight lid, along with the rest of the ingredients - shake vigorously. If you're using a bowl, add all ingredients to the bowl except the olive oil, and while whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also make the vinaigrette in a food processor, drizzling in the olive oil while the other ingredients chop, but you'll get a thicker, creamy dressing. Not a bad thing; your choice. If you have time..let this vinaigrette sit at room temperature for an hour or more to let the flavors meld. Even better, make it the day before. then put it in the fridge overnight. Take it out, let come to room temperature, and shake again before serving.
  2. Boil the eggs. Bring a medium pot of salted water and the eggs (water should be 1-inch over the eggs and the eggs should fit on the bottom in one layer..no overlapping) to a rolling boil, remove from the heat, and cover tightly for 12 minutes. Once the 12 minutes are up, remove the eggs and peel under running, cold water. Put the peeled eggs in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the fridge until ready to assemble the salad.
  3. In a ziplock bag or bowl which you will cover tightly with plastic wrap, pour about ¼ cup of the vinaigrette over the tuna steaks and let marinate in the fridge for one hour, turning after ½ hour.
  4. WASH all of the vegetables well, scrubbing the potatoes (water only). Bring a large pot of heavily salted water and the whole potatoes, unpeeled, to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes (less if they're small) until tender. Remove from boiling water and let cool. Slice and toss with a some of the vinaigrette.
  5. Peel the yellow peppers with a vegetable peeler (you don't have to peel them, I just like to for certain salads). Cut them open, scrape out the seeds and any white pith, then cut into strips or bite-sized pieces. Peel the carrots, then shred them on a grater or use the shredding disk in your food processor. Toss all the vegetables, separately. with a little of the vinaigrette. Snap the ends off the green beans and bring another pot of salted water to a boil.
  6. Fill a bowl with cold water and lots of ice. Place the green beans in the boiling water and let boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes - 3 at the most, depending on the thickness of your beans. Haricots verts shouldn't need more than 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  7. Strain the green beans, then dump them all into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep them bright green. Let them cool completely in the water, then remove, dry, and toss with some of the vinaigrette.
  8. Heat a medium saute pan or skillet until hot, Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Remove the tuna steak or steaks from the marinade. Shake off excess marinade, then dab steaks with a clean tea towel to dry them. Season each side well with kosher salt and black pepper. Place the steak(s) into the pan and let sear on every side for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tuna, and how rare you prefer it. I cooked mine less than one minute per side, (I like it very rare, but you can cook it all the way through to well done, if you like - 3 minutes per side, again depending on the thickness of the tuna) . If necessary, h old the steak up with tongs to sear the sides around both flat surfaces. Remove from pan and let sit for about 10 minutes. Once rested, slice into strips, about ¼ to ½ - inch thick.
  9. Assemble salad. Toss the baby spinach leaves with some of the vinaigrette, then divide the spinach equally between four plates, or pile onto one big platter. In the following order, lay out rows of the grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, yellow peppers, hard-boiled eggs - quartered vertically, green beans, sliced tuna, blue or purple potatoes sliced or cut how you like, and olives. Pass the dressing and serve with a nice, warm, crusty baguette and butter.
notes:
* If you can't find blue or purple potatoes, use red skinned or any waxy potato. If you can't find haricots verts, use any fresh green or string bean that's available.

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  1. I am in love with that gorgeous rainbow of a salad…looks good enough to eat! I am the biggest pronunciation snob, it really does drive me nuts…I will try to be more PC! The story is great…you really are hilarious with the snotty nose, and the eyelashes…such details. I hope your life calms down and things get back to normal as we wait with bated breath for the conclusion!

  2. First? Am I first? Whew I thank heavens the story is almost over or my head would have exploded! And LOVE the colorful rainbow Salada Niçoise (add a -zzz to the end of your prononciation 🙂 Great, delicious, healthy, colorful addition to my Monthly Mingle! Thanks for taking the time, baby, for me. Hope you are holding up xoxo (((HUG)))

  3. Lovely niss-waaa salad darling. What,you couldn’t mention my naturally fruit flavored rainbow cake?? 🙂 just teasing you.. hope all starts looking up for you SOON !!!!! Best, Sandie

  4. That salad is gorgeous, no matter how you say it. I used to work in a hotel and I had a woman order a ‘croysunt’ one day and I had no idea what she was talking about. It was breakfast and she wanted a croissant, of course. I love nicoise salad, but haven’t had it in ages. Hope things are getting better on your end. 🙂

  5. Wow such beauty! Just came back from France and ordered Nicoise Salad… it was delicious but yours looks so much better. They used canned (tin) tuna vs your fresh tuna which to me would be better. Well done and great job on the story I love your honestly and humor your writing is very entertaining. Glad it worked out for you… for a bad boy he sure was a nice guy…must have really loved you :).

