Avez-vous Regrette?

Me, I regret that I’ve never yet made — nor, I think, ever eaten — Salade Niçoise.

But that changes today, peoples!

As Wikepedia tells us:

Niçoise salad (French pronunciation: [niˈswaz]), sometimes referred to as Salade Niçoise or insalata nizzarda, is a mixed salad consisting of various vegetables topped with tuna and anchovy. It is a specialty of the Côte d’Azur and named for the city of Nice.

The salad or “salade” is displayed on a flat plate or platter and arranged on a bed of lettuce. Ripe tomato wedges, halved boiled new potatoes, steamed green beans, wedges of hard-boiled eggs, are topped with canned tuna (tinned in oil), and Niçoise Cailletier olives. Finally the salad is garnished with tinned anchovies. The salad is served with vinaigrette.

The original version of the salad always included raw red peppers, shallots, and artichoke hearts, never potatoes. The French, especially in the Nice area, will clearly state no cooked vegetables are to be used. “[…] la salade Niçoise ne contient pas de légumes cuits.”

Rumors suggest the famous choreographer Balanchine may have influenced the creation of this dish during his tenure in Monte Carlo. Others claim it is a Provençal dish. This salad was made famous in America by “the French Chef”, Julia Child.

Salade Niçoise and its ingredients are often debated by purists. A common debate is the use of lettuce, which differs from village to village.

Several factors have brought about my desire to make Salade Niçoise:

  • It has been h-o-t here (oppressively so), and I wanted to make us a lovely main dish salad for supper, but as I’ve been eating chef salads (made with lean luncheon meats or with water-packed tuna) with some regularity for lunch, I wanted to make something a bit different.
  • The other day, a friend reminded me that Bastille Day was 14-July, which put me in a French frame of mind (actually, it’s not too difficult to make me remember, fondly, our time in Paris).
  •  Salade Niçoise is one of many excellent recipes in an absolutely wonderful cookbook another dear friend gave me: Rocco DiSpirito’s Now Eat This!

As Rocco points out, Salade Niçoise is a pretty healthy dish to begin with. He suggests lightening it up by

  • Removing the egg yolks from the egg, using only the white;
  • Using a reduced-fat vinegar and oil dressing (his cookbook contains a recipe for one that sounds delicious, or you can use store-bought), leaving out the anchovies; and
  • Using tuna packed in water instead of oil.

Rocco also adds in more greens.

I’m following Rocco’s lead to a great extent: While I’m leaving the yolks in the eggs, I ALWAYS use water-packed tuna and will use plenty of greens (a fresh curly lettuce that looked good at the store — yes, yes, Romaine would be more nutritious, but none of the heads of Romaine I saw looked fresh), and I don’t have any anchovies on hand, anyway — besides, hubby doesn’t care for them.

A Note About the Tuna: I’ve become enamored of the no-drain foil packets, but you can certainly drain tinned tuna. For our supper tonight, I’m going to use a Lemon Pepper tuna, which I think will be perfect for Salade Niçoise. Plain tuna will be delicious, too.

Note to Vegetarians: I think cannellini beans, Navy beans, or chickpeas, rinsed and drained, would be positively divine in place of the tuna.

However, I wanted a more traditional French dressing taste while still keeping it light.

So earlier today, I made up my own French Dressing, reducing the amount of oil to reduce the fat, and peoples, I am proud of that dressing — c’est magnifique! It is going to be DELICIOUS on this salad 🙂

Now, I went ahead and made this a Red French Dressing, so it could be argued that it isn’t authentic, but authenticity is already being thrown out the window — no anchovies and we’re not in France 😉 And besides, I love, love, LOVE the balance of sweet (from the ketchup) and sour (from the vinegar and lemon juice) in this dressing — it’s going to be fantastic on greens.

Don’t get me wrong — hubby and I love vinegar and oil on a salad, but I’m using a bottle of Spanish extra virgin olive oil — it is delicious, but hubby finds the flavor of the oil a bit too overwhelming on a salad (he prefers extra-light olive oil for salads). So, by making it a Red French Dressing, I’ve placed the stronger flavor of the EVOO more into the background.

Besides, I’m more concerned about it tasting yummy and to suit our tastes than I am about authenticity. 😉

A few thoughts about the dressing:

  • Hubby and I like tart, and this dressing is tart (if you love dill pickles and green olives, you’ll love it), most especially in its traditional state (French Dressing as opposed to Red French Dressing).
  • If you are making Red French Dressing or if you’re using it as a marinade, then I would suggest making the more tart version  (with the greater amount of vinegar and lemon juice).
  • If you’re leaving it as a basic French Dressing and aren’t as big a fan of tart (or if you’re not sure how tart you might like it), start off with the lesser amount of vinegar and lemon juice. Remember, you can always add in more, but you can’t take it out once it’s in there!
  • You can also cut some of the tart taste down by adding in a bit of water or a bit more oil.

I promise — make this, and you’ll say “Oh, how yummy!” You’ll burst into song, for you will be sans regrets. 😉 (Go on, give it a listen — you know you want to! There’s nobody like Edith Piaf, and it’ll add some class to your day. 🙂 )

French Dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (tarter) or 50 ml (less tart) vinegar (white or apple cider — I used cider)
  • 1/4 cup (tarter) or 50 ml (less tart) lemon juice
  • Sprinkling of salt to taste (I used reduced-sodium salt)
  • Small squirt of yellow mustard
  • Sprinkling of paprika to taste
  • Tomato ketchup (if making Red French Dressing) to taste
  • Water to taste (if needed)
  1. For Classic French Dressing, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, mustard, and paprika. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Add in some water, if desired.
  2. For Red French Dressing: Whisk in tomato ketchup until dressing reaches desired consistency and flavor.
  3. Keep refrigerated.

Salade Niçoise (Note: I’m not giving any precise measurements — amounts will depend on whether you’re making this salad as a heartier main course, starter, or light meal)

  • Salad greens
  • Hard boiled egg, sliced in wedges (or slice more thinly, if you prefer — that’s the joy of making it at home; you fix it how you like it!)
  • Black olives (sliced or whole, pitted olives)
  • Tomato, sliced in wedges (or cherry tomato, cut in half or left whole, or grape or cherub tomato)
  • Tuna packed in water, drained 
  • Green beans (preferable French style or long, whole beans — I’m using a handful or two of frozen, which I will barely blanch)
  • Sliced cucumber (optional)
  • French Dressing or Red French Dressing (above) or other light (reduced fat) vinaigrette
  1. Blanch green beans. Rinse in cold water and chill for use in salad.
  2. Arrange salad greens on a plate, platter, or deep bowl.
  3. Arrange green beans, tomato, egg, and cucumber (if using) along outer edges of greens, OR scatter across the greens.
  4. Place tuna in center of greens and top with black olives, OR scatter tuna and olives across greens.
  5. Drizzle with dressing. 

Bon Appétit!

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About MissieLee

I love tasty food prepared in a healthy way with a budget in mind.
This entry was posted in Fish/Seafood, Main Dish, Salad and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Avez-vous Regrette?

  1. Pingback: Looking for a Holiday? | That Smells Yummy!

  2. LinnieGayl says:

    The dressing does sound tasty, Missie. Adding a bit of paprika is interesting.

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