Theme and Variations on the Salade Niçoise

 

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As we all know, it’s important to get a proper amount of greens in your diet, and fresh salads are one of the best ways to get your daily fix. So dust off that ol’ Baribocraft salad bowl, whisk up a little oil and vinegar and let’s get started on one of our favourite summer salads, one that is a meal in itself, the Salade Niçoise.

In winter you have to go a little out of your way- or at least deal with ingredients that hail from away- when it comes to setting a salad on the table. Lettuces, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, most of these are grown south of our borders, and augmenting the salad with squash and potatoes and carrots grown the previous fall certainly helps and makes winter salads a sort of comfort food too. But in summer getting fresh greens and veggies is as simple as nipping out to your garden, or our fabulous produce department,  for the freshest seasonal bounty.

Salade niçoise originated in Nice, France in the 19th century and is a composed salad –as opposed to a tossed salad- meaning all the ingredients are laid out artistically and the dressing, usually a simple vinaigrette is drizzled on top. Traditionally the niçoise was composed of lettuce, tomatoes, anchovies or tuna, hard-boiled eggs and niçoise olives, the small, brownish black Cailletier olives grown around Nice. The salad pictured at the top, from the wonderful restaurant Honest Weight, is a good example of a classic niçoise. But for the home cook, here’s where the fun starts; over the years, inventive, adaptive and sometimes thrifty cooks have been tinkering with the traditional salad and making it their own.

 

there are countless variations on this classic

there are countless variations on this classic

 

Canned tuna, or fresh tuna lightly seared, potatoes, artichokes, blanched or fresh green beans, Kalamata or green olives…when it comes to the niçoise, most home cooks and professional chefs prefer to use the traditional recipe as a template and go from there. It all depends on whether you are a purist or prefer to add your own touch. Recently I had a small filet of lake trout at the handy, certainly not enough for two. But a quick fry up and it made the perfect addition and turned our side salad into a main dish.

 

our variation with Ontario lake trout

our variation with Ontario lake trout

 

The niçoise is a thing of beauty, visually stunning and popping with bright red, green, pink, white, yellow and black, a treat for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. And for us home cooks, half the fun is arranging the ingredients artistically and letting the inner artiste come out. The great thing about a niçoise is it is a main course or dinner salad, as it is contains an excellent and nutritious balance of protein, carbs, fiber, healthy fats, omega 3s and vitamins and minerals. And in the summer, a large niçoise platter set on a picnic table makes a stunning presentation, one that will be sure to get your guests instagramming it, before helping themselves to their favourite bits. And of course, if you happen to have a niçoise purist over for supper, the inevitable debate will provide animated dinner conversation!

 

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