  6. I love that rainbow salad – looks so beautiful, healthy and delicious!! And it is nice to “see” you around. I have been thinking of you lots and hoping things are alright. ((hugs)) and you know where to find me if you need anything!!

  7. This salad is simply lovely!! So eye catching and gorgeous! What a beautiful job. I just want to dive right in. I hope that things in your life start looking up soon 🙁

  8. That is probably the most beautiful salad ever! And you might have to come down and help me with Ladybug’s birthday! We are going to do rainbows, and while I would LOVE to do a mile-high-naturally dyed cake, I know there is no way I can pull it off by myself! 🙂

  9. wow, that does look good!! And I love how it’s so colourful too!!! haha.. yeah, you’re right. I hate it when people are so pedantic and embarrass the crap out of me for my mispronunciations or mispellings.. whoops I meant misspellings. haha.. OH yeah and btw, I did not know how potpourri was pronounced until today.. 😛 Thanks Lis!

  10. What a gorgeous niçoise! Love all the extra ingredients in it! And although I for one do like biting into whole anchovy filets, you’re offering a great solution for my many guests who don’t enjoy that.

    I’ve always wondered: don’t statutory laws only apply in cases where one person is more than 3 years older than the other? Or something like that? One has to account for the obvious difference between a 19-year-old dating a 17-year-old and a 35-year-old dating a 15-year-old, no? Either way, how perfect is this guy? Can’t wait for the epilogue!

    • Val..the age of consent in NJ is 16, but the New Jersey statutory rape laws define a minor as someone who is between the ages of 13 and 16 years old, so in a romantic relationship, it could be ‘very slightly’ risky if someone wanted to make trouble for the person 18 and over.

  11. I love the presentation and it is one of my favorite salads. I could eat one every day and extra anchovies for me;) Your dressing looks fantastic and the potatoes are so pretty. A wonderful and classic recipe for Jamie’s Mingle. Part 11 can’t arrive sooner:) Your stories are so much fun to read. I send you big hugs xoxo

  12. Beautiful, beautiful salad Lisa. Hope that things are improving in your life…and sending virtual hugs, too. How you can continue to write your fab fiction, too, is amazing!

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  14. I am so happy to see that are you bad, in spite of all of the difficult past several weeks. The salad is lovely, but of course, I am hear for your story. I can’t believe it will end so soon!! We need the book. 🙂

  15. I could feel the intensity of your anxiety, Lisa. That horrible fear of “this is it.” Now that I’m done reading I’m taking deep breaths to let the anxiety go. 🙂 Lisa, I’m so sorry you’re going through such a hard time right now. I know only the deepest of pain, anxiety, upheaval could tear you away from the things you love. Sending you a big hug and wishing you peace and courage and strength to face whatever is going on. XO

  16. Boy, I got so entangled with your story about dreamboat I almost forgot your lovely salad! You really left us with a cliffhanger! You’re “a mess” as we Southerners say (have I said that before?).

    Oh, and the salad dressing is terrific!

    Still thinking of you and your family.

  17. Lisa, Your naturally colorful rainbow salad is gorgeous! I’d love to dig into it! Thanks for schooling me on how to pronounce nicoise! I have never had to say it out loud, thank goodness, or I really would have butchered it!
    I hope you are holding up okay, my dear.
    Looking forward to #11

  18. Love this! Best looking salad EVER! We think it would be fabulous on a bed of our sliced kale salad or other greens, so we’re going to feature this on our Facebook page and link here so people can see how you did it, and your lovely photography. If you wish, come LIKE us on Facebook for more recipes and tips on greens like kale, chard, beet, mustard, turnip, collard, spinach, escarole, dandelion and other super healthy green leafies. https://www.facebook.com/Cut.n.Clean.Greens

    –Your friendly farmers at Cut `n Clean Greens
    https://www.facebook.com/Cut.n.Clean.Greens

    • Thank you so much..I’m extremely flattered! I don’t use Facebook, but I can see it through my sister’s facebook. Do you have a Twitter account? Kale, or any greens would make a great bed for this salad!

