Salade Nicoise With Salmon

The Perfect Summer Salad. Oh, my goodness! What a wonderful expression of summer anywhere in the Mediterranean! Salade Nicoise, the simple salad from Nice, is nothing fancy, however, it is amazing in its simplicity of assembly and perfectly sunshiny in that so many fresh vegetable flavors represent summertime on your palate. You can find my recipe for this classic salad here.

Salad Wars? As much as this salad is adored, there have been disagreements throughout its history of what constitutes an authentic Salade Nicoise! I just stopped researching, because if the long list of chefs and historians cannot agree, then how can I begin to determine what is authentic? What I can say unequivocally is that there are a few essential ingredients, and then you're on your own. Julia Child seems to have assembled a very good version, and one that makes sense for ensuring that each component is dressed properly without making the entire bowl a big "muddy" mess.

The Salade Nicoise essentials seem to be: boiled eggs, tomatoes, Nicoise olives, and anchovies or oil-packed tuna. That's right--tuna OR anchovies. From there we see barely blanched green beans, boiled potatoes, capers, tender lettuce (like butter) and even green bell peppers. And the dressing can be just good olive oil or a simple vinaigrette. Basil and parsley can be added to the salad also.

The Olives. I've seen Greek Kalamata olives substituted, which is fine by me (I'm Greek) but if you can source the Nicoise, why not keep it as close to authentic as possible?

The anchovy has received much verbal abuse, but it is quite welcome and appreciated in Mediterranean countries. In my native Greece, we marinate it and enjoy it as a meze with ouzo, raki or wine. It offers the popular umami flavor component and (as an oily fish) a bit of nutrition.

I'm not here to start another long debate about the authenticity and history of this happy salad. Plenty of that all over the internet and in cooking magazines. I'm here to give you my take on what may (or may not) be the original Salade Nicoise. I developed this recipe during my time as chef-owner of Despina's Internation Cafe & Salon Gallery to serve as an occasional special for dinner. It was very well received and features my caper aioli to serve over the cooked salmon. For a printable recipe, click here.

Here's an idea! How about spreading the aioli on a toasted baguette, adding the salmon in one piece and topping with the salad ingredients dressed with the vinaigrette? Yes, how about that!!! I'd take it all to a quiet picnic setting under a shade tree and assemble it there. Then I'd eat it with gusto, dressing running down my arms. Two thumbs up for me! Don't forget to pit the olives, though, or serve them on the side. You're welcome!

Here's what I use:

  • Tomatoes--Heirloom or the sweetest cherry tomatoes you can find.
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Boiled eggs
  • Green beans--lightly blanched or just as they are, if crisp-tender fresh
  • Red onion
  • Parsley and basil
  • Anchovies (packed in oil)
  • Olives and capers
  • Cooked salmon
  • Vinaigrette
  • Caper aioli for the salmon

This assembly of ingredients screams "Mediterranean" to me.

I like to cut the green beans into bite-sized pieces. Much easier to eat with just a fork.

I use Yukon Gold with the skin on. Just scrub them well before cooking.


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