  19. Artisitc gorgeousness is the only way to describe how you arranged that salad. Wow! Loveing part 10. “Of course, I honked.” killed me.

  20. Wow, I just saw this on foodbuzz and I am totally amazed at this fantastic salad and the beautiful array of colors. I’ve never seen anything like it. Congrats to you.

  21. I had that traditional salad in Nice. And since French is my mother tongue I can pronounce it no prob lol. Love your version, the tuna and blue pottoes are an excellent choice. Hope things are better in real life. And oh boy dreamboat stuck around! can’t wait for the wrap up.

  22. Excellent story, great post & a wonderful good for you salad which is so colourful too! I always make my dressings in jam post with fitting lids: it is dead easy to do so too!, i agree! 😉 xxx

  23. This salad is GORGEOUS! My little girl loves rainbows, so we’re throwing a birthday rainbow party for her this summer. This would be perfect for the adults! I hope everything is getting better for you. Part 10 really built up the tension – I was praying he forgave you!! So glad he didf!

  24. Saw this salad on Pinterest. I like your blog so much, I saved to favorites. Great writing and photos!

  25. At first I thought the tuna was roast beef! Shows you how much I know about french salads! Its beautiful! By the way, I don’t want the story to end 🙁

  26. I hope everything gets back to normal soon sweetie. If there’s something I can help you with, don’t hesitate to ask.
    Hugs

  27. With such a colourful past, I’m not surprised that you turn to the rainbow for encouragement during these challenging times.

    Lisa, this salad has a special symbolic meaning for me…several memories while travelling through France…you’ve executed this popular dish exquisitely!

    It’s nice to be back catching up. Here’s wishing for you to get your full enthusiasm back so that you can keep sharing the best parts of you and your wonderful creativity ;o)

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

  28. Your salad is gorgeous, but it is pronounced ‘nee-SWAHZ’. ‘Salade’ is a feminine noun in French.

    • Thanks, pumpkinpie..I stand corrected. Now I need to ‘correct’ the bistro I usually order it from, which lists it as SALADE Nicoise lol

  29. Wow Lisa, this is a gorgeous gorgeous salad! It’s by far the best looking Nicoise I’ve seen 🙂

  30. Ok, I gotta confess I never looked at that pretty salad or whatever you wrote at the beginning of the post (sorry! I’ll make it up at some point) I immediately scrolled down to part 10… Which I thought would have to be the ending too but noooo, I have more waiting to do. 😉 Lol.. You’re making it hard on purpose!

    Hope all is well with you and your family!

  31. Lisa, I sure hope things are getting better! I have been away from blogging regularly too… life happened, I guess… love the gorgeous, colorful salad and the story is getting better by the minute! I can’t wait to see how it turns out 🙂 Heading over to read Part 11 now 🙂 Hugs

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    • Thank you, Aaron! As for ‘salad’ versus ‘salade’, I’m so confused, I’ve had some natives of France tell me it’s ‘salad nicoise’ and some tell me it’s ‘salade nicoise’ lol What to do??

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  34. I just made your vinaigrette about 20 minutes ago and it’s so good we keep taking spoonfuls of it! I will have to make more! This is my forever go to vinaigrette! Thank you Thank you Thank you!

  35. I second all of the above. The bomb of all salad dressings. We like it so much we decided to forgo the salad and just dip bread in it. Thanks for the great recipe.

    • Hi, Inga! Boy, did I blow it! When copying the recipe into my recipe plug-in last week, I accidentally forgot to add in the vinaigrette ingredients. Well, I just added them and I’m so sorry for the inconvenience! Hope you enjoy it!

  36. This was amazing! I improvised and had grilled tuna and asparagus, added Roma tomato, egg, Greek olive, and carrots and spinach. I am not a fan of tuna, but this was excellent! One of my top 10 recipes